Godzilla Unleashed Review
Sometimes, you just have to look at a game and ask yourself one question- "why?" It's a basic, simple question, but one that has far-reaching consequences, and tends to only spawn more questions. We wonder who the target audience is, we wonder why a budget title absolutely must equate to mediocrity, and we wonder what kind of gamer is going to respond positively to such a weak production. As far as we can tell, very little effort went into the creation of Godzilla Unleashed and the instant you step onto the battlefield, you'll immediately wish you had reconsidered your purchase choice...hell, you'll wish you had reconsidered your rental choice. It simply isn't worth anyone's time for any reason, although we suppose die-hard Godzilla fans might be intrigued and entertained for a little while. But even then, everyone will eventually succumb to the atrocious controls, camera, and story, which means the lifespan for this particular title is about ten minutes for the average gamer and maybe an hour or two for rabid fans of the legendary monster.
The graphics are most reminiscent of a first-generation PS2 title, with a definite lack of clarity and detail unfortunately blended with poor monster animations. This is just an ugly game from top to bottom, even if a few of the combat effects are somewhat flashy and appealing. Many of the creatures in this game would look pretty impressive if Pipeworks had managed to pump a few more resources into their development, but for the most part, they fail miserably. The game isn't ugly because we're comparing it to next-generation titles on the PS3 and Xbox 360; the game is ugly because it's ugly, even when compared to 5-year-old PS2 titles. Everything is too dark, the landscapes aren't anywhere near big enough, and despite some nice variety in the levels, they all come off as boring, clichéd, and drab. Granted, with so much destruction, one would expect a good deal of "drab" (busted-up environments are gonna be loaded with rubble and smoke, after all), but this is going too far. None of the areas are remotely attractive even before the mayhem begins. We didn't expect anything too spectacular, but we had hoped for something better than this.
The sound is marginally better, if only because the rock and metal soundtracks do fit nicely with the action. They're not professionally polished or anywhere near diverse enough, but the music gels with the gameplay, and we won't rob the game of this positive. ...if we did, it wouldn't have any major positives to speak of. The sound effects are mediocre the whole way ‘round, from the horrible voice acting to the hit-and-miss sound effects during battle. Some of the effects get muted and lost amidst the turmoil on screen, while others will resound with sharp impact, meaning the balance is way off throughout. At no point are the effects capable of absorbing us into the action, and that's by far the worst part of the sound. This game features massive, exotic monsters with supposedly endless ability, rampaging through a defenseless landscape. Given this concept, the adventure should be enough to rattle the speakers out of your stereo system, right? We'd want to feel the crush of a building beneath Godzilla's feet or the earth-shattering strike from Gigan, but all we get are watered-down effects that only add to the boredom.
Godzilla Unleashed features a host of recognizable characters from the Godzilla universe, nine different levels to explore and destroy, and both a Storyline and Brawl mode. Up to four players can get together for some monster ass-kicking, and with each creature's unique special move combined with Surges available to any monster on the map, we've got a potentially involving experience. There's another feature included called Critical Mass, which means you have absorbed too much energy. When this happens, you can unleash (yep, it's in the title) extra powerful attacks on your opponents, but you will also suffer more damage. It should add a wee bit of strategy to your mammoth encounters on screen, and if we could finish the review here, we would've been happy. Basically, what you see in this paragraph is the concept and premise behind the game, but we haven't yet talked about execution. And without any doubt, we wish we didn't have to address that part, because the execution is almost crucially flawed. We say "almost" because we still have yet to understand the purpose of this game.
In the Story Mode, all you really have to do is either beat one of the opponents are take out all the crystals; neither of which ever proves to be all that difficult. Well, it does when the controls and camera go screwy on you, which is unfortunately quite often. For some reason, we lost complete control of Godzilla 2000 multiple times during several matches, and it could've been because the camera was busy trying to adjust. See, as you are in different cities with enemy monsters, the camera zooms out when you're separated and zooms in when you do battle. This is an old-fashioned and downright terrible system because it negatively affects everything we do on screen. When the controls aren't loose, they're clumsy, slow and awkward. We were frequently staring at the screen in consternation, desperately trying to figure out why our monster didn't respond to a simple command. Then, a few minutes later, he responds exactly as he's supposed to...it's erratic gameplay at its finest...or worst. Whatever, it's just bad. Playing around and trying to utilize the throw mechanic, special abilities or Surge techniques (when you pick them up) is an exercise in tedium and often futility, which is extremely frustrating.
Sure, we've got all kinds of cool dudes, and they're even separated into four different factions: the Earth Defenders (Godzilla 2000, Godzilla 90s, Anguirus, Fire Rodan, Baragon, Mothra), the Global Defense Force (Kiryu, MOGUERA, Jet Jaguar, Mechagodzilla 2, Mecha-King Ghidorah), the Aliens (Gigan, King Ghidorah, Megalon, Orga), and the Mutants (Destoroyah, Megaguirus, Battra, Obsidius). Now, technically, each faction has a different purpose, but we won't bother going into details because these differences don't seem to mean anything during gameplay. Let's just say you encounter these different creatures in different battle-torn cities, and you can either fight them or simply destroy the crystals to finish the level. You will receive more points for smashing up buildings and military installations, and you'll also get bonuses for defeating any rival monsters on the map, but that's about where it ends. Battle tends to not only get repetitive, but outrageously irritating due to the erratic nature of the controls and the severe lack of balance among the monsters (some are borderline useless while others have oddly powerful skills). The whole experience is just plain annoying.
And it shouldn't have been annoying; it should've been fun. This is Godzilla we're talking about here! How can you possibly mess this up? The formula is straightforward and simple, but the gameplay sinks the entire production before you can even get accustomed to the relatively open-ended fighting style. You can always try to suffer through long enough to unlock more creatures and levels for the Brawl mode, but that's only if you can find a few friends willing to play. Chances are, most won't even bother with this one after a few minutes with the controller. There's a tremendous lack of focus because the game seems half-finished and shoddily thrown together; it's as if Pipeworks couldn't decide on a genre. At least the Rampage series has always stayed relatively close to its roots, and while the series has fallen over the years, it can still be entertaining at times. For Unleashed, it's a great idea to have an open landscape with multiple monsters and objectives, but when battle with those monsters is usually horrid and that landscape is tiny and uninspired, what do we get? A budget title that costs about $19 more than it's worth.
In no way is Godzilla Unleashed a good game, which means it's really not worth your attention. We suppose if you have some kids who just need an hour to unwind and don't care about all the technical hang-ups, perhaps they'll have some fun with this one. But there are so many other quality titles out there, even for the younger gaming generation. This is hardly one of them. Like we said at the start, there just doesn't seem to be any real effort involved in this production, and if that's the case, we probably shouldn't be rewarding poor performance. That's just the logical consumer talking.
12/8/2007 Ben Dutka