The iconic monster just can’t catch a break in the videogame world. Over the years, I’ve honestly wondered if the disappointing lack of quality in Godzilla games were simply a reflection of the cornball movies. Yes, those old films are comically ridiculous. They’re so bad that nobody really takes them seriously. So, perhaps we’re supposed to approach the interactive entertainment the same way; it’s bad, but it’s so bad that it’s actually fun. …but this isn’t fun at all and in general, poor video games aren’t entertaining. It’s probably because of the nature of interaction; if it’s less than mediocre, it’s simply not an enjoyable experience.
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to determine that the production value is abysmal. I guess this is a PlayStation 4 game (I really don’t want to see what the PS3 version looks like); it says so on the box so I guess I have to believe it. Some of the more theatrical camera angles are kinda cool, I suppose, and those special effects can be mildly pleasing to the eye. Aside from that, this is a drab, uninspired visual presentation that shows no spark of creativity whatsoever. The cities you trash are littered with static, unappealing detail with virtually no life or movement on the ground. Where are the thousands of civilians fleeing in fear? Is that pathetic assembly down there – the one that never moves – supposed to be the army?
And the audio isn’t any better. Again, the production value is just way too low, as the soundtrack is generic and poorly balanced and even the effects lack punch and volume. Again, I wonder if the original goal was to recreate the corniness and ridiculousness of the movies. If that’s the case, mission accomplished. The audio is so far below par that yeah, I can see this as a low-budget movie featuring toy tanks and a Godzilla puppet. But if you’re trying to give us a slam-bang action extravaganza with ceaseless action, propelled forward by intense effects and a raucous score, you’ve failed miserably. This creature should have immense power and as a direct result, the impact should be huge from a sound standpoint. Yeah, nope.
Let’s try to make this quick and painful. The main mode is called God of Destruction, which is just a bunch of small maps that all have the same objective: Find the power stations and destroy them. Yes, that’s the only objective. No, there aren’t any optional objectives or side missions. You might get interrupted by fellow kaiju and the humans lamely attempt to attack – worthless stationary tanks and some silly dive-bombing planes – but other than that, it couldn’t be more straightforward. Hey, straightforward is just fine, provided the game was actually a blast to play, and we enjoyed progressing through the maps and wreaking havoc. Sadly, enjoyment is difficult to find.
You can finish this mode in about an hour, which doesn’t help matters. Now, you can go through it again to find all the “cinematic” areas of each level, but I seriously doubt even the hardcore fans will do so. Basically, the cinematic sections allow the camera to change perspective (and the government can magically gather new data from these new camera angles), but that’s about it. It’s not a bad idea and it might appeal to classic film buffs, but it has a nasty effect on the gameplay. You can’t keep playing with these cinematic camera angles; you just have to wait until the data collection is done. You can’t move at all because this causes the collection to stop. Not a terrible concept but like everything else in the game, it’s poorly executed.
As for control, I expected Godzilla to be a little slow and clunky; after all, he’s a giant lizard that just so happens to stand on its hind legs. Even so, he shouldn’t be anywhere near this unwieldy. He’s so sluggish and awkward that simply moving him around can be frustrating, despite the fact that he does have mediocre strafing ability. The biggest problem comes when you want to turn the beast; you have to hold down the left and right shoulder buttons for some bizarre reason. When you go to attack, there are more stumbling blocks. The camera isn’t very good, for one, and Godzilla can’t target anything. He can punch, swing his tail, and let fly a blast of energy when his power meter is full, but it all feels like fighting in a giant bowl of Jell-O.
I will give credit to the developers for giving Godzilla a few cool abilities, like a devastating running attack and a roar that gives him a temporary shield. Then there’s a big area-of-effect power discharge that can be very effective in certain situations, and at least you get to feel tremendously powerful for once. But the balancing is just way off. For instance, that energy discharge is Godzilla’s only method of dodging (if you can even call it that), because it generates a few seconds of invincibility. Other than this, there’s no way to block any incoming attacks and movement is so horribly slow and tedious that you just have to power through. Everything comes down to just crushing everything before you die.
There’s not really a solidified combat mechanic here. You basically just press a bunch of buttons in the hopes that Godzilla will decimate his target, which, by the way, he has difficulty doing. The dash and grab moves are almost impossible to execute successfully on a frequent basis, and everything that targets you always hits. Unfortunately, this means you feel like a bumbling, brainless beast far more often than not; only rarely do you get that “hey, I’m a bad-ass” feeling. All you do is trudge around, bumping into stuff, desperately trying to take out targets before keeling over. And have fun trying to hit those planes out of the air; that’s an exercise in futility if there ever was one.
There is an upside, believe it or not. Movie fanatics will probably appreciate the large cast of monsters, and the Diorama mode is catnip for lovers of the legendary film lizard. They put a fair amount of effort into those extra monsters and this engaging Mode, so how come the rest of it is so terrible? What happened? Did they forget that they actually had to make a video game? One that actually functions? Why does Godzilla have to feel like a tank with half a tread and a drunk at the controls? In games where the player is supposed to feel empowered, the cardinal sin is to frustrate the hell out of that gamer with crappy controls and a mechanic that makes him feel totally ineffective. It’s not funny; it’s pathetic.
One of these days, I imagine some developer will take a decent whack at this IP. Maybe Rocksteady can take a break from Batman and give this Japanese icon the attention and care he deserves. In theory, a talented team could make a fantastic game because all the necessary elements are there; don’t even bother with a story (which is just awful in this game, by the way), just give us some quality gameplay. Seriously, how hard is that? It’s so weird. Such a straightforward, simple idea; it should be easy to make it fun. ‘sigh’ But anyway, don’t bother with Godzilla because it’s a tedious, poorly produced, irritating, utterly underwhelming production that has only the bare minimum to offer die-hard followers of the franchise.
The Good: Extra monsters are pretty authentic. Diorama Mode is cool for the fans.
The Bad: Terrible production values throughout. Control is slow, clunky and inconsistent. Story is a joke. Virtually zero variety in the missions. Backgrounds are pitifully stark and boring. Player feels ill-equipped to emerge successful. Ridiculously short campaign. “Cinematic” camera angles don’t work at all.
The Ugly: “Can you believe they charge $60 for this?”
7/16/2015 Ben Dutka