Godzilla (PS4) Review

THE SHORT VERSION


I'm not sure if it'd be fair to call Godzilla a movie tie-in game, but it certainly feels like one. It's the kind of exercise in brand management designed to give the illusion of wish-fulfillment - "Wow, I get to play as Godzilla after watching him smash buildings for two hours? Awesome!" - and instead delivers an experience that admirably disappoints (I'll explain that odd dichotomy later).

Godzilla is not the game I expected, nor was it the game I was hoping for. Other reviewers have already savaged it to kingdom come, but I don't feel as strongly as they do. It was definitely flawed, but in an endearing way, like a paperback novel scribed by a crayon-wielding Kindergartener. There have been worse attempts at monster-destruction simulators, and there have been better. Whether you'll want to play it or not depends heavily on that dichotomy I mentioned, which I'll endeavour to explain below.

STORY


You are Godzilla. You smash things. The end.

Did you really come to Godzilla for a great story, a well-thought-out and compelling narrative with
sharp dramatic turns and character arcs? No. Of course not. You came here to wreck stuff. Come on. Admit it.

Part of what makes Godzilla endearing is its almost complete disregard for something resembling a story. Oh, there is one, it's just presented the same way the stories of Just Cause 2 or Angry Birds are: on the margins, there if you want them, able to disregarded without ruining the experience.

You are Godzilla, and, depending on which gameplay mode you choose, you're either striving to do as much damage to a human city as possible or you're trying to defeat six other giant monsters to become King of the Kaiju. That's really as far as it goes, and as I said you can ignore the narration from human characters and feeble attempts at dramatic dialogue to instead concentrate on beating your previous "Buildings Toppled" record.

What more could you ask for?


GAMEPLAY


Well, for starters, you could ask for some slightly smoother controls.

While the tutorial at the start of the game does a good job of outlining how to play, I still feel like the control scheme doesn't quite work. All but one of your buttons are melee attacks, and the one that isn't is a ranged attack (GODZILLA LASER BEAMS, HELL YES). Given that your large-limbed lizard player character moves only at a speed slightly faster than a golf cart, this means you'll spend a lot of your time either plodding towards something or smacking it with the button-mashing instincts of a Tekken player. This isn't so much a problem in the city-destroying mode, since the human forces attacking you have the threatening qualities of a one-winged butterfly, but in King of Kaiju mode it makes it hard when you're facing enemies who can move out of claw-smacking range and deliver nothing but laser beams spams towards you at long range.


That mode in particular has problems, which may have been because the only monsters I had unlocked were variations on Godzilla. The kaiju encounters are randomised, meaning you could be facing the doormat-like MechaGodzilla, who goes down in a few hits, then move onto a flying moth-butterfly-laser-beam-thing who take you down with a few well-placed attacks. Maybe the playing field becomes more leveled after unlocking more monsters to play as, but as it stands it's a very difficult mode to get into from the beginning.

Godzilla's main problem is that it feels like a very insubstantial game. My glib summary of the story at the top of this review is largely it: you're Godzilla and you smash things. Every button you press is designed to smash things, like you're a slightly bigger version of 'Splosion Man. The goal for pretty much every mode is to smash things. That's really all there is to it.

This feels like it could've been a fun, 15-minutes-at-a-time downloadable title rather than a full-blown Triple-A release. The battle and combat animations are fairly long and drawn out, but they have the Dark Souls quality of not being able to land damage if you're hit by an enemy midway through your claw swing animation. The buildings and destroyable things take a few good hits before they can fall - seriously, you're telling me a giant TV aerial can take more hits than an aircraft carrier, Godzilla? - and when they do, the animations of their destruction feel wonky and more like the kind of stuff you'd see in a PS2-era game. The lack of a story works for the game's benefit, but the constant narration from the oblivious human characters telling you (and, by proxy, Godzilla) how to kill them get annoying after the first half-dozen lamentations.

But y'know, all of the above is endearing. It's a goofy game that wants to be taken seriously; you're playing as Godzilla smashing buildings and battleships, battling giant monsters for control of the world. How could you not experience the game with a complete lack of seriousness?

The problem really is its release format. As a nice little $15 downloadable title, it'd be a fun diversion. As a $69 full-priced Triple-A release, it doesn't cut the mustard.

VISUALS


I want to give immediate props to the opening tutorial level, done in greyscale as a direct homage to the old-school Japanese Godzilla films where your objective is to stride through a city and destroy a radio tower. It was fun and pretty cool to play through what is essentially a scene from one of those old schlock-festivals, so if nothing else that was a highlight.

The graphics for the rest of the game are a little basic. As I mentioned above, this feels very much like a PS2-era game with fairly simple graphics and battle animations. Godzilla certainly doesn't get its mileage out of the PS4's advanced graphics capabilities, and does look somewhat dated despite the fact it's a recent release.

Godzilla himself, as well as the other monsters, are quite nicely done, and resemble their selves from the Japanese films well. There is a certain coolness to the rapidly-destroyed battlegrounds you fight them on, with flames rising from destroyed oil tanks adding some good background detail to your climactic Clash of the Kaiju.

SOUND AND VOICE ACTING


The sounds and music are taken almost verbatim from the old movies, including Godzilla's iconic onomatopoeia roar. They do a good job at adding to the atmosphere, and it really does feel like you're recreating aspects of the films.



WRAPPING UP


Godzilla is, objectively, not a very good game. Its graphics look dated, its gameplay is monotonous, the story doesn't quite work and it feels like it should've been released at a much lower price point. As I said, other critics have mauled the game beyond all recognition for how slighted they feel at its poor quality.

But really, I didn't mind it. It's definitely a time-killer that's fun for a good half hour rather than a prolonged weekend stint, and there is definitely some fun to be had in smashing up buildings as the world's most famous killer reptile. It is admirably disappointing; it could have been better regarded for the things it does right if it weren't overshadowed by the things it does wrong.

Do I recommend it? Possibly. Maybe wait for the bargain bin on this one.

- Chris


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