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Godzilla (PlayStation 4) artwork

Godzilla (PlayStation 4) review

"Its price tag could fool potential customers into believing that they're purchasing a Godzilla game that someone on the dev team took seriously."

Godzilla (PlayStation 4) image

Oh dear. A terrible mistake has been made. Bandai Namco has developed a slapdash budget title under the Godzilla brand and accidentally published it with a sixty-dollar MSRP. They've even mistakenly manufactured physical copies of the game when clearly it was meant to be thrown onto Steam, under the radar, for maybe ten bucks. I saw this game on a store shelf the other day, and it costs just as much as The Witcher 3. I fear that its creators, who display little passion for the subject matter and couldn't have spent more than a couple of months on the development of this thing, will face backlash from consumers such as myself for holding it to the standard of a full-priced release.

Make no mistake: Godzilla is a dreadful video game by any standard; almost assuredly the worst game of 2015, or at least the worst game that anyone will bother to play. This could have debuted as PlayStation Plus's monthly free title and people would've dismissed it as quickly as they dismissed Tower of Guns. But it's somewhat unique in the AAA market in that there is nothing good about it. That's rare in our current climate, where even the highest-profile failures usually at least function as technical showcases. Its price tag could fool potential customers into believing that they're purchasing a Godzilla game that someone on the dev team took seriously, which elevates it from bad to downright gross.

I honestly don't even know where to start. Pick a category and we'll talk about why it's awful. Controls? Sure, let's start there. So this game is not actually a tie-in with the recent Godzilla movie – you know, the one that Godzilla was barely in – but an homage to the classic Japanese kaiju movies that put the franchise on the map before Hollywood ruined everything on more than one occasion. This is, I assume, the mindset behind the monsters of Godzilla moving so sluggishly, because they're actually meant to be guys in rubber costumes knocking each other around miniature city sets.

That's the reasoning, anyway, but the kaiju feel like neither towering monstrosities nor actors in unwieldy costumes. They feel like pieces of machinery. They can only move in four cardinal directions, at one speed, which makes them exactly as intuitive to control as the claw crane from those old arcade merchandisers. They're always facing the same direction regardless of which way the camera's looking, and you pivot them with R1 and L1. For some reason, Bandi Namco thought this was the best control scheme for a brawler, leading to many comical instances of heated one-on-one fights coming to a halt while both participants slowly adjust their trajectories.

The brawler aspect also takes a few hits for the combat being shallow, cumbersome and unbalanced. Godzilla has, by my count, four regular attacks: a three-punch combo, a tail swipe, a grab, and a full-speed charge. He has a couple of special moves linked to his atomic breath, but you've got to wait for that to recharge between uses, so you're generally stuck with the skeleton crew of a physical moveset. Also, there's no way to block or dodge, and the kaiju all walk far too slowly for evasion to ever be realistic, so there's literally no defensive game whatsoever. The sole strategy is to find the attack that your opponent is most susceptible to and spam that until one of you is dead.

Godzilla (PlayStation 4) image

So what's the deciding factor in a monster-on-monster battle? Luck of the draw, really. You just hope that you've selected a kaiju that your enemy isn't so adept against. I mostly used Godzilla himself, since that's the one we're stuck with during what can generously be called a campaign, so I can tell you against the King of the Monsters, Rodan goes down like a chump, but Anguirus is borderline unbeatable since his shell seems to block all of Godzilla's attacks and he's got his one Sonic the Hedgehog roly-poly move that there's basically no defense against. Also, while the Super X craft that the military occasionally sends after you aren't terribly powerful, it takes an awful lot of perseverance to bring one down, since they flutter around so damned quickly that they can outmaneuver Godzilla's slow ass without fault, leaving you stuck waiting for your ranged attack to recharge again... and again... and again.

The one way to balance the scales is to upgrade each kaiju's skill tree, and to give you an example of how slow this process is, after completing the campaign for the first time, I had enough materials to unlock exactly one new attribute, of seemingly hundreds spread out over dozens of playable monsters. To call it a grind is to undersell just how prolonged this feature is. I have to wonder if there's a single person in the world who has the sheer amount of free time required to max everything out and actually enjoys the game enough to play it for that long.

Let's talk about the campaign, because it's the one mode in Godzilla that has us doing something other than engaging in awful kaiju battles. (An endurance mode and online functionality are also available, but have understandably short-lived appeal.) While enemy monsters frequently show up to distract you in the campaign, your objective is to boost Godzilla's size by collecting energy accumulated from leading rampages across the city, or at least the tiny boxed-in regions that represent the city, the boundaries of which are marked by big, orange lines running across the ground. Godzilla moves so slowly that performing anything other than the bare minimum objective-wise (i.e. targeting generators) is unappealing. Even tearing down buildings, which should be a cathartic pleasure, is a tedious process of coming to a halt, watching an overlong attack animation and being underwhelmed by some of the weakest environmental destruction of the last several generations.

A word on the visual style, by the way. I made a comment recently about how bewildering it is that sparks fly from everything that you strike in Godzilla, even other kaiju. The only person I know who likes this game rightly pointed out that sparks were frequently used in the old movies to simulate impact in CGI-free environments. But here's the thing – whereas there would be tremendous artistic merit in basing a game's visual style around low-budget practical effects, nothing in this Godzilla game looks like that. It's all just bad graphics. A crumbling building in Godzilla looks less like a smashed miniature and more like a crate in an N64 Zelda game that Link's just rolled into. Rampant sparks, smoke and fire are all just lousy particle effects distinguishable from something you'd see on PS2 only by virtue of Godzilla having a good framerate. This is the ugliest full-price release I've seen in ages, and the busiest ugly game in just as long. It's an absolute eyesore.

I watched a lot of old Godzilla movies as a kid, and while I remember few specifics, I recall the good-natured campiness and passion for their niche that made them a staple of a culture. Its accompanying video game – one that you'd think is so definitive of its franchise that they didn't even give it a subtitle – commits every possible crime of its medium and does so without a hint of self-awareness. Clunky, hideous, unbalanced, overpriced and just outright boring, Godzilla is the worst piece of media I've ever seen associated with this brand. Breathe a sigh of relief, Roland Emmerich.


Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (August 02, 2015)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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JoeTheDestroyer posted August 05, 2015:

I feel like the "old movie feel" was put in place to mask the reality that this is a crappy, underdeveloped game. Like, I don't recall the monsters moving quite this stiffly in the old movies, especially when you consider some of the silly moves Godzilla pulled off in them.

I would say "good review," but I haven't read the whole thing. Sorry. I was holding off on that until my own review goes live.
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Suskie posted August 07, 2015:

Well I certainly look forward to reading yours, should it materialize!

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