Many of my lazy winter Sundays as a kid would be spent watching old TV shows and movies that invariably got stuck on to hide the big hole in broadcast scheduling. Stuff like Star Trek, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants and some Don Bluth animated film made up the regular roster, but one particular Sunday I saw a huge dinosaur-like creature destroying a city in a fight with a weird dragon/pterodactyl hybrid. The dinosaur-like monster breathed a white fire and emitted a roar I’d not forget. That monster was Godzilla, and I was instantly infatuated. Bandai Namco’s PS4 game featuring the beast from the east does pay great respect the history of the character, but as games go, it’s horribly under-par.
As a concept for a videogame, there’s few purer than the idea of monsters trashing cities and brawling with each other. That brought much joy in titles like Rampage World Tour and the GameCube’s own Godzilla entry, something that makes up the core of Godzilla the character and Godzilla the game here. In the main game mode you take the scaly behemoth on a rampage through Japan and cause as much damage as possible while consuming energy to increase his size. In that respect it plays a bit like Katamari Damacy, but involves reducing the maps to rubble rather than collecting objects from it.
Along the way, you’ll pick up various ways to level up the monsters by meeting certain objectives and tackling the various Kaiju that show up to have a rumble. Depending on difficulty, these Kaiju will be different sizes (hence the need to grow Godzilla himself) and going toe-to-toe with a far larger goliath is naturally tougher than dealing with the proverbial runts of the litter, though – as it will soon become clear – that’s more or less down to bad mechanics rather than natural, subtle difficulty changes. It’s here, in these tussles with some of the most iconic titans in film, that the already questionable control scheme gets ridiculous, and proceeds to unravel what little goodness there is.
You see, Godzilla controls like a tank. Understandable to a degree, as he’s hardly the nimblest of beasts and in that regard, it does lend a degree of authenticity, yet the manner in which you control him is overly complex for such a limited moveset. While the sticks move Godzilla forward and turn the camera like most games, you also need to steer him left and right with L1 and R1. It proves much too fiddly when embarking into combat as the King of Monsters sees him tragically lumber forward like a knackered truck on a muddy road… carrying an elephant.
This is made worse by having a very small selection of clunky attacks with wildly inconsistent range. Usually the only viable tactic is to find which regular attack works best on a particular Kaiju and then proceed to spam it until your heat meter fills up and allows you to unleash the iconic atomic breath as a special attack. Rinse and repeat until the opposing monster flops to the ground defeated. On harder difficulties it’s a performance of button-mashing frustration as you get the other end of the spam stick whacking you over the head with next to no let up. The glaring issues with the mechanics shine ever brighter here and, aside from a slight variation in a defense mode where you try to eliminate Kaiju with the least amount of damage to the city possible – and a diorama mode that let’s you set up scenes to photograph – that’s all there is to Godzilla as a game.
As if the gameplay annoyances weren’t enough, the game itself looks generations old. The monsters are decently rendered and look suitably rubbery and naff, which evokes the classic Godzilla feel just fine, and you can sort of see that was the idea for the maps as well., buthe reason it falls down is that rather than looking like a model cityscape, it comes across as poorly textured copy and paste nothingness. The old chestnut about a modern game "looking like a PS2 game" is depressingly accurate where Godzilla is concerned. It’s not terribly ugly, just decidedly low-end and cheap-feeling. The stiff animation of the monsters also evokes games of another era, and again, not in a good way. Like I said, you can see why they went with these things, but it doesn’t excuse the poor execution.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Well, it is unless you’re a huge fan of Godzilla. The cheesy dialogue perfectly captures the semi-serious nature of the movies and generally speaking sound-wise the game has little to fault. The music is ripped straight from those movies as is the unmistakable roar of Godzilla himself. There’s also a heap of informative biographies on each Kaiju, though nothing you couldn’t find with a quick Internet search.
When all that is said and done, the repetitive, clunky gameplay mechanics are going to prevent nearly anybody from gleaning much long term enjoyment out of it no matter how much fan service it piles on. This ultimately forms a niche title that doesn’t have enough variety and hasn’t got enough going right for it to matter. There is joy to be had here, just not any that lasts beyond a few smackdowns with the gigantic creatures. Still, they didn’t let bloody Godzookie in. That would have been a far greater disaster.