With the exception of the original Gojira, the Roland Emmerich’s 1998 in-name-only American edition, and 2014’s excellent comeback, most Godzilla movies have been rather low-budget. So it makes sense that this eponymous game — which was just released on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 — would be low-budget-looking, too. It’s just too bad the gameplay is rather low-rent as well.
Played as the big guy himself, Godzilla consists of three main modes. In the story-driven campaign, “God Of Destruction,” Godzilla heads into Tokyo to destroy some massive generators, as well as any tanks, aircraft, buildings, and other giant monsters who get in his way. And that’s kind of it. There are some small bits about how the Prime Minister is replaced by what can best be described as an animal lover, but none of it really adds up to much more than an excuse for Godzilla to trash the place. Heck, they could’ve said it was 1975 and that he was Led Zeppelin’s tour manager, and it would’ve made just as much sense.
If you’d rather just fight other monsters, though, there’s “King Of Kaiju,” a survival-style mode where you go kaiju-a-kaiju. Here, you can fight as nearly two-dozen rubber suit monsters, including multiple versions of Godzilla, as you take on a succession of his friends, enemies, and coworkers. Which makes it basically a recreation of 1968’s Destroy All Monsters and its spiritual successor, 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars.
You can also fight monsters online in “VS Mode,” but only if you have the PlayStation 4 version of Godzilla. It works the same as “King Of Kaiju,” but is a bit more fun because you can do three-player matches, and as well as one-on-one fights.
Regardless of which mode you play, though, Godzilla is basically the same in how he moves and attacks. He has a powerful tail sweep (the triangle button), can do a couple quick jabs with his fists (square), do a rushing attack (“X”), use his atomic breath (“O”), or do a special roaring attack (the right trigger). He can also grab things, though this never seemed to work when it was supposed to.
It is in his attacks that you start to see where the corners were cut, and why this game isn’t as deep or complex, and thus as good, as it could’ve been. Consider his atomic breath; in a better game, tapping the “O” button would’ve had him launching a short burst of it, while holding the “O” button down would’ve resulted in a longer, more sustained stream. Not here. You also have no control over what he breathes on, he simply blows on your nearest enemy or building, though sometimes he just shoot downward at nothing. Similarly, while Godzilla can step on tanks, crushing them, he don’t have any kind of stomping move. He can’t even do any combos, though if you do hit the jab button three times fast he will throw two punches and a then do quick whack with his tail.
But the biggest problem with Godzilla is its counter-intuitive movement controls. Instead of moving and looking around with the right and left thumbsticks, as you might expect, you have to use the right and left bumpers to turn. Granted, Godzilla has never been quick or agile. So having him be a bit slow and methodical in this game is to be expected. But just because he’s as clunky as a tank doesn’t mean he has to be controlled like one. And yes, many players will get used to these counter-intuitive controls fairly quickly, but not everyone. Even after finishing “God Of Destruction,” and playing multiple rounds of both “King Of Kaiju,” and “VS Mode,” I still found myself trying to turn him with the right thumbstick.
There are also issues with the specific modes. In “King Of Kaiju,” for starters, you can play as numerous different monsters, but there’s no options when it comes to difficulty or any other variables. As for “VS Mode,” it could use a rematch option, instead of kicking you straight back to the mode’s lobby.
But it’s “God Of Destruction” where Godzilla runs into the most trouble. For starters, your objectives never change, and doing the same thing over and over and over gets tiresome. Games of “Destruction” also only consist of ten missions, and with each lasting only about ten or fifteen minutes, a run through this mode doesn’t take long. Granted, it tries to make up for it by having branching pathways distinguished by difficulty. Which means, in theory, you could play twenty-five battles over the course of several games. But again, since they’re all basically the same….
You can even replay “God Of Destruction” on either offense and defense once you complete it — rampaging as any kaiju you’ve unlocked, or trying to stop rampaging kaijus as any kaiju you’ve unlocked — but both are about as fun, and as redundant, as the normal version of “Destruction.”
There are also things in “God Of Destruction” that don’t make any narrative sense. For instance, Godzilla he can crush a tank or tear down a building, but trees and streetlamps are oddly impervious to his attacks. The government officials in the game also sometimes act like Mechagodzilla is some mysterious kaiju when he was built by the government to fight Godzilla.
Then there’s little bits of “God Of Destruction” that will only disappoint big Godzilla fans. When you begin, the training mode is presented as footage of his original attack from 1954, and is shown in black & white, just like the original movie. But, for some reason, he looks like he did in the ’90s, not like he did in ’54, before he had his face lift. I know, I know, it’s a small thing that means nothing to no one, but if you’re going to make this mode black & white, and are going to include multiple versions of Godzilla in your game, why not make one of them with his original face?
Godzilla also makes an odd gameplay choice in what they call “Evolution Mode,” which is actually just where you go to upgrade Godzilla’s abilities using points earned from defeating other kaiju. While you can use your new and improved Godzilla in “VS Mode” right away, you annoyingly can’t use him in “God Of Destruction” unless you start that mode over again.
The low-budget feel of Godzilla extends beyond the shortcomings in the gameplay, sadly. Not only is the voice acting low-rent — every helicopter pilot and tank driver sounds like the same guy — but the PlayStation 4 version looks like a PlayStation 3 game…and not a recent one. Even the generic-looking fonts and cheesy sound effects in the menus makes this look more like a budget game that AAA.
In fact, the whole game has a kind of Earth Defense Force feel about it…except that those games are intentionally low-rent; Godzilla feels like they wanted it to be a good game, but just didn’t have the money to pull it off. Not that this was ever going to be as deep as Batman: Arkham Knight, or as polished as a Call Of Duty, but it could’ve, nay should’ve been way better than this.
Still, as a fan of the man and his movies, I had fun with Godzilla, even with all of its shortcomings. Played in small bursts, it was still a kick to roam around small sections of Tokyo, stepping on tanks, pounding on buildings, and smacking the bejezus out of Hedorah, Mechagodzilla, and the rest. Though, admittedly, I probably liked this game more than other people because I liked Godzilla more than other people. But if you’re a fan as well, you might want to check it out, too. Just maybe wait until its price is low-budget, too.