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Godzilla is the kind of property that seems like it would transition perfectly into video games. You've got giant monsters, military forces storming the scene, buildings in need of smashing and more. Unfortunately, the king of all monsters will have to keep defending his title on the silver screen, because his latest console outing has proven to be another major letdown.
In Godzilla, Bandai Namco's latest stab at bringing the world's most famous giant lizard to the world of video games, you take control of the titular kaiju and loads of his most notorious enemies. That roster of more than 20 movie monsters is actually one of Godzilla's few strong suits, as series fans will be excited to guide their favorite creatures on a rampage through Japan.
Those diehard fans are the only folks who will get much out of Godzilla and, even then, I'm hesitant to recommend what feels like a budget title boasting a full-scale price tag. There's quite a bit of fan service here, but even that isn't enough to save Godzilla from extreme mediocrity. Along with that big roster, you'll also gain access to a monster-sized encyclopedia, including production stills and loads of information on just about every kaiju to tussle with the mega-lizard, including many who don't actually appear in the game. There's also a Diorama Mode, where you can set up landscapes and unlocked models of kaiju in various poses. But when a some of a video game's best features are a glorified toy set and some historical documentation, you know you've got a problem.
Godzilla proper only sports a handful of modes, all of which offer some extremely limited gameplay. King of Monsters is the main draw, featuring a story-light campaign of the legendary lizard walking into an area, smashing buildings, occasionally fighting another kaiju, then destroying a handful of G-Power generators. That's literally all there is to be done. Each area looks a little different than the last, but your goal is almost exclusively to demolish the surroundings and then take out the generators. You can play this mode as any kaiju you've unlocked on the PS4, or even drop in to a level to defend the city instead, but those options don't change things up all that much.
Destroying building in quick succession racks up extra points which, in turn, help Godzilla grow bigger. There are also four areas in each map where you can tap on the R3 button to collect data on Godzilla, which is used to unlock additional areas and weapons. Each level also offers a sub-mission, which is usually something like “Destroy X helicopters/tanks.” It all feels like busy work, though, tacked on to try and add variety to the lackluster proceedings.
As I said, other kaiju occasionally show up, giving you a blessed escape from punching buildings and generators. Unfortunately, your combat options aren't all that interesting, either. You can chain a light strike three times or let loose with a single powerful strike. You can hit Circle to use your kaiju's super move , which is tied to a timed gauge. That same gauge is used for what passes for a dodge in Godzilla, which basically just grants you a few seconds of invulnerability and occasionally does a bit of damage, too. You can also hit L1 and R1 at the same time to go momentarily invincible, which is only helpful if you're really good at spotting exactly when an enemy is going to attack.
Even controlling your kaiju is a bit odd. You use L1 and R1 separately to turn your monster in the direction of choice, kind of like a tank. It's a unique call, but you get used to it quickly.
The major problem with the combat is that there don't seem to be any hard rules governing what lands a hit, where you'll strike or which move gets precedence over the other. These important factors in any fighting game get thrown right out the window in Godzilla. You'll frequently blast your plasma breath at nothing in particular and watch as your strikes clip through buildings and monsters alike. A chain of attacks that kept your enemy staggered just a moment ago might pass through them unnoticed the next time, leaving you wide open to a counter-attack. There's a bit of fun to be found in these lumbering, clumsy tussles (enhanced by a pretty great soundtrack and lots of lovely explosions and dust effects), but mostly you'll be left feeling less like you earned a victory and more like some random calculations worked out in your favor.
The campaign will take you about an hour to work through, assuming you're taking the time to accomplish each level's various goals. You're encouraged to play through it multiple times, as the occasional fork in the road grants a small amount of variety in locales, enemies faced and difficulty.
Other available game modes include two and three-person online battles that stopped being fun once folks unlocked the obviously overpowered monsters from the roster. There's no couch play to speak of, and you can't even play a single fight while going it solo. Instead, King of Kaiju makes you take on six random monsters in a row, so you don't have the ability to jump in, pick a fight with Mothra and get out when you've only got a few minutes to spare.
Finally, there's the terrible unlock system. In order to gain access to a kaiju, you're going to need to best them in battle and earn their DNA. You'll use that resource to unlock the new character in Evolution Mode, but other than a handful of monsters in the campaign, you'll be relying on luck for all of the other creatures to show up. Each monster also has an upgrade tree for their abilities, but they require loads of other resources in order to unlock. The game is built with boatloads of grinding in mind, but this isn't a game that warrants that kind of repetitive play. It's too limited and gets dull all too quickly.
Saying Godzilla is a complete waste of time would not be fair, however. I honestly believe that the biggest kaiju fans out there will be happy with what's on offer. If all you want to do is stomp around a city and take swipes at your favorite creatures from the movies, over and over again, you'll be happy with the limited gameplay and handful of extra features like Diorama Mode and the Kaiju Guide. I'd have to caution everyone else against slapping down full price, however, as Godzilla falls short on far too many fronts.
That's a shame, too. After all these years, Godzilla deserves a game that's worthy of the title “King of all monsters.” This latest attempt, however, simply doesn't cut it.
This review based on a download of the game provided by the publisher.
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco