Any child of the 80s has a special place for Godzilla in their hearts. The animated TV show played a pivotal role in my childhood, with the idea of a giant fire-spewing lizard that you could call from the sea being hugely attractive to an impressionable young lad. Sadly, no amount of calling from a windy Lake District shore ever resulted in the timely appearance of a leviathan, thus leaving the menace of a troublesome sister undealt with.
Of course, Godzilla was an icon on Eastern shores many years earlier, with his first cinematic appearance in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film capturing Japanese imaginations. Since then the character has appeared in a further 28 films in his home nation, alongside two Hollywood renditions and a raft of other media cementing his worldwide appeal.
The tutorial immediately drops you into the role of the original Godzilla, right down to the flickering black and white image, and introduces you to his key abilities. Standard and heavy attacks are available, while hitting X causes Godzilla to charge forward, with the circle button controlling his atomic breath. You can also grab your enemies depending on their size and have a special attack that when used makes you temporarily invulnerable, and is technically the only way to block an enemy’s incoming attack.
You’re presented with a raft of modes after completing the tutorial, starting with the God Of Destruction mode which sees Godzilla attempt to grow as large as possible – enough, even, to wipe out human civilisation. Collecting G-Energy controls Godzilla’s growth, with generators being the primary source of this pure energy, though you can also gather it by destroying enemies or as much of the scenery as possible. Each stage also features data collection points where clicking the R3 button sees the armed forces collecting information on Godzilla and the other Kaiju. Multiple paths open as you complete stage, with the upper-most one always the easier option, though the ‘harder’ levels can sometimes turn out to not be that tough while some easier ones are ridiculously difficult.
Godzilla moves with all the gracefulness – or should that be gracelessness? – you’d expect of a huge lizard, slowly lumbering his way about levels. You have to use L1 and R1 to rotate him, which isn’t the most natural method when you’re using the left analog stick to move about as well, but you do get vaguely accustomed to it. He also doesn’t seem that responsive to your button presses, and while it fits with the nature of the creature, making it actually carry genuine weight, whether it’s fun is another matter entirely.
Godzilla’s speed is a big problem. He simply can’t move about the level fast enough to keep your attention fully. You find yourself hammering the X button to make him charge between buildings or enemies, but as the animation for this move has a cooldown period at the end it feels laborious and deeply annoying, particularly when you’re trying to keep your Fury rate growing.
Then there’s the issues caused by having no real health meter, as the screen slowly grows red after an indiscernible amount of damage. Half the time you can wander about without a care in the world, while other times you’re taken apart by an enemy Kaiju with no real feedback on how you were doing, or how much damage they were causing. I realise that any number of games use a rechargeable health mechanic, but feedback is so dulled here, and with very little chance of swiftly retreating to allow your health to recharge it simply doesn’t make sense.
The story dialogue is woeful and the few voice actors stuck with very little to work with – having one of the Prime Ministers saying that they’re trying their “gosh darndest” to help poor old Godzilla after he’s destroyed yet another area is utterly ridiculous. Slightly later on he admits “I’ve been slightly naïve here,” before subsequently resigning.
There is a good level of fan service on offer though, with a growing Kaiju Guide expanding as you work your way through the main game, and unlockable Kaiju such as King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla and, of course, Mothra appearing in the both the God Of Monsters and King Of Kaiju mode. The guide is a wonderful repository of Godzilla trivia and information for anyone looking to learn more about the giant monster, though it’s nothing you wouldn’t be able to find yourself on the internet. There’s also the Diorama Mode where unlocked models of the characters can be placed in different locations and posed for photographing, which is a neat little diversion.
A key problem with regularly facing off against another Kaiju is that some of your adversaries are merciless and your vanilla Godzilla isn’t really equipped to deal with them, meaning that you have to use items you collect in the main God Of Monsters mode to level up his attacks and abilities. This sounds like good fun, but the items aren’t dropped often enough or early enough to promote much of a sensation of progress, instead forcing you to grind your way through the same levels over and over again.
You can also take your chosen monster into online battles, though these tend to devolve into mashing the buttons repeatedly until one of you falls down. A number of the monsters seem grossly overpowered compared with others and there simply wasn’t anything that would keep me coming back to this mode. Alongside standard versus there’s also a three player battle, but it always seemed like whoever is the last to engage with the others will almost certainly be the winner.
Godzilla the game is ultimately incredibly loyal to its inspiration, with the silly, schlocky feel of the earliest films sitting alongside game mechanics that also feel suitably dated. While the creatures themselves are fairly good representations of the iconic stable of monsters, the locations are dull and simplistic, often looking closer to a Dreamcast-era game, rather than a PS4 title. The fact that it’s a full price title makes it even more unforgivable, when you might forgive it for cutting corners if it were a budget release. Aurally there’s little wrong though, with Godzilla’s trademark call always hitting the mark and some authentically bombastic musical themes throughout.
Despite the huge flaws, there’s still something that kept drawing me back to play a bit more, to destroy a few buildings or beat one more Kaiju. It’s not smart or clever, nor remotely modern, and it’s mostly repetitive and dull. But it’s Godzilla – a giant nuclear accident that is as likely to destroy you as protect you. After 60 years, there’s still some part that’s inherently enjoyable about that and it has found its way into this game. That or I have radiation sickness.
Version Tested: PS4