Bandai Namco’s Godzilla: Review
Whether I’m nine years old or thirty-four, I have always love Godzilla. Something about a radioactive dino-beast that tramples cities just seems appealing to me, and toss in the dozens of sequels and reboots with the sheer number of ridiculous monsters to oppose Godzilla, and you have all the makings of an awesome bowl of destruction.
I love that when I was a kid, I thought that Godzilla was just a standard T-rex…never minds the spines on his back or his tendency to spew radioactive fire out of his mouth. I love that sometimes he’s a bad guy, and sometimes he’s a good guy. I might be one of the few people that genuinely liked the 1998 Matthew Broderick film, and I sure as hell enjoyed the most recent outing. In short, Godzilla rules.
That’s why it’s so disappointing that Bandai Namco’s Godzilla was so terrible. You know the old saying how you should never meet your heroes because they’ll always let you down? Yup, that applies here. In theory, it really shouldn’t be that hard to make a passable Godzilla game.
Step 1 – allow a large scale of destruction. Step 2 – toss in other monsters to oppose Godzilla. Step 3 – cool it with the restrictions, because something as powerful as Godzilla should not have too many (similar to the problem with almost every Superman game). Even if you were asleep but threw those three ingredients together, you would have a passable game. Unfortunately, this Godzilla game only has one of those three criteria: other monsters. And even that seems broken.
Before I go too deeply into why I didn’t like this game, there ARE a few good points. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having SOME fun with this game. For starters, even though I’m restricted in terms of what parts of the city I’m allowed to destroy, the parts that are destructible are pretty fun. I liked being able to use Godzilla’s charge attack to flatten a building, then swing my tail to knock down another while swatting a bunch of attack choppers out of the sky.
In those short bursts of fun, I felt like Godzilla, even if the fun only lasted for a minute or two. No matter how bad the destruction looked, at least I was knocking buildings down, so that’s gotta count for something, right?
Also, the selection of monsters for Godzilla to fight is actually pretty decent. Everything from classics like Mecha-Godzilla and Mothra to some random giants are present, and if anything, their appearance in the main “story mode” is a welcome change from lumbering around stomping on tanks and bashing buildings into low-poly smithereens.
The actually process of fighting these monster is a pain in the butt, but at least they’re there to mix things up a bit.
Perhaps the biggest headache in this game is in the controls. We’ve had dual analog sticks for what…15-20-ish years now? In that time, almost all games have defaulted to “left stick = move, right stick = camera/turn character.” It’s a proven formula that didn’t need to be changed, and certainly did not need to be changed for a third person Godzilla game. As it stands, Godzilla gives you this as a control scheme: left stick = move, right stick = camera, LB and RB = turn Godzilla.
Ouch. Not fun when you’re first instinct is to turn Godzilla with the right stick. Why Bandai Namco went with this scheme is beyond me, but I never really got used to it, and add to the fact that our favorite mutant dino is slower than molasses, and you have the makings of a “rage quit” quality game.
While we’re on the subject of “slower than molasses,” let’s talk about the overall way Godzilla moves about. I understand he’s a big, lumbering giant. I understand he’s not supposed to be able to parkour his way around the city. Playing games like Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted have undoubtedly spoiled me with their fast, fluid characters. Trust me, I understand that there’s a time and a place, and Godzilla is not the time or place for a fast moving character.
Tank speed is fine, but when coupled with the weird controls and the extreme level of slowness, it becomes an exercise in patience. It suddenly makes sense why the levels are so small; it would take hours just to move across a city the size of San Andreas. Hell, it takes forever just to move across these tiny maps as it is. Thanks goodness there’s a dash attack that can be spammed over and over, both to move across the map and also to attack.
When you’re moving about the city destroying buildings and generators, Godzilla feels invincible, like he should. Tanks, ships, and choppers offer no resistance, so the game basically becomes a task list of moving from generator to generator, destroying them, and growing in size (yes, the main “story mode” hands you the task of getting Godzilla to grow as large as possible. No, that is not a euphemism).
Every now and then, another monster will show up and you will have to fight it, which is no easy task. You see, these monster are almost always faster than you and have better attacks and combos. Performing each of your moves, whether it’s dashing, blocking, attacking, or shooting fire from your mouth, involves a couple of seconds to “charge up.” Whether this is actually a case of a move needing to charge up or input lag remains to be seen, but regardless, you will be vulnerable for a second, and the enemy will almost always choose that second to unleash a combo.
So defeating monsters successfully plays out like this everytime: dash in large circles until your fire breath recharges, shoot monster with said fire breath, dash around in large circle until fire breath recharges, repeat until victorious. If you’re lucky, you might get a punch or two in. As the monsters get more powerful, you’re going to find yourself dashing away a lot more to replenish your health, making for some pretty ridiculous looking battles.
Graphically, it is clear that this game was developed first for the PS3, then hastily ported over to the PS4. If you don’t believe me, just wait until you go to save your game. You’ll see a very familiar looking “save game” overlay pop up, one that I can’t say that I have yet to see in a PS4 game (correct me if I’m wrong). If that’s not indication enough, then you need to look no further than the game itself.
The city is sparse, dotted by samish looking buildings. There no signs of life anywhere. There is virtually no detail in the environment; everything looks sterile and flat. Bodies of water look like a texture map applied to a flat plane. When you smash buildings apart, they break apart all pretty much in the same manner; a handful of low poly chunks that disappear after hitting the ground.
Godzilla himself looks decent enough, though I can’t be certain if he actually was designed well, or he just looks good because he’s up against such poor looking surroundings. Either, I suppose it’s a good thing that the star of the show at least looks halfway decent.
Never meet your heroes, because they will almost always let you down. I hate to say it, but this game is not the Godzilla game to best represent the legendary movie monster.
In fact, I would much rather play the old NES side scroller. Remember that one? It had like six colors total, and Godzilla was this weird aqua color, but at least I had fun playing that game. Bandai Namco’s Godzilla, not so much. I enjoyed some quick spurts of action as I trampled slowly around the city, but at the end of the day, this game is much more of a headache than any modern game ever needs to be.