This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Godzilla.
This game's shit. Oh sorry, I usually do more of a setup than that, don't I? I'll start again. Goodness me, this game's shit.
If you are not familiar with it, the long-running Godzilla franchise is what happens when you nuke a country twice. You see, when you punish a child by making them smoke an entire carton of cigarettes, you shouldn't be surprised if they end up addicted. And similarly, when you go into someone's country and blow up all their shit to make them stop being jerks, you've only yourself to blame if watching all their shit getting blown up becomes the only way they can get hard. Godzilla has been an icon of Japanese pop culture since 1954. This very year, in fact, the Shinjuku Ward of Tokyo named Godzilla an official cultural ambassador. I'm guessing this is like when the Queen of England knights popular celebrities - it's just something they do every now and again to make it look like they have an actual purpose.
And now the venerable institution of Godzilla is represented in the current generation of video games with this. It would have been shrewder to put out Godzilla-branded Zyklon B canisters. You'd think this would be a no-brainer. AAA video games long seemed to have resigned themselves to a life of licking the back window of the mediocrity bus, but if there's one thing it still does better than anything else, it's blowing shit up. Games like Just Cause and Prototype and even Angry Birds prove that smashing things like it's pussy after a lengthy prison sentence is a winning formula. You'd think that Godzilla as a concept would wear that niche like a vacuum-sealed rubber johnny.
The problem is, Godzilla: The Game is trying to look like the old Japanese Godzilla movies rather than any modern interpretation. Ho yes, there's no opportunity to crush Matthew Broderick under foot, more's the pity. And to its credit, the game looks exactly like those old Kaiju movies did, like a bunch of dudes in fake rubber costumes tripping over cardboard boxes with doors and windows painted on, each with so many spark packs strapped to their bodies that the only difference between them and a suicide bomber is a sense of purpose in life. They even managed to recreate the way those costumes' jaw flaps loosely on its hinge as a roar sound effect plays that doesn't sync up with the movement. So, in the category of looking as terrible as its source material, Godzilla earns its solitary A+.
I played the PS4 version and graphically it looks like it belongs on the PS2. Even that is being totally unfair on the PS2. Shadow of the Colossus was on the PS2, but it managed to make its big things feel big. It was like laying my head on the floor of a supermarket as your mum power-slides around the corner on a mobility scooter. Godzilla meanwhile, thinks that all you have to do is make everything move like it's made of depleted uranium. Godzilla himself walks like his parents are having sex and he's trying to sneak past their bedroom door, and every time you press an attack button, you're committed to it for the next half hour. So obviously the level designers thought, "Hey, since it takes you the length of an average Royal Variety Performance to walk anywhere, not much point in making the levels any bigger than a one-bedroom apartment." We never see things from any level of scale other than Godzilla-sized. Without comparison or any visible pedestrians, we could just be watching slow-motion footage of a Boston Terrier in a Halloween costume ruining a Lego project.
Your goal in each level is to blow up all the ridiculously-huge spinning generators that probably require more energy to keep spinning than they could ever possibly generate. While you're doing that, you also have to stand Godzilla in some places where some cheeky, candid photos can be taken of him for the swimsuit edition of Wrath of Nature Illustrated. You do this roughly ten squillion times and then the game goes, "Oh actually, I'm not totally convinced you're ready for the last two levels, just to be safe you'd better do it another ten squillion times." The reason given is that you need to gather sufficient intelligence on Godzilla by going through several different mission paths. How much intelligence do you need? He's got like three attacks, and anything he steps on is not gonna be allowed on any rollercoasters any time soon. That's all you need. And when I say, "different mission paths", I mean, "exactly the same missions, but with a slight variance in how quickly the threat level rises". You see, if you're not careful, the Japanese authorities might raise the effectiveness of the defense forces from "zero" to "zero times two".
The only thing that can damage Godzilla in a way he can't immediately regenerate is other Kaijus. They're all classic enemies of Godzilla, I think, 'cause every time anyone says their name out loud, you can practically hear them mutter, "registered trademark". They're not trying to defend humanity, nor are you defending humanity from them; they just sort of show up like a nosy neighbour peering over the fence. Then the two of you clash. By which I mean, you go at each other like a pair of nursing home residents who both walked into the TV room and simultaneously noticed there was only one free armchair. The Kaiju fights are about the only point at which the game threatens to seriously think about becoming interesting. Until you realize you can just mash heavy attack which interrupts basically everything, occasionally using the uninterruptable super attack when the enemy manages to get one of their long bullshit combos out that you can't dodge or get out of the way of, 'cause you're a dude wearing a rubber costume that weighs about fifty pounds. And you can't even turn around without filing notice at least thirty days in advance.
I wish I could get through one day of my life without asking this question, but what the fuck am I doing here? Am I supposed to be rooting for Godzilla? I guess so, 'cause at the end after we've totally wrecked up the place, the prime minister's all like, "This was a lesson from nature, and Godzilla will return if humanity ever goes too far again." Oh, heaven forfend that humanity go too far and start doing something irresponsible like stomp all over someone else's shit. Godzilla's not our abusive spouse, prime minister lady, stop rationalizing! Maybe he's just being a dick!
A game in which we get to play a big, evil giant monster rubbing its fat arse all over a city like a huge, stupid dog trying to get comfortable on an expensive wedding cake could in theory offer catharsis. But that's not what this game feels like. It feels like we're a guy in a costume who just wants to act like a dick, taking out his impotent rage on some cereal boxes. Being a big, destructive monster would be fun; just being a dick is not. If I wanted to be a dick, I'd shave my head bald and sit in a hammock all day, spitting on a lingerie catalog.
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