HOT TIP: Rent a Godzilla movie instead.
One of the most common criticisms of game reviewers is that we don’t disclose how much time we’ve spent with a game before filing a review. So let me tell you exactly how long I played Godzilla Unleashed: two hours. Two miserable, excruciating hours of my life that I will never get back, even as Call of Duty 4 sat idle in the PlayStation 3, and my computer hummed in sleep mode instead of running Fairway Solitaire. It felt like a form of punishment.
The potential exists for Godzilla Unleashed to be a goofy good time. Drawing from the vast stable of Toho Studios monsters, the game pits classic monsters like Godzilla and Mothra against an array of lesser-known gigantic robots and mutants. They battle in major cities from Sydney to New York, toppling several recognizable landmarks in the process. If this all sounds good to you — if you’re a Toho fanboy going way back — then I beg you never to play this game, unless you enjoy having your dreams crushed like a Toyota under Godzilla’s foot.
Godzilla Unleashed has no shortage of problems, and I’ll get to them all, but there’s a fatal flaw at its core: video games simply don’t have camp value the way some movies do. With the possible exception of God Hand, I can’t even think of a game that’s meant to, or could, be enjoyed for its ironies. When you encounter some of the dumber aspects of Godzilla Unleashed’s presentation, such as the idiotic cutscenes, in which the badly spoken dialogue outpaces the typo-ridden subtitles, it’s not funny. It’s frustrating. And when the objective of a mission is to punch and kick several inanimate crystals until they shatter, it’s downright insulting.
Whether you choose to play in story mode or in a multi-player brawl, the gameplay typically consists of as many as four monsters rampaging through the city and fighting one another. In story mode, even if nobody wins the battle, the level ends and you move onto the next one. In both modes, the lame fighting mechanics and appalling play control make it difficult to endure even one full round.
Monsters are split into different factions, with Godzilla as, yes, a member of the “Earth Defenders.” Godzilla, I tell you this as a friend: you are doing a shitty job of defending the Earth. Smashing buildings and stepping on pedestrians is not good Earth defense. No matter which faction you choose, the game keeps plastering impenetrable statistics on the screen, like “Earth Defenders +10%.” Ten percent of what?
I had the misfortune to play the Wii version of Godzilla Unleashed, on which developer Pipeworks Software seems to have been laboring under the misapprehension that because motion controls are possible, they are therefore mandatory. The idea behind motion controls was to make playing games more intuitive, not less. They’ve been grafted onto this game like a spoiler onto a 1989 Dodge Caravan. Nothing works well, but the controls reach a rarefied level of absurdity when they ask you to hold down the Z button and shake the nunchuk in order to make your character run while you try to steer him with the joystick.
Moving about is made doubly difficult by the bizarre camera, which wobbles and changes focus more often than Britney Spears in the buffet line. The technical issues are the sort I thought game developers had gotten past years ago, such as wonky collision detection that traps irregularly shaped objects inside giant, invisible boxes. The monsters move slowly and respond to control inputs only after a delay. If it turns out that all of these problems somehow vanish after the first two hours, I’ll turn in my badge.