If you think of cheesy old Japanese movies when someone mentions Godzilla, then Godzilla on the PlayStation 4 may be for you. It's steeped in references to the films which saw men smash up model cities in big rubber lizard suits, and heck, it even plays like one. The problem, though, is that if you don't have a hint of nostalgia for the King of Monsters, there really isn't much incentive to give Godzilla's new-gen foray much more than a passing glance.
Let's start with the good stuff: the game gets the many monsters that have appeared throughout Godzilla history spot on. From Mothra to Rodan and Mechagodzilla to King Ghidorah, fans will adore seeing each kaiju pop up for a brawl from time to time. The monster roster's a decent size, and with no puzzling omissions, it's one of the title's strongest assets. What's more, each beast has its own set of unique moves, and you can even upgrade their abilities via Evolve mode, which sees you unlock upgrades on a skill tree by using collectible items earned from bashing other kaiju.
The mode that you'll be spending the most time in will more than likely be God of Destruction, which is essentially the title's story mode. Featuring branching paths that are welcome when it comes to replayability, it's easily the game's most fleshed out component, and it sports some decent ideas to boot. As Godzilla, or any other unlocked monster, you're tasked with smashing through a series of stages, wreaking havoc on Japanese civilisation while also beating up any kaiju that come your way.
Generally, this involves mashing square and triangle to plough through buildings of various shapes and sizes before taking out a number of G-energy generators. These giant, futuristic structures need to be destroyed in each stage in order to achieve victory, and obviously, this simple objective gets increasingly difficult as you progress. When choosing which path to follow on the stage select screen, the difficulty is determined by the current prime minister, whose job it is to try and rally the military against the titular overgrown lizard and his pals. Selecting an easier path brings out a rather meek politician who can't make the tough calls, subsequently leading to a weaker army, while selecting the harder paths puts a stern, ruthless figure in charge who's not afraid to bring out the big guns. It's a fun little addition that adds some detail to all of the button mashing, and a particular highlight is seeing each prime minister despair at the fact that you're practically unstoppable.
Speaking of which, Godzilla isn't exactly a difficult game. The only time that you'll find yourself in trouble – indicated by an orange haze clogging up the screen – is when you attempt a stage that's beyond your current abilities. Annoyingly, though, if you do hit a brick wall, you can't just jump into Evolve mode and buff your beast, as any upgrades that you purchase won't carry over to a playthrough that's already in progress. This potentially means that you can get stuck on a tougher stage with no decent chance of success, and your only option will be to start another run.
As hinted, fighter jets, tanks, and helicopters are hardly able to put a dent in the King of Monsters and his ugly chums, and it's really only when the threat level – a gauge that builds as you cause more damage – rises beyond a few thresholds that a barrage of missiles to your scaly face become a danger. Even then, your chosen kaiju can take a heck of a lot of punishment before they weaken, which means that you're only ever truly troubled by other monsters – and this is sadly where the release trips up.
With a decent kaiju versus kaiju combat system, Godzilla could have been a far better game, but unfortunately, brawling with other beasts is one of its weakest aspects. Using the same handful of attacks that you employ when smashing buildings to pieces, monster battles are completely hit and miss. One minute, you'll be smashing your foe through a row of apartment blocks while explosions fill the air, and it'll feel great. The next, your stumpy lizard arms will fail to connect against your opponent, and you'll get locked into submission by a flurry of seemingly inescapable attacks. There's no way to defend against an onslaught outside of a special technique that makes you temporarily invincible, but even that requires a full heat gauge – a bar that fills fastest when you're taking damage.
Needless to say, some monsters are far, far more effective than others, and there's just no sense of balance. Mothra's larvae form for example, is tough to hit because it's so short, and its relatively quick attack animations allow it to lock its enemies in place if it manages to get them in a corner. Meanwhile, King Ghidorah and his incredibly long reach makes it difficult to get close enough to him to actually do some damage without getting swatted away. As such, the online versus mode simply isn't worth your time unless you're just having fun with a friend. Likewise, the string of battles that King of Kaiju mode offers can also prove to be needlessly frustrating.
Despite everything, though, Godzilla can definitely be fun. It's cathartic to rampage through entire city sectors, largely ignoring your puny human opposition as they try desperately to stop you. Fans will also appreciate the effort that's been put into the encyclopaedic Kaiju Guide and the Diorama mode, which allows you to place unlockable figurines of monsters into a setting and snap some photos. Again, the title manages to capture the look and feel of classic Godzilla movies, but the gameplay just doesn't hold up as well as it should.
Ultimately, Godzilla can be a reasonably fun romp if you're up for some mindless chaos, but it's too clumsily executed to recommend to anyone who isn't a diehard fan of the King of Monsters. You could argue that the release actually sticks too close to the source material, in that the look and feel of it is spot on while the action really does make it seem like you're sometimes controlling a very tired, sweaty man in a big dumb costume. This is a Godzilla game that's struggled to evolve beyond the basics of what's expected of it – it's the iconic roar without any of the menace to back it up.