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Godzilla Unleashed


A failure of monstrous proportions...
Reviewer's Note: This review covers both the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions of Godzilla Unleashed.

Godzilla Unleashed sounds like a fun idea, at least in theory. How can it not be fun to control some of the biggest and meanest monsters ever created, fight other monsters, and destroy everything in your path? Unfortunately, Atari and developer Pipeworks found a way to make this a droll, ugly experience. Unless you are a huge fan of Godzilla and have to collect everything, you’re going to want to stay as far away from this game as you would from the real Godzilla.

Gameplay

The storyline in Godzilla Unleashed revolves around the strange appearance of crystals, which have not only released the monsters from Monster Island… but are also destroying the Earth by way of natural disasters. That much is clear, at least; however, the story attempts to become overly complex with tales of deceit and alien invasion and the like. The story scenes are most certainly forgettable. Besides, who needs a story when you’re about to destroy everything in your path, right?

At its core, Godzilla Unleashed is a brawl-type game in which the main goal is to take down other monsters which populate the level that you’re in. There are punch and kick attacks, fierce attacks, and special attacks—all of which vary, depending on which monster that you’re controlling. Each monster has a certain number of life bars that need to be diminished, and the only way to completely knock off a life bar is to knock the monster down.

The wild card here is that monsters can get powered up by destroying crystals that are scattered around each level. Once enough crystals are obtained, the monster goes into critical mass and becomes a wrecking machine of even more frightening proportions. The crystals are a bit easier to get to in the Wii version of the game, since there’s a better feel of free-roaming movement. The PlayStation 2 version of the game focuses more on the combat, leaving less room for exploration.

The controls are easier to grasp on the PlayStation 2 version of the game than they are for the Wii. Waggling your Wiimote is the only way to accomplish certain moves due to the lack of face buttons, so expect some sore wrists after playing for awhile. For example, grappling an opposing monster on the Wii requires waggling both the Wiimote and Nunchuk… and nets inconsistent results. The PlayStation 2 version, meanwhile, simply requires a press of the L1 button. This is not to say that waggle is a bad thing, and it was probably necessary given the differences in the controllers, but it’s just not executed tightly here and can lead to a little frustration when trying to pull off certain moves.

That frustration shouldn’t last long, though, since Godzilla Unleashed is a button-mashing brawler at heart. The only real necessity here is being able to knock down your opponent—getting to that point is usually a mix of hammering on your punch and kick buttons, with the occasional special attack here and there. Granted, if you want to, it’s possible to make the fighting a bit deeper… and it’s probably even more important when playing multiplayer games against human opponents. It’s not a requisite, however, for blowing through the single-player Story Mode.

The multiplayer modes add a touch of replay value to Godzilla Unleashed. Players can set parameters for some entertaining matches, including destruction points for destroying buildings and vehicles, combat points for successful attacks on other monsters, or the traditional number of wins per match. There are also plenty of unlockables in the game, should you manage to hold enough interest to play the game long enough to spend the points that you earn. There are playable monsters, new levels, artwork, hints, and more to unlock. Unfortunately, earning enough points to unlock everything requires a substantial amount of playing time in the Story Mode.

Graphics

Godzilla Unleashed on the PlayStation 2 is one ugly game. The monster animations are stuttered, the environments are stale, and the frame rate is inconsistent with 30 frames per second being a goal and not a reality in most situations. Aside from some expected landmarks to distinguish one city from another (such as the Sydney Opera House), each level is a mix of buildings, bridges, and crystals. When the buildings are destroyed, it’s not a gradual thing, either. Each building seems to have two or three canned stages of destruction, and there’s no feeling of satisfaction that comes from that. Of course, the battle between the monsters is the key thing here, but if you’re going to have destruction in a game, the least that developers can do is make it at least somewhat interesting to look at. The camera also has trouble following the action at times, despite the focus on the fighting in this version.

On the Wii, the results are a touch better. The frame rate is much more stable and the lighting effects are decent. The textures are a bit better here, as well. Perhaps the biggest improvement is the camera’s ability to let you roam a bit and either fight, destroy crystals, or go after some buildings or other random targets. It’s not a night and day difference between the two versions, however, and the differences in play control may negate the minor visual improvements that the Wii version has over its PlayStation 2 counterpart.

Sound

Although there are differences in terms of visuals between the versions of Godzilla Unleashed for the PlayStation 2 and the Wii, the sound and music are exactly the same: average. The music is powered by guitar—lots of guitar. It’s not even particularly impressive guitar work. It’s supposed to pump you up, but many people who play this game will likely tune out the tunes here in relatively short order. The sound effects vary, ranging from authentic monster sounds to weak explosions and destruction effects. Voice work is limited to the game’s story sequences, and the delivery of the dialog is uneven. Of course, once the storyline starts branching and getting ridiculous, you’re probably going to start skipping past the cinemas, anyway.

The Final Verdict

Godzilla Unleashed is a bad game. There’s really no way around saying it.

If the gameplay was a bit deeper, perhaps the aesthetic shortcomings could be forgiven. This isn’t the case, however. Aside from playing the game against a friend to see which monster is the best, there’s just no incentive to recommend this game to anyone. The game tries to cash in on the Godzilla license, which will entice some consumers, but the actual product is a mindless button-masher with an incoherent storyline and some of the worst visuals seen in a game of this ilk.

For the most extreme Godzilla fan, perhaps a rental is in order, just to see the new monsters that Toho designed specifically for this game; however, this game is best left to retail shelves to collect dust and shame. Please… skip this one. In fact, read this review once and then forget that Godzilla Unleashed exists-- and maybe track down a copy of War of the Monsters for the PS2 to get your monster fix.