Dear Godzilla Fans: Please Stop Defending that PS4 Game

2015 saw many terrific video games. From the moral complexity of Witcher 3 to the creative freedom of Super Mario Maker, and everywhere in between, 2015 was a strong year for the video game industry. Yet, as with any year: there were duds. Arguably the biggest flop of all was Godzilla for the PlayStation 4. Lumbering, unwieldy controls, boring past-generation map design, and a complete lack of any interesting fighting system (and local multiplayer) made this a challenge to call “fun.” This game was panned nearly across the entire board, with one small group providing the only positive spin. They were, of course, the Godzilla fans and they found a lot of good things to say.

Just to say upfront: Obviously, all art is subjective. No one is an idiot for liking this game. The following is just my opinion.

Now, I have watched every single Godzilla movie (in English and Japanese where applicable). I own an entire large crate full of action figures and collectibles. I am attending G-Fest in Chicago this summer. I have a tattoo of Godzilla on my body. Do I say all this to prove that I am the coolest guy in the universe – that’s besides the point. My point is, I am a huge Godzilla fan, I grew up on this stuff. Here is my message to other Godzilla fans: this game is garbage. It doesn’t matter if you love Godzilla or not. Please stop defending this piece of crap, we deserve better.

While the other art is the best it's ever been, that just acknowledges that graphics have gotten better in ten years.
While the monster model design is the best it’s ever been, that just acknowledges that graphics have gotten better in ten years.

A lot of the praise for this “game” comes from fans describing how faithful it is. Godzilla moves with purpose, like the large mass he is. Some fans have even contrasted it favorably against the three most recent Godzilla fighting games that were released for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox (original), and Wii. This is true. In those games, Godzilla moved a lot faster. He was agile, quick, and could run from one side of the map to another. All of these changes reflecting a desire to create a more fluid fighting game. Yes, Godzilla is slower and more like his movie self in the PS4 game… but is this a good thing from a game making perspective?

"It makes you think of how unauthentic previous Godzilla "fighter" games (Save the Earth, Unleashed..) were." - a poor, misguided Godzilla fan
“It makes you think of how unauthentic previous Godzilla ‘fighter’ games (Save the Earth, Unleashed..) were.” – a poor, misguided Godzilla fan

Let me give an example: In the PS4 game, you have to collect “data” from various points in the map. Let’s say I missed one on one side of the level and now I must walk back.

STOMP.

Here I come.

STOMP.

Getting closer.

STOMP

Almost there.

STOMP.

…. still almost there.

Does this sound fun? There is no way to run. There is a “charge” option where Godzilla lowers his head and plows forward for a few steps like a charging bull (or a blind football player) but this animation looks awkward to say the least. I can only imagine the commentary of the spectating citizens.

“Oh, there he goes! Nothing can stop him! Wait… what… what is he doing? Why is he doing that over and over again?”

So yeah, Godzilla walks like in the movie – kudos on making that happen, but it also illustrates exactly why it should be changed to create a good video game experience.

Speedy: yes. Fun: yes.

Another feature that Godzilla fans have praised is the focus of the game. As Godzilla, the player wrecks cities and fights monsters. This sounds awesome and exactly what a good Godzilla game needs to have. In this game, the city smashing takes front and center, with other monsters only showing up occasionally. This would be fun but here is the problem: the city smashing is really not satisfying. Godzilla hits the buildings a couple of times with one of four attacks (charge, weak attack, strong attack, or radiation breath) and then the building goes into a generic “fall” animation before disappearing entirely. It does the same “fall” animation no matter how Godzilla attacks it. There is nothing, no variation, no sense that your choice mattered. The same thing – over and over again.

Yeah, you don't have to spend time destroying ever single thing, but the game punishes you if you don't. Destruction makes Godzilla "bigger" and more powerful so... sigh, destroying a city should never be an obligation.
Yeah, you don’t have to spend time destroying ever single thing, but the game punishes you if you don’t. Destruction makes Godzilla “bigger” and more powerful so… sigh, destroying a city should never be an obligation.

Yes, this was a PlayStation 3 game originally but even so – this looks bad. The ones on PS2 and GameCube could do this, and there smashing buildings was not the primary objective but just a fun side option. Godzilla: Unleashed for the Wii had better building destruction than this. If my memory serves correctly, the player could occasionally knock pieces of the building off with basic melee attacks in that one.

Yep, the weak Wii had a game with better building destruction.
Yep, the weak Wii had a game with better building destruction.

The level design is bare. While Bandai Namco and Natsume do deserve some credit for recreating environments from the movies, they are really small stages. Normally, I would complain more about this – but it takes ten minutes to walk across one as is. It’s not just the size, however. Gone are the power-ups and hidden secrets from the previous games. There is nothing to do but that boring smash and gathering “data” (which amounts to freezing in place for twenty seconds while the camera cuts to a more cinematic angle). Having the Smog Monster fly around or being able to summon in Mothra or Battra were cool options. Again – decisions that reflected actual game design as opposed to “well what did it look like in the movies?”

Last but not least, let’s talk about the monster fights. Well, first and foremost – this is a fighting game without a health bar. Yep. Curious as to how you’re doing? Too bad, you’d ruin the immersion with crap like that. The only indication you get is the screen starting to go red as you get close to death. Well, at least that helps right? Let’s you know when to start blocking attacks?

Health bars? We don't need no stinking health bars!
Health bars? We don’t need no stinking health bars!

You can’t block either.

Well, shit. Want to pick up a building and throw it at your enemy? Can’t do that.

Want to play with the person sitting next to you? Can’t do that.

Want a comprehensive system of fighting moves and clear differences between how the monsters handle? Try another game.

The “fighting” system was added into the PlayStation 4 version, to help justify the sixty-dollar (I bought this for $10 and felt cheated) price tag that this game released with. Some games add new modes with depth and meaning, and with some it feels quickly tacked on. Guess which this is.

John Ryan of IGN gave this game a negative review but said that “the spirit of the old-school monster movie is where Bandai Namco absolutely nails it.” I disagree, and frankly wonder what movies John is talking about. The original Godzilla is a work of art that is exceptional in quality and crafting – so this game isn’t it. The subsequent sequels were goofy fun that usually did not take themselves too seriously. This isn’t those either.

Fans looking for a genuine experience of a Godzilla movie should watch a Godzilla movie. The 29th Japanese film will be released later this year. There are a lot of these. This “game” feels like watching the very worst of Godzilla, and is even less fun to play. Godzilla fans have had better games in the past – and need to not allow crap like this to get a pass for being “authentic.” Batman fans were harsh and eventually got Arkham Asylum. Just saying.

Oversaturation: First Reactions to Batman: Arkham Origins

In 2009, then little known developer Rocksteady Studios released Batman: Arkham Asylum for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game made a splash and for good reason. Not that there hadn’t been a Batman game before, there had – Batman Vengeance, Batman: Dark Tomorrow and Batman: Rise of the Sin Tzu just to name a few of Arkham Asylum‘s more direct predecessors. All these Batman games ranged in from mediocre to downright horrible. Batman: Arkham Asylum wasn’t the first good Batman game, it was the first great Batman game. For the first time, players really felt that they were inhabiting the role of the Dark Knight. Add the incredible voice talents of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill mixed with tight level design and an entertaining story by comic book guru Paul Dini and Batman: Arkham Asylum quickly became an essential for any video game fan.

Fast forward two years and we get the sequel. Batman: Arkham City was bigger than Arkham Asylum is nearly every way. More Batman characters, more cool locations, more excellent voice work. What would be Mark Hamill’s swan song as the Joker became an incredibly entertaining game and another excellent addition to the Batman video game universe. However, things were not as tight (video game wise) this time around. Remember fighting Deadshot and Hush in the game? I don’t. The design structure of the story lead very easily to whole sections being omitted on the first time around. Sure with more playthroughs, it’s easy to go in an find everyone but I have always wondered at this design decision. Why spend all that time making a game, crafting the characters with so much care – if your design will make it so easy to skip the entire experience? Don’t get me wrong: Arkham City is a great game but ultimately I feel that Arkham Asylum was a little tighter and better crafted in terms of delivering the complete experience the first time through.

This guy was in the game? Really? Where?
This guy was in the game? Really? Where?

Anyway, we’re not here to talk about either Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, we’re here to talk about the recently announced Batman: Arkham Origins. I’m just going to come out and say it – I am not excited to play Batman: Arkham Origins. How can that be? I just said I consider Arkham Asylum and Arkham City to be wonderful games. Yes, that is true but think of the ending in Arkham City. Did that ending scream sequel?

Obviously with a name like Arkham Origins, we’re most likely going into prequel territory but still. Is it really necessary? Origin stories have been already done to death in Hollywood (did we really need to see Peter Parker get bit by a spider AGAIN in the Amazing Spider-Man) and I feel there is not much more wiggle room in video games. I don’t care about how the slums of Arkham City began, in all honesty I feel that having a city full of criminals as a solution to crime is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. The only reason I enjoyed Batman: Arkham City was for the rich narrative that Paul Dini wove into the place. As far as I know, he is not connected with Batman: Arkham Origins in any way and neither for that matter is Rocksteady Studios.

That’s right, it’s a different developer this time around. Warner Bros. Interactive is directly taking the reigns for this third Arkham installment. This doesn’t meant that we’re guaranteed an inferior product; Warner Bros. could very well do an excellent job with Arkham Origins. Yet it does beg the question – why not Rocksteady? Warner Bros. Interactive cannot be unhappy with the developer after two stellar (and profitable) Batman games. The answer is that Rocksteady is busy… busy making another Batman game. This untitled project will be set in the Silver Age of the Caped Crusader (silver age refers to a period in comic book development in the 1950s). That sounds pretty awesome – so wait, we’re getting two new Batman games? Oh by the way, that one doesn’t have Paul Dini either – http://www.vg247.com/2012/08/03/batman-arkham-city-wont-return-for-silver-age-prequel-rumour/.

Anyway – we’re getting two. One from Rocksteady and one from Warner Bros. Interactive. With no official announcement yet for the Rocksteady game, we can expect not to see it until next year at the earliest. Batman: Arkham Origins, however, is slated for release this year for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii U video game consoles. With no announcement for the Playstation 4, we can assume that Arkham Origins will be created on largely the same technology as Arkham City – meaning one should not expect a huge leap in terms of visuals.

Also do not expect Mark Hamill to return as the iconic Joker. The voice actor made it very clear last time out that Arkham City would be his last appearance voicing the clown prince of crime.

Heath Ledger may be the face but Mark Hamill is the iconic voice of the Joker.
Heath Ledger may be the face but Mark Hamill is the iconic voice of the Joker.

So we’re going to be missing a few things. Not that many Batman essentials will not return (players can expect to see Jim Gordon, Penguin and Black Mask in this new game) but again I question – do we need this? With Rocksteady Studios working on a new Batman game, do we need this to hold us over?

It seems the fate of big series to become prone to oversaturation. What do I mean by that? Simple: when a game sells well, the publishing studio naturally wants another one. The number of additional games usually reflects how large the series has become. Look no further than our yearly installments of Call of Duty, Halo and licensed sports games. Not to say these games are bad but did we really need Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: World at War, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II in the last eight years? Not to mention the one that will inevitably be released this November? Are those games really that different from each other?

Here is my fear with this new Batman. With Arkham City, I felt that Rocksteady Studios was concluding the story they began in Arkham Asylum – they did a great job. With Batman: Arkham Origins, it honestly feels like a grab at our dollars before the release of Playstation 4 and whatever the next Xbox is called. Maybe I’m wrong, hopefully I am… but I rather doubt it. The AAA video game market is dominated by series and sequels. It seems like even the Dark Knight is not above the lure of another dollar. So I ask you – do you really need two more Batman games? Especially when the untitled Silver-Age Rocksteady game will most likely be exclusively for next generation consoles? Warner Bros. Interactive is betting you do. I believe they are willing to bet sixty dollars on it.

You'll need this.
You’ll need this.

Thoughts? Comments? Am I full of shit or onto something? Let me know now in the feedback section of this article.

PS – Many apologies for not posting anything on Monday. I am currently completing a University degree. However, since what I was working on for school is revelent to our media-oriented blog. I will include a link to my work here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV7Dw13XK3I. Enjoy that.