Gungrave G.O.R.E Review – To The Grave
Gungrave G.O.R.E Review
Gamers who were around as early as the PlayStation 2 era may remember Beyond the Grave, or “Grave” for short – the coffin-carrying, gun-toting deadman protagonist of RED Entertainment’s Gungrave series of games. This third-person shooter may have been a niche title, but it was still stylish and fun enough to garner a fan following.
Surprisingly, it managed to get a sequel, Gungrave OD, and even an anime adaptation retelling the events of the first game. And of course, you can’t mention Gungrave without pointing out that the characters from the games were designed by Yasuhiro Nightow, the manga author best known for the Trigun manga and anime series.
Save for Gungrave VR back in 2018, the cult series hasn’t seen much action, but fans are in for a treat as they get to once again join Grave on an action-packed and bloody adventure. With the latest proper entry after 18 or so years, Gungrave G.O.R.E has some pretty big shoes to fill. As a fan of the original games and anime, this was a title I was also looking forward to, so there is a little personal stake here.
Back from Beyond the Grave
It’s understandable that Gungrave won’t be familiar to many, so those looking at this game to be their first run-in with the series can sit down and read a text-based retelling of Graves’ history. Important events like how he got into the mafia with his best friend Harry MacDowell, how he met Mika Asagi, and how he fought with new allies like Juji Kabane and Rocketbilly Redcadillac in Gungrave OD are recounted.
While we had hoped for a more dramatic retelling, voiced and all, it served its purpose well.
Gungrave G.O.R.E is a continuation of the exploits of Beyond the Grave as he helps Mika rid the world of the dangerous drug, Seed. The duo has come a long way, and now they command a small army in this endeavor, joined by the martial artist Quartz and Dr. Aso. Together, they have their sights set on taking down the Raven Group and its four executives, who oversee the Seed distribution.
The game stays true to its past outings, offering a simple story that’s strengthened by the characters and the interactions between them, making the experience rather enjoyable. Unfortunately, what did not help Gungrave G.O.R.E were issues with the very things that I was hoping would make the game stand out.
Kick their A$$
Gungrave is the epitome of going in guns blazing. Being able to play as Beyond the Grave again and carve a path of destruction, rack up the body count, and look stylish while doing so was what I was hoping would carry me through the game, but unfortunately, it was a mixed bag that leaned more towards being a letdown.
Art Points are back, and you rack them up by doing some pretty stylish things in-game like finishing off enemies with a Demolition Shot or using the RIP instant finisher, similar to the Glory Kills in the Doom reboot.
The Gungrave DNA is definitely still there. You run and gun from point A to point B, all the while shooting down everything and everyone in your path, getting a rating in the end based on your body count, beat count, and time, to name a few. I appreciated that this still felt the same as previous games, keeping the essence of the character intact.
You can now even earn DNA points that you can use to level up Grave and add new moves to his already destructive arsenal. The new Demolition Shots are as over-the-top and stylish as past games and leveling up stats like HP and bullet damage will really help in later stages.
It’s a nice touch that the game allows you to reset DNA points anytime, giving players the freedom to tailor fit Grave to their own style.
That said, Gungrave G.O.R.E feels overly repetitive, and halfway through the game, the lengthy levels started to feel like a chore due to their tedium and clunky controls.
Level design is also frustrating, as there will be multiple forks in the road that lead nowhere instead of rewarding players for exploring the levels. Compared to previous outings, these levels didn’t feature as many destructible elements, taking a fun aspect from past games out of the equation.
The game also has frustrating difficulty spikes, where even on normal, players get bombarded with hordes of enemies that rely on overpowering you with numbers rather than implementing creative ways of testing the players, either through the use of combat mechanics or other gameplay elements.
Boss battles don’t score well on the creativity scale either, with simple patterns that don’t really feel fulfilling enough to beat.
To make things worse, I encountered a few bugs that would totally freeze the game when the action got too intense, sometimes even resulting in instances where I had to reset the game. Hit collision is sometimes inconsistent, whereas shots that would normally land didn’t. Hopefully, the upcoming Day 1 patch does the trick.
Needs more Style for the Substance
Having tried both Japanese and English voice tracks, it was disappointing how wooden the English voices were for some characters. There were some like Quartz, who showed some emotions during dialogue, but others simply sounded like they were reading from a script. Players who are used to Japanese dubbed outings will want to stick to that option for this game.
At some point, players may also want to turn the radio voiceover off, as Quarts has the tendency to point out every little thing every so often, which can really be grating as you progress in the game. Sadly, the soundtrack of the game is quite forgettable as well.
Fans of Gungrave will know that the series is built on style, so it’s easy to see that these weren’t exactly some of Nightow-san’s best designs. Gungrave has some of my favorite character designs, but aside from some like Grave, Quartz, and Bunji, the overall character designs in G.O.R.E leaves a lot to be desired, feeling like this game is a downgrade compared to past outings.
Over-the-top moments are one of the more memorable aspects of the series, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at the lack of choreography that made Grave a stylish killing machine. What’s becoming a recurring theme in this game, Gungrave G.O.R.E seems to have dialed down its style meter by quite a bit, leaving fans like me wanting but left out to dry.
What we liked:
- Familiar Gungrave elements are somehow retained
- Customizable options in the Lab
What we didn’t like:
- Some levels can get pretty lengthy and tedious
- Forgettable soundtrack and unremarkable voice acting
- Bugs and lengthy load times
Verdict: Wait for it…
As a fan of the series, I really looked forward to Gungrave G.O.R.E but was left disappointed by the experience. While the DNA of Gungrave was present, it really lacked some of the crucial aspects that made the previous games fun and entertaining.
Gungrave G.O.R.E isn’t exactly a bad game, but there are some decisions here that make it feel frustrating and stuck in the past, which is sad because there’s much that could have been done here thanks to the advancements in technology over the years.
*Gungrave G.O.R.E was reviewed on a PS4/PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.