Once upon a time, in the long ago times of 2002, Gungrave was released on the PlayStation 2. It's a solid, if forgettable, third-person shooter that was followed the next year by an anime adaption, and the year after that by a sequel known as Gungrave: Overdose. After that... nothing. At least until 2018 when Gungrave VR hit shelves. The game's purpose? To hype you up for the newest entry into the series, Gungrave G.O.R.E. Of course, Gungrave VR was one of the worst VR games I've played, so this made me nervous about Gungrave G.O.R.E. Thankfully, I was sent a copy with the first four levels to try the game out. So is it worth playing?
The opening certainly left me worried, as Gungrave G.O.R.E proceeded to do a Gungrave Lore dump. You play as a guy known as Beyond the Grave, or Grave for short, a cool silent anime vampire shoot man who is good at shooting and nothing else. He's part of El-Al Canhel, a law enforcement/peacekeeping group that is traveling to the city of Scumland in order to take out the Raven Clan, a criminal organization pushing a drug known as SEED that turns people into monsters. The intro drops a ton of Anime Fantasy Proper Nouns and introduces about 10 characters you think you may need to keep track of, but for the most part, this is just an excuse for Grave to shoot people. By the end of my preview, none of these characters or groups showed up again.
I got to play the first four levels of the game, which were about 10 to 20 minutes each. There was no real variation in any of these levels: you walk from the start to the finish and shoot giant swarms of enemies along the way. I got 500 kills before the second level was done. Grave is equipped with two pistols with unlimited ammo and a big coffin that I'll get to in a minute. The pistols are simple: you point and shoot. Grave will automatically lock on to enemies, but you can manually lock on if you really want to. Each time you press the shoot button, Grave shoots four times. You have a charged shot. That's... about it.
While shooting enemies I kept getting awarded points in "Beats" and "Art." As far as I can tell, Beats is basically a combo counter. As to what Art is, that's anyone's guess and I can only hope it's explained later.
Unfortunately, the basic gunplay really is that shallow. You click the shoot button and gun people down, and occasionally hold the button to break shields. It's kind of zen in a Dynasty Warriors "killing swarms of dudes" sort of way, but by the end of the preview, the only thing I really felt was my finger hurting.
The variety is supposed to come in with the coffin, which is, well, a big coffin that Grave lugs around. On a basic level, you can swing it around, using it to deflect rockets or smack enemies. It also has a built-in grappling hook, allowing you to either pull enemies towards you or pull yourself towards them.
The big feature of the coffin, however, is Demolition Shots. You gain these by hitting combos, filling a bar that gives you points to spend. At the start of the preview I had one, allowing me to create and kick a giant rocket at the closest enemy. Completing levels gave me DNA that I could spend on upgrades, including new Demolition Shots, and before long I had a second one that turned my coffin into a giant machine gun and gunned enemies down. I'm excited to see what other Demolition Shots are in the game.
All of this is fun in a basic sense, but I had the battle system basically down to a T before the end of the second level. Almost every fight in the game can be won by smashing the "shoot" button, and the few that can't still don't require anything that majorly different. Why use all these fancy skills Gungrave G.O.R.E is providing me with when regular shots do?
I also just wish the enemies I used it on were more interesting. I shot a lot of guys who didn't do anything other than "run at me to punch" or "stand in one place and shoot." Rarely an enemy may show up with a shield, but all that means is I need to hit them with a charge or melee attack first. Also rarely an enemy may show up with smoke grenades, and as long as Grave is in the smoke he can't auto-aim, but again this is really easily and trivially negated by moving slightly to the left (or right, if that's how you're feeling today.)
The preview let me take on a couple of boss fights as well. The first was against a spider tank that shot rockets and machine guns, while the second saw me against a large monster that breathed ice and attempted to claw Grave up. For the most part, I couldn't help but shake the feeling that the bosses were just enemies with health bars. However, I did have the ability to aim at specific parts of bosses. For the spider tank, I could shoot off its guns, while for the monster I could take out its tongue or buckle its legs. They're the most fun part of Gungrave G.O.R.E so far, so I hope to see more.
What I'm hoping to see less of are glitches. Most of the ones I saw were minor, things like enemies clipping through the walls or boxes having strange rain textures while inside. However, during the second boss fight, two clones of the boss were trapped fighting in the middle of the arena. While their attacks couldn't hurt me, they had collision so I found myself getting stuck on them or blocking my attacks. It was extremely annoying.
There is one part of Gungrave G.O.R.E I have to praise though: the soundtrack. Every song slaps. From simple electronic beats while wandering around, to headbanging guitar riffs during the game's boss fights. If there's one thing that'll keep me going through Gungrave G.O.R.E it's going to be this.
I won't lie, I came away from Gungrave G.O.R.E first four levels kind of worried. The story seems confusing and pointless, the gameplay feels boring, and there wasn't much that made me really engage with the game. Could this change? Sure. There's still a zen in gunning down enemies, the boss fights were cool, and the soundtrack kicks ass. Hopefully, the full game ends up pulling together when it launches on November 22nd.
TechRaptor previewed Gungrave G.O.R.E on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game will also be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.