I've already introduced the world of Gungrave in two separate articles, so I don't feel the need to do it again. Here's the short version: two PlayStation 2 games, an anime, and about 20 years of silence. Finally, the series has returned properly with Gungrave G.O.R.E. Is this going to be the return that fans of the series, or newcomers, are looking for though? There's only one way to find out.
The game puts you in the role of Beyond the Grave, Grave for short, an undead gunslinger who works for a law enforcement/peacekeeping group called El-Al Canhel. The organization's goal is to stop the spread of something known as SEED, a mysterious substance that I think is a drug but is never really defined in any significant way, from spreading around the world. They need to do this because SEED turns people into monsters, except for when it turns them into crystal, which is mostly just so they can have the drama of a protagonist getting injected with SEED but without the pesky problem of them dying. A criminal organization known as Raven Clan is spreading SEED all across Asia, so Grave is there to shoot them.
The plot is basically nonsense made so Grave has an excuse to go through the game's 30+ chapters and shoot bad guys. Characters sort of just pop in and out of the plot with little rhyme or reason. Most of the villains show up, say a single cool anime person line, serves as a boss, and are never seen again. Two separate antagonists are just punched in the face so hard that they suddenly do a heel-turn for no discernable reason, and everyone else just sort of accepts it. While I've never played the original two games, there's a very detailed cutscene that goes over their plots, and watching this doesn't really make Gungrave G.O.R.E make any more sense.
The whole tone and bad writing can be summed up with the character of Zell, a minor antagonist returning from Gungrave: Overdose. Zell is never mentioned, nor appears in, Gungrave G.O.R.E until chapter 18. After you gun down his entire band of mercenaries, you enter an obvious boss arena and he teleports in front of you, gets a boss title card, and you fight him without a single word being spoken. After you beat him, he sort of pathetically asks if you're going to kill him before series newcomer Quartz shows up and tells Zell that he has been guarding the Secret Drug Cave for the Drug Clan the entire time. Zell is shocked by this, exclaiming he thought he was guarding an empty cave and that he would never guard a Secret Drug Cave for the Drug Clan, says they tricked him, and proceeds to betray the Drug Clan and becomes your best pal. He then basically follows everyone around awkwardly and sometimes comments on a situation.
However, I'm not here for the plot. I'm here to play as a cool undead gunslinger and shoot lots of baddies. In a way, Gungrave G.O.R.E delivers exactly that. Every stage can basically be boiled down to walking forward, shooting bad guys, walking forward again, shooting bad guys again, and sometimes a boss fight. Grave's primary means of attack are two guns that he can fire continuously and with infinite ammo, and he'll automatically lock on to anyone that is nearby. You'll be using these a lot because they are by far the most effective ability in the game. It's not that Grave doesn't have more. He carries around a big coffin that he can swing as a melee attack, and it has a grappling hook that he can use to either pull enemies to him or pull himself to them. It's just that none of those are useful. The melee attacks are way too weak and the grapple tends to either grab the wrong person or just not work at all.
As you deal damage to enemies, you'll gain destruction points that you can spend on bigger abilities. At first, all you can do is kick a rocket toward them, but later on, I got powers like turning my gun into a rail gun, shooting homing missiles, sword charges, slowing down time, and more. You want to use these abilities as they destroy basically everyone near you, but also you need to use them because it's the only way to heal in the game. Having your health tied to super attacks isn't a terrible idea, but there was more than one occasion I needed health and couldn't get into combat to get it. You also have a shield, which recharges over time, but as the game goes on many enemies can just destroy the shield in one hit.
The big problem? You're basically just doing the same thing over and over and over for something around 12 hours. Move forward, shoot a wave of enemies, move forward. What starts as a kinda zen zone out experience becomes a repetitive slog. There's an insane amount of different enemies, but almost all of them either stand in one place and shoot you or run up to punch you and all that really changes is how much health they have. It starts to hurt, physically. I'm not joking: I could only play Gungrave G.O.R.E in short bursts because my finger would actively become sore with how often I was pressing the trigger.
Outside of regular enemies, there are boss fights. Some of them are against giant enemies with various smaller parts you can lock onto. One, against a robot spider, lets you break the legs to stun it or shoot off the missile launcher. Another, a giant monster that rolls around the arena, can have its arms shot to stun it and stop its attacks. However, most bosses are just regular-sized enemies with teleports and laser beams. You'll be doing the same thing with most of them: dodge and shoot. Smash that shoot button harder and faster.
How fast you shoot doesn't matter once you hit one of the game's many random difficulty spikes. Usually, this comes in the form of introducing a bunch of enemies that can stunlock you with their attacks. The number of times I've been unable to do anything because I'd just be knocked down, get up, and immediately knocked down again is absurd. This happens during boss fights too: one kept me pinned with a roll attack, another had a bunch of rapid fire lasers I couldn't dodge, while a third kept spawning walls that pushed me off the arena. One boss I only got through because the boss got jammed in a wall and I was able to shoot it from safety.
There isn't much to break up the shooting, and by that I mean there are no puzzles, there are no vehicle sections, and there are no bits of exploration or dialogue. I begged for anything else, and somewhere a monkey's paw curled. There are a couple of platforming segments. They're easily the worst part of the game. The game is simply not built for this, and I would find myself sliding off of platforms, jumps not triggering properly, and hitting my head on unavoidable low objects.
On a couple of occasions, you'll step into the shoes of other characters. Bunji is another gunslinger that plays similarly to Grave, but he has more dashing and mobility-focused abilities to avoid being shot. Quartz doesn't actually have guns but is instead a martial artist that punches enemies and has access to counterattacks. Quartz is easily the weakest of the three as the game is simply not built around melee combat, but overall it serves as a nice break from Grave's abilities. They're not radically different characters, and you don't get to play as them for more than a single level each, but it's at least something other than constantly mashing shoot.
At some point, I started to lose my mind. Gungrave G.O.R.E is 12 hours of doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and so on and so forth. There's so little variety here that I could play the game blindfolded. All I need is to push the left stick foward, and tap R2 rapidly. I certainly wouldn't want to play the game with earplugs on though. In one thing that I can say is absolutely in Gungrave G.O.R.E's favor, and totally kicks ass, is the game's soundtrack. It's unironically on my short list for best soundtrack of 2022, and if no other part of this game gets remembered, the soundtrack will.
Gungrave G.O.R.E Review | Verdict
It feels unfair that Gungrave waited nearly 20 years to come back only to be let down by a super mediocre game. However, that's just the reality of it. A nonsense plot, extremely repetitive gameplay, frustrating glitches, and physical pain caused by playing Gungrave G.O.R.E all hurt the experience badly. Here's hoping the next 20 years go a little better.
TechRaptor reviewed Gungrave G.O.R.E on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
- Occasionally super zen
- Kickass soundtrack
- Confusing nonsense story
- Extremely repetitive
- Terrible difficulity spikes
- Awful platforming
- Actually physically painful to play for long periods of time