Once upon a time, there was Gungrave, a third-person shooter that came out to mediocre reviews. An anime series followed alongside an equally mediocre sequel. After that? Silence. Fourteen years of silence finally ends as the series drags itself out of the grave with Gungrave VR, a VR prequel to a real sequel due out next year. Has this series manage to age gracefully or should more dirt be thrown on this grave?
I'm not sure if Gungrave VR actually has a story. An early briefing explains that there's a super drug named SEED that is... doing something. It's not explained what, but it's bad and needs to be stopped, or else. You play as Grave, an undead warrior dispatched to South City to stop SEED and the mysterious organization that is spreading it. Upon arriving in South City, Grave takes a train out of the city before suddenly being in South City again. Why? Don't expect an answer. No part of Gungrave VR's barebone story makes sense. There is no attempt at an explanation. I'm still not sure what SEED is, or why there's a giant robot samurai dealing drugs to children. For a game that's supposed to be a prequel, it's horrible at setting up even the tiniest bit of narrative throughline.
Gungrave VR splits into five levels, each featuring one of two major types of gameplay. Three of these levels you'll play like a third-person shooter. Grave can run around, shoot where you're looking, and perform dodge rolls. There's a melee attack that supposedly reflects bullets back at enemies. In my experience, it fails to ever do that reliably. There are also a pair of super attacks. These do little beyond trapping you in a lengthy animation for little to no payoff.
There's very little to these stages. You'll enter depressingly small arenas, fight off waves of enemies that often either spawn right in front of you or awkwardly clip through walls while walking in, and eventually take on a boss. There's actually a surprisingly large amount of enemy variety, but most of them still die to a good old barrage of bullets. Many are comically ineffective, like the one that charges forward as fast as a snail dipped in molasses. It gives the impression of Gungrave VR being a boringly easy game. Most of the time that's correct.
When a boss shows up, it goes through a lengthy uninterruptable animation where they're invincible. After this animation completes the boss will stand in one spot for anywhere from five to fifteen seconds, staring off into the distance and contemplating life, still invincible to your attacks. Why does each boss fight start with this awkward pause? I'm not sure. It gives you time to wonder. Did Gungrave VR hand you another easy pushover? Is this one of the few bosses that can annoyingly trap you in a corner and keep you from doing anything other than watching your life bar drain? At least it's in VR. I guess that makes it more exciting.
The more I played Gungrave VR the more things I noticed that just left me baffled. Enemies can't die until they finish whatever animation they're in the middle of, so often you'll be watching already dead enemies play out lengthy attack animations that can still hurt you. Your guns work off of heat meters instead of bullets, but if you're holding down the fire button while dodging you'll still be heating up your guns despite not shooting. If Grave is standing still while shooting he'll begin to spin around and jump in the air while shooting, which actually changes the trajectory of your bullets and can often cause them to miss. There's a button to slow down time, but because it also slows down time for you as well it's useless. Every single design decision seems made with the intention of not working.
There's only twice when you break away from third-person shooting and instead move into first-person. Once it's an on-rails segment that far outlasts its welcome. You don't do anything except look and shoot, as swarms of enemies show up for you to look at and shoot at. Every now and again an anime girl pops up and says some version of "oh no, there's even more of them". Deep down, you'll feel some extensional dread knowing that you have another section of looking and shooting to deal with. The only other section of the game sees you flying around in an airbike and dodging attacks while shooting down other airbikes. It's the closest the game gets to a fun segment, but then it's over. Back to the terrible stuff.
Gungrave VR Review | Final Thoughts
Thankfully, Gungrave VR clocks in at an absolutely pathetic 45 minutes long. Under normal circumstances, the short run time would be upsetting. For Gungrave VR, it was just a relief to spend less than an hour playing. Maybe the fact that it only took 45 minutes to showcase everything you can do wrong in VR is impressive. Or, more likely, Gungrave VR is just a terrible game that shouldn't be played by anyone.
TechRaptor reviewed Gungrave VR on PlayStation VR with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Mercifully Short
- Air Bike Segment is Okay
- Barebones Plot
- Clunky Gameplay
- Cheap Boss Fights
- Boring On-Rails Segments