Gungrave Overdose

Review

posted 10/26/2004 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
You’ve played Gungrave before. Maybe you haven’t experienced this game or its prequel, but you’ve seen the style and chaos in just about every big budget action movie to come out of the Hollywood machine in the last twenty years. Gungrave is a mix of everything from the Terminator to Predator to the Matrix, all mixed together to make one of the loudest, most violent games you will ever play.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Gungrave Overdose is pure arcade excitement, a throwback to a time when you weren’t worried about solving puzzles, learning new techniques, and hiding in the shadows. This is a game for people who just want to shoot stuff up, a light gun game for the people too cheap to buy a light gun.

If you missed the first installment of Gungrave, it was the sweet story of a girl and her walking dead guy best friend. With the aid of his Cerberus guns and his coffin filled with heavy weapons, Beyond the Grave (or simply Grave, as his friends call him) ended up taking out anybody and anything in the path of his goal. But don’t worry; it’s not imperative that you play the first Gungrave to have a good time with Overdose.

Like any good sequel, Overdose fixes most of the problems the critics had with the first game, while offering more of what worked. Overdose has the same kind of game play, which mostly involves you shooting large amounts of oncoming enemies. As you continue to hit enemies without break your beat meter will increase, the higher it goes, the more special moves you will have at your disposal. If the enemies are scarce and you still want to keep your beat combo going, you can shoot boxes, pillars, beds, tables, chairs, lights, cars, and just about anything else in the highly destructible backgrounds.

It’s not until you see it in action that you realize how chaotic your situation is. You’ll constantly have all kinds of enemies on every side of you, bullets flying everywhere, and debris floating in the air. The battles you get yourself into are more like wars, with people trying to drop bombs, trying to use swords, trying to use automatic weapons on you, trying to do anything they can to stop your progress.

Thankfully Grave has a couple things going for him. For one thing, he’s nearly indestructible. He can take bullets, bombs and missiles with the best of them, and still come out fighting. Grave also has the ability to power his shield back up simply by avoiding fire, making him a force to be reckoned with no matter the situation. You will be able to charge up your Cerberus guns for powerful and accurate shots. And the coffin’s special abilities are back, but with some major improvements.

Where the game differs from the original is in where and who you fight. The first game featured one narrow hallway after another, with you battling similar looking baddies around every corner. Overdose takes you out of the congested paths and into large, wide-open areas with plenty of odds and ends to destroy. There are levels where you’ll be in a supermarket trying to kill the enemies between the aisles, all while the products on the shelf (and even the shelf itself) are flying all about. Sure there are still some corridor levels, but by and large Overdose features larger and more diverse locations.


And it’s not just the levels that have improved; it’s the actual enemies themselves, too. No longer are you shooting one or two different types of enemies, now you’ll have to deal with all kinds of different opponents. Some are easy to shoot, while others will require you to get in close and use the coffin. Others have missile launchers and are looking for you to bat their ammo back at them. As you progress through the game some of the enemies will learn new tricks, while others will have a whole new look to them. These differences seem simple at first, but in the heat of battle, it quickly proves to be much more of a challenge than you had in the first game.

Overdose is a whole heck of a lot longer than the original Gungrave, as well. The first game was, at most, only a couple hours long; but Overdose goes way past doubling that. Not only are the levels much more interesting, but there are also a whole lot more of them. What seems like a simple story at the beginning ends up surprising you with one twist after another. And let’s not forget the mountain of bosses you have to climb before the end, each cooler (and harder) than the last.

Gamers bored of Graves’s exploits can also rip the city apart with two new characters. One, Juji Kabane, is a blind man who is always on fire. The other, Rocketbilly Redcadillac, is a ghost figure with a ridiculous haircut and an electric guitar that somehow hurts the enemies. Sure these characters are extremely lame, but they are also a lot of fun to play as, and feature a few differences from the traditional Grave game play.

No matter who you pick, Gungrave is an easy game to pick up and learn. You don’t have to do much aiming, since you automatically shoot what’s in front of you. If that wasn’t easy enough for you, Overdose offers a lock on button, which can really help in those numerous boss battles. The controls are responsive, and most of the times I died it was due to me being overpowered, not camera issues or problems generally associated with games like this.

For the most part the graphics are above average. The characters all look good, as do the bosses, and the backgrounds are generally well designed. Some of the inanimate objects look a little rough, but those are generally the things you are destroying in the heat of battle. Overall the presentation is very good, especially when it comes to the anime cinema scenes and the use of music. You really get the feeling you’re playing one of those ultra-violent cartoons, even if it’s a little rough around the edges. All this is even more impressive when you consider you get all this for a mere $15!

That’s right, $15. In an attempt to undersell even the Greatest Hits games, Mastiff has settled on a $15 price point for one of the best arcade-style action games of the year. At full price it might be hard to justify some of the games faults, but when it costs less than buying a movie on DVD, it’s a lot easier to swallow. The price certainly doesn’t make it a good game, it was already worth checking out, but it’s impressive that such an entertaining game could be so cheap.

When Gungrave is at its best, it’s an extremely entertaining action game with a satisfying storyline. At its worse, it’s still pretty repetitive and about as deep as a wading pool. Overdose doesn’t break any new ground, but still manages to be a great waste of time. Some might call it a guilty pleasure, but I see no difference in playing this than watching any one of the violent movies this was inspired by. I can think of worse things you could spend your $15 on.





B-
At $15 this game is a steal, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable arcade-style action games of the year. Buy it for the over the top violence, buy it for the story, buy it for the anime. Whatever your reason, Gungrave Overdose has a lot to offer for a very small price.