Did you know Gungrave is a third person shooter video game that was released all the way back in 2002 on the PlayStation 2? While the game itself received moderate reviews, the character designs were critically acclaimed to the point where the game was adapted into an anime series in 2003. Since then, the series has been dormant and inactive until now, reanimated by the upcoming release of Gungrave G.O.R.E. I’ll be honest that I hadn’t a clue about any of it until I was captivated by the flashy yet visceral action of G.O.R.E, which stands for Gunslinger of Resurrection. Gungrave G.O.R.E is the third mainline entry of the series following Gungrave and Gungrave Overdose. This new title centers a gun wielding anti-hero known as Grave as he mows down armies of enemies in hail of bullets.
Although this game was made as a standalone for players new to the Gungrave world, it ultimately serves as a reboot of the entire franchise, given how forgotten it has become. It’s clear that developer Iggmob is attempting to combine nostalgic old school games with a modern touch of polish, and they are doing so with great success. In the preview build, I had access to the first four stages, allowing me to get acquainted with the game’s mechanics without spoiling too much of what’s to come. It definitely ended too quickly and left me eager to continue in the full release.
Gungrave can be compared to the likes of Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, with gameplay that favors stylish combos and high scores. Our protagonist Grave may not be as nimble as Dante or Bayonetta, but what he lacks in swiftness, he makes up for with his dual pistols and badass coffin cannon that he slings behind his back. At times, the game may even feel like an old school rail shooter that you used to play in arcades back in the day. And that’s definitely not a bad thing.
The opening sequence itself is a spectacle, with the protagonist leaping out of a sarcophagus drop pod and subsequently massacring a group of goons. Cutscenes of G.O.R.E are almost photorealistic, with great detail put into creating all the character animations and environments. Gameplay starts off with me thrusted into a linear level of corridors filled with enemies to kill. As previously mentioned, you are equipped with dual pistols used for basic attacks and a coffin cannon used for melee attacks. The game does a great job of pacing and introducing you to the many different tricks up Grave’s sleeves, as there is much more to combat than just button mashing your guns.
Gunplay is combo-based with a beat count that increases whenever your attacks hit a target. The higher your beat count, the more skills you can execute and the better rewards you get at the end of a level. An example of this is the storm barrage ability, which allows you to rapidly fire your pistols but requires a beat count of over 50 in order to use. This type of mechanic seamlessly rewards you for playing smarter and better.
You are then introduced to a plethora of different abilities, including a burst mode that fires in all directions, death tornado that deflects enemy missiles, funeral strike that destroys shields, death hook that can grapple onto enemies, and so much more. I never imagined how two simple weapons could be fleshed out in such a variety of ways. My favorite is probably the fact that you can hook an enemy onto you and use it as a human shield… so badass! It wouldn’t be a Gungrave game if Grave didn’t come with some fancy ultimate abilities. Demolition shots are powerful skills that consume a gauge that eventually fills up as you attack enemies. These bloody barrages partially recover your health, make you invulnerable while you are executing them, and are a lifesaver when you are pinned down by swarms of enemies.
By now you've probably assumed that Gungrave G.O.R.E is not an open world game, but is instead stage based. Each level is mostly linear, with very little to explore, and mostly just rooms filled with different enemy types. There aren’t even tacky collectibles to find. You have the ability to jump, but it seems half baked and tacked on as it’s pretty much useless. There is an occasional quick time event or environmental hazard to change up the pace, which are appreciated. In the limited time I had with the game, there was a decent amount of enemy variety, including your average grunts with guns, swords, and shields, bigger brutes, rocket launchers, mechanical drones, and this disgusting type of man-eating worm. I can definitely see gameplay getting a bit stale and tedious, so here’s hoping the full game contains more diversity.
Not every stage ends with a boss fight, which is kind of a bummer, as the preview build of 4 stages only contained one boss encounter. The boss encounter was a bit clunky with its hit box animations but it was mostly fine. You also cannot dodge through enemies so sometimes they can swarm you into a corner and stunlock you until you are dead. A score report is given to you at the end of each stage, letting you know how well you did in terms of enemies killed, time taken to clear the stage, damage taken, etc. The Lab then serves as your main place to visit for any form of progression, as clearing stages earn you points to unlock upgrades for your skills, raw stats, and unlock new demolition shots.
Performance of the preview build on a 1070 ran decently for game of this nature, but I did suffer from some stutters and frame freezes when a lot was going on the screen. The biggest feedback I’d give if the opportunity presented itself would be to tune down on the NPC commentary as it can get quite annoying. There is a female character that says the same things over and over again, looping through the same lines of dialogue: Grave watch out! There are more of them coming! They are coming in from all sides! There are too many of them!
I jumped into Gungrave G.O.R.E with absolutely no prior experience of the franchise. What kept me engaged is the highly stylish bullet hell combat paired with the electronic soundtrack. Veterans and returning fans of the series will be delighted with what it has to offer, and I can see it being enticing to newcomers as well. Sure the game doesn’t break the mold of third person action shooters, but it does instill a great amount of nostalgia for PlayStation 2 era titles. Gungrave G.O.R.E is coming out on PC via Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on November 22, 2022.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.