Gungrave G.O.R.E. looks like it would have a heap of ingredients for a great game. Stylish gunplay, slick combos, a cool early-2000’s era property and mountains of bad guys to deal with – it almost sounds like Devil May Cry with a heavier focus on gunplay. I wish that were the case. While there is some fun to be found in developer Iggymob’s Gungrave G.O.R.E., it thoroughly outstays it’s welcome and ends up being a tedious, repetitive experience.
The setting is classic video game – you play as Grave, an undead near invulnerable soldier wielding dual pistols and a giant coffin for close-range bashing. You’re introduced to a series of mob bosses in an opening scene and then let loose to beat them one by one, area by area. It’s a story that harkens back to an earlier time in games, mostly serving as an excuse to blast a bunch of guys.
And blast you will. I hope you’re not prone to RSI symptoms if you want to play Gungrave because you’ll spend nearly the entire time pulling the right trigger to repeatedly blast wave after colour coded wave of bad guys the levels throw at you. There are a couple of neat systems that help make things a bit more engaging than just mindless blasting. There’s a ‘Beat’ meter which tracks your consecutive landed attacks while contributing both to your end of level score and your Demolition meter. Demolition moves use this meter to pull off flashy attacks which do big damage and refill some lost health.
You have a shield which recharges if you avoid damage long enough and you can help boost it back up by performing an execution move on a stunned enemy, Doom-style. This can be combined with a whip that you can use to pull stunned enemies to you, or zip yourself to them as a way to move around the battlefield. You’ll gradually unlock more close-combat moves which can be used to break enemies with shields, as well as Destruction moves and general character stat boosts like extra health and gun damage.
Even with this variety of actions and unlocks though, I found the game stopped being all that interesting after the first few levels. Each factory, warehouse and city street setting begins to blend into the next – to the point where it felt like a breath of fresh air once I reached a level with some vegetation. But more than the repetitive environments, the repetitive enemies and combat encounters really began to grate well before getting to the end. New enemy types are introduced so gradually, and half the time don’t really demand a different method of play to anything you’ve encountered before. Mash the trigger, use the Destruction moves as they charge, and dodge when you can.
Every time I played I got the distinct impression that the Gungrave G.O.R.E. needs a bunch more polish. I found some consistent bugs through my play through like a door that was supposed to open after an encounter just… not opening. Walking into a room, being blasted back through the door just as it automatically closed so I was stuck in a hallway until I restarted from the checkpoint. Music that doesn’t loop properly, instead just reaches the end of a track and begins again. And maybe most annoyingly, cut scene audio was consistently blown out. Volume was considerably higher than the regular game audio with voices sounding like they’d been amplified to within an inch of their life. This persisted even after closing and re-opening the game. Level and encounter design was messy as well. Bosses that are just sudden difficulty spikes, and some regular level encounters just threw an unreasonable amount of tanky enemies in an extremely uninteresting attempt at creating difficulty.
Having done some research on the original 2002 Gungrave game, it makes me wish Iggymob had borrowed from it’s cel-shaded anime-like visual style. While G.O.R.E. looks technically impressive, it definitely doesn’t have the same personality with it’s lightly stylised visuals. On PS5 it held up a consistent 60 frames per second in performance mode even with waves of enemies and objects in the scene breaking all over the place. There’s a quality mode which turns on ray-tracing at the expense of a 30-fps cap, but
I found the less fluid movement didn’t suit an action-focused game like this. I didn’t do any Digital Foundry style pixel counting, but in performance mode everything was super sharp on a 4K display. Things can look pretty spectacular when you’ve got the environment smashing around you, enemies coming from all directions and shots flying every which way – it’s just a shame the environments and enemies are so repetitive and soulless.
There is absolutely some fun to be found in Gungrave G.O.R.E. The over-the-top combat is spectacular to watch at times, and blasting at waves of various colour coded enemies is definitely fun for a while. Sadly, it is only a short while. For the majority of my 7-ish hours of play time I just found myself going through the motions. The story didn’t do much to invest me in the world and the environments and enemies were just so repetitive.
There is some joy in the mindless blasting, but overall G.O.R.E. is a messy, repetitive experience that could have used a bit more time in the oven.