After learning about the long-running Gungrave series of video games, I was optimistic about my first experience with a Gungrave title. Expecting a showcase of blood, violence, and bullets, I dove right into Gungrave G.O.R.E hoping for a unique playthrough that, unfortunately, left me feeling more critical than I’d imagined.
A Quick History Check
Gungrave’s lifespan hails back 20 years ago when in 2002, the first of several video games that feature the silent protagonist, Grave, was released to the public. The story’s premise is simple: Grave is on a path of revenge to find the man who killed him and will gun down anybody who gets in his way. In G.O.R.E, the story differs in that Grave must fight an army of Raven Clan soldiers to find a cure for his adopted daughter, afflicted with the deadly effects of the SEED. As far as the main characters go, Grave is no ordinary man, having resurrected from death and acting out his given missions in silence, a true soldier to the cause.
23 Going on 230
Unfortunately, as I was introduced to such a badass-sounding character, I was surprised to encounter such tedious gameplay, especially with the game’s shooting mechanics. G.O.R.E‘s gameplay is fine, but I felt myself becoming tired with repetitive strain injuries that I feel might be a problem for other players. For instance, the basic controls for shooting rely mostly on the right trigger, firing four shots from Grave’s pistols with each pull. Common fodder enemies seem to have much larger health pools than needed, requiring the player to be relentlessly blasting away at all times. I understand Grave is meant to be an unstoppable soldier that rose from the dead, so naturally, he wouldn’t have to worry about contracting arthritis in his early 20s. After maybe 30 minutes, I had to physically swap trigger fingers in order to relieve any aches and pains.
G.O.R.E reintroduces the Beats system, something old fans will be familiar with. Essentially being another term for combos, Beats is a numerical system that increases with each hit on an enemy or destructible object. Players can really abuse this system, which can potentially increase to the thousands in larger combat sequences. Also, players can take a small break from joint pain by triggering Demolition Shots, special moves that can take out multiple enemies, deal extra damage, etc. One such move portrays Grave roundhouse kicking a skull-branded rocket into several enemies, amplifying how much of a badass our protagonist really is.
Take a Dive
However, another gameplay element that doesn’t seem to work effectively is the game’s dodge button, which I felt the need to spam nearly as much as the triggers. Whilst playing G.O.R.E, enemy attacks will drain the player’s shield before ultimately targeting their health bar. To avoid damage, G.O.R.E offers a dodge roll that pretty much might as well be an emote considering how useless it feels. I noticed no difference in the speeds at which both meters drained. Even trying to dodge melee attacks requires extremely tight reaction time, or the developers simply forgot to add an invincibility frame or two. Maybe it’s the giant coffin on Graves’s back that weighs him down so much that even a slight jog is too strenuous?
Grave Went to Specsavers
Speaking of character designs, one of G.O.R.E‘s fewer positive outlooks is in the protagonist’s design. Sporting a pair of pistols named Cerberus (named strangely after a three-headed dog), a giant coffin chained to his back, long rockstar hair, and a neat pair of glasses, Grave definitely stands out amongst other modern action heroes. The same can’t be said for the enemies. Most mobs just don’t have that wow factor for me. There is no real variety in the way they attack either, other than running at the player with guns blazing or popping off a melee attack. These Raven Clan grunts have no real design that makes you think that it’s them you’re fighting. Sometimes I’d fight construction workers or men in casual dress, none of whom resembled militia for a drug cartel that spends their days outsourcing a dangerous drug to the rest of the world.
One thing I actually did love about the game was the soundtrack. It felt disgusting in the most metal way possible. Combat encounters were fortunately enhanced by the music, and without a really gnarly headbanger, I fear I would’ve dropped the game much sooner than I’d have liked. Fighting a giant robot in the first level to the sounds of epic electronic synths and guitar music pushed me to keep going and see what else there was to experience in the dangerous world of the Scumlands.
You Don’t Say?
As you shoot through each of the stages, Grave will be guided by Captain Obvious herself, Quartz. Saved by Grave and Mika, Grave’s adopted daughter, Quartz tries to help Grave on his missions like he isn’t a veteran at his craft by telling him to look out for enemies he is already in the process of shooting. I also wonder if Quartz is watching the same guy as I am because sometimes she will say things like, “Nice move!”, even after Grave has simply just stood and pulled a trigger a thousand times more than previous. After being constantly shot and nearly killed in several enemy encounters, it’s still nice to hear Quartz tell me how well I’ve done, regardless of the number of bullet holes in Grave’s body.
Gungrave G.O.R.E is a mixed bag of live rounds and empty shells, succeeding in sound and character design but sadly failing in most other things. Its gameplay is tedious, dated, and far too basic to capture any magic or potential it could’ve had. Unfortunately, G.O.R.E feels like it’s still stuck in the past, trying its best to break free from what could’ve been fun back in 2002 when video games were far less advanced.
Developer: Studio IGGYMOB
Publisher: Prime Matter
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Windows PC
Release Date: 22nd November 2022
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Gungrave G.O.R.E. was provided by the publisher.