Gungrave G.O.R.E Review (Xbox Series X)
Release date: November 22, 2022
Publisher: Prime Matter
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows
*NO SPOILERS BELOW*
"What on earth is Gungrave?" I believe this was the collective question when this game was teased again earlier this year.
Gungrave is a long forgotten PS2-era anime-styled franchise that gained some significant popularity almost 20 years ago for its fun, stylish gunplay and absolutely killer soundtrack. The absurd in-your-face action combined with an undead protagonist that roams around with a coffin and pistols killing mobsters, understandably made it a hit. In fact, the franchise had gained such a following that they eventually released a Gungrave anime. This was my introduction to the world of Gungrave and to be frank, it is a solid action anime that is worth a viewing.
Now 18 years later, Gungrave G.O.R.E serves as the third entry into the action franchise that follows Beyond the Grave, or Grave for short, a mobster turned gunslinger for an organization called "El Al-Cangel". Over the course of 30+ stages, you shoot, dodge, and smash your way through enemies to eradicate the Raven Clan, a mob that is distributing an otherworldly drug called SEED, that was believed to be long gone.
This was a fairly anticipated release for me as I immensely enjoyed the Gungrave anime and was pleasantly surprised at the PS2 gameplay I was able to find online. It was reminiscent of Devil May Cry, another notable stylish action-adventure game. This game feels much like a throwback to that older era of gaming, which amongst a sea of hyper-real narratives and shooters, is refreshing and brings about a positive bout of nostalgia. However, much like the Terminator franchise, some things are best left to stew in the glory of their previous entries.
Gungrave G.O.R.E opens with our protagonist, Grave, shooting towards the surface of a shipping warehouse in his infamous coffin and blowing actual holes into a group of mobsters. Over the headset, you can hear Mika, another central figure in the Gungrave universe and a sort of daughter to Grave. She tells you that there is a scientist with some of the aforementioned SEED about to escape and that he needs to be taken care of before they have a chance to reach distributors. That's honestly as much plot as you get throughout 31 stages of gameplay.
The first two levels set the stages for the controls and also for the enemies to more or less expect. Unfortunately, after this, the game just becomes a repetitive trudge through various levels with Grave just auto-locking onto enemies. While there are fun combos, the execution on-screen does not try to adapt to the technologies modern gaming allows and thus, you end up playing what feels like a really smooth PS2 emulated shooter.
Aside from unlocking some achievements, every hit on an enemy registers on either a "Beat" bar of nonstop attacks or accumulates on an "Art" bar depending on if you decide to trigger a specific final blow. But neither of these unlock any cool finishing moves, evoke some interesting combos, or even build your health/shield bar back up. Furthermore, the enemies are nothing particularly exciting as well, simply being versions of monsters and machines that we’ve seen many a time before paired with just regular henchman bodies that take 4-5 different variations.
A few levels into this and I was quite bored as unlike other games in this genre, the lack of plot paired with the limited gunplay and world, left much to be desired. As a result, Gungrave G.O.R.E ends up serving as yet another reminder that when it comes to a cherished IP, tossing out some sort of content is better than quality content. It also serves as yet another example of how endless delays really do mean the final nail in the coffin.
Gungrave G.O.R.E was originally announced back in the late summer of 2019 and was scheduled to come just a few months later in December. Then came the news that the game would be delayed to 2020 in order to polish the gameplay. 2020 came and went and likely due to the virus we shall not name, eager gamers got no word until mid-2021 when it was finally confirmed that the game would release this past November. There also seemed to have been many creative changes behind the scenes, with the project being off-loaded to Korean developer Iggymob instead of being developed by the original studio, Red Entertainment. Additionally, the original music composer for the games, Tsuneo Imahori, was replaced by Shibata Tetsuya of Devil May Cry and Aoki Yoshino of Final Fantasy, in an attempt to create a modernized soundtrack reflective of the unique setting displayed in G.O.R.E.
There also seemed to be some visual goals set here that never quite reached their potential. Yasuhiro Nightow, the creator of the popular series Trigun, was announced to be the game's character designer initially, he was quietly replaced by Ikumi Nakamura, known for her works in Bayonetta and the Evil Within series. Even then, despite stating that the visuals took inspiration from movies such as Equilibrium and Desperado, those inspirations don’t quite reach the final version as instead we get a rehashed version of a futuristic gangland.
There was definitely a missed opportunity with Gungrave G.O.R.E. Where the game could’ve been re-invented to explore a deeper world and provide us more character development, it feels as though the studio had all these ambitions but then became too overwhelmed in trying to bring them to fruition. The end product is a game from a very cool franchise that doesn’t get the revival it deserves and leaves us gamers with nothing more than a subpar throwback to early 2000s gaming. All in all, if you’re in the mood for a mindless shooter set to an amazing score, give Gungrave G.O.R.E a shot. But for eager fans such as myself, I’d skip over this one and hope that maybe a proper revival is on the horizon.
Gungrave G.O.R.E is available for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows for $49.99.
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