Does it live up to our hopes and dreams? Well…
Having not any prior experience to GunGrave whatsoever, I can’t say I particularly found myself sympathizing with the negative reaction to GunGrave VR – yes, it’s soul-crushing when our favorite dead franchises are revived only for gimmicky mobile or VR cash-ins, but it’s already been confirmed there’s an upcoming GunGrave sequel on the way for PS4, so I can’t be too hard on it. Even then, I wasn’t about to dismiss my first VR experience, which the XSEED booth reps were more than kind enough to grant.
While the demo had two levels — one focusing on first-person and the other third-person — I primarily stuck with the former to perceive a more immersive feel (after all, that’s what VR’s about, right?). This level had my character – or should I say me? – aboard a runaway train, gunning down the likes of soldiers in mech suits flying about or hitching rides on dinosaurs, missiles flying towards me, or giant robot scorpions chasing me down. What exactly was the context, I cannot say, although I distinctly recall a girl barking orders in Japanese. (Both prior GunGrave games apparently dabbled in both subtitled Japanese and an English dub – perhaps this one will feature both?)
Having never played VR before, it was only inevitable I’d struggle with the controls. See, aiming is done by moving the headset around while shooting, reloading and the rest are performed by button presses (via the PS4 controller, naturally), but muscle memory and whatnot relied on moving the control stick rather than moving my head. Ultimately, that’s what finished me: I couldn’t memorize the counter maneuver in time before missiles, bullets, and surprise ambushes put an end to my train escapade.
Help never came, by the way. Jerks.
Let us not mince words: GunGrave VR is an arcade shooter. A glorified one, yes, but one still very much like the ones down in Dave & Buster’s. Perhaps fans’ apprehension with this iteration lies within sacrificing depth for some cheap sense of immersion, and perhaps they’d be right: the level was rather long in the tooth, repeating enemy flocks again and again in never-ending waves. Echoing a genre we’ve engaged with time and time again, it makes no distinct argument to differentiate itself from the dozens upon dozens of shooting VR games already out there on the market, be they arcade shooters or not. Be it shifting genres (third-person shooter into an arcade one) or it being developed by an entirely different developer (Blueside, as opposed to the original’s Red Entertainment), it’s not very surprising it’s been shunned by fans.
Again, however, I won’t choose to be harsh on it: however it turns out, the Fall 2018 release will speak for itself, and there’s another traditional sequel coming out that’ll certainly appeal to fans. Should it tarnish the GunGrave name – actually, a quick look at the Wikipedia entries show the media scores weren’t too hot, but what do I know – we must remind ourselves building blocks like these are what pave the way to the future.