One Foot In The Grave
After seeing Gungrave VR in person at E3 this year, I have to admit I was more than a little excited to dive into the full experience. After all, it’d been nearly 14 years since we last got the chance to get behind the giant guns of series creator Yasuhiro Nightow‘s undead assassin in Gungrave: Overdose on the PlayStation 2. That said, were long overdue for a new game in the franchise. And, timing aside, I think we can all agree that the thought of raining hot lead upon hordes of Syndicate grunts and massive mutants in virtual reality sounds like a surefire recipe for success.
Sadly, this probably isn’t the game fans of the series are hoping for. Having finally blasted my way through the game’s surprisingly brief campaign, I’m sorry to report that, despite packing enough firepower to topple a third world country, Gungrave VR misses its mark by a mile to deliver a tepid VR shooter that even the most die-hard Gungrave fans will be hard-pressed to enjoy.
All Guns, No Glory
Set over the course of five bite-sized stages, Gungrave VR puts players in control of Grave as you mow down waves of hoodie-wearing baddies, laser-spewing drones, and mutated psychos in both third and first-person stages. The stages that unfold in third-person give you free rein to explore the environment as you shoot, dodge-roll, and pummel the snot out of baddies with your massive coffin. At first, it’s pretty fun! That is until you realize that each of these stages is made up of just a few tiny rooms that will take you roughly ten minutes to complete at most. Though I have to admit that boss battles can be pretty engaging and will test your skills while the camera tests your patience.
While you’d think the game would be a great fit for the PlayStation Aim or Move controllers, you’re actually only able to use the DualShock to control the action. Aiming your massive hand cannons is done by actually looking at your enemies via the headset, while the left stick is used to maneuver around the environment. It sounds cumbersome but actually works surprisingly well. However, controlling the camera is a totally different story. Rotating the camera is done by flicking the right stick which snaps the camera at 45-degree angle intervals. In execution disorienting and unresponsive. The addition of a smooth rotation is sorely needed, to say the least.
Six Feet Under
First-person stages fare better as they’re stationary, which means you won’t have to worry about rotating the camera to get a bead on your enemies. These areas play out like the classic arcade shooters of old as blast waves of oncoming enemies to smithereens. The first one of these stages takes place aboard a racing train car that would be a blast if it weren’t so repetitive. The same tired enemy formations repeat far too often, and the environment features very little in the way of visual identity to keep things interesting.
The next one spices things up a bit by taking the action to the skies as you pilot an air cycle on a mission to take out a massive airship. Honestly, this stage was probably my favorite of the bunch, but it suffered from some very jarring enemy and ship pop-in as it loops through its multiple phases that really pulled me out of the experience.
Like the third-person stages, Gungrave VR‘s first-person shooting segments simply don’t offer enough to keep you engaged. Repetitive enemy patterns and bland environments make up the entirety of its not-quite hour-long campaign. With more ambitious level designs and some more polish, this could have been a satisfying arcade-style shooter. Here’s hoping developer Iggymob manages to deliver something more substantial when Gungrave G.O.R.E. releases next year.
Better Off Dead
When it comes to extra content, Gungrave VR is a surprisingly no-frills package. There are three difficulty modes to choose from for each stage. And, if you manage to complete each stage with an “SS” ranking you’ll be able to unlock pre-Grave Brandon Heat to play as. Still, with given how repetitive the core game is, it’s hard to imagine many players will feel inclined to go through the trouble of doing so.
Gungrave VR isn’t awful, but it’s awfully uninspired. It’s anemic campaign, awkward camera controls, and a complete lack of a story to tie each stage together are really disappointing and make the game feel more like a proof of concept demo that fails to justify its $15 asking price. If you’ve been dying to get your mitts on another Gungrave game over the past 14 years, you’re better off dusting off your PS2. This isn’t the game you’ve been waiting for.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: PlayStation VR (Reviewed); Publisher: XSEED Games; Developer: Iggymob; Players: 1; Released: December 11th, 2018; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.