Gungrave G.O.R.E Review: Better Off Dead
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Gungrave franchise, it started off as a PS2-era game all the way back in 2002 and was eventually adapted into an anime series after gaining somewhat of a cult following. Now that we are entering the tail end of 2022, we rarely get to see absurd, over-the-top arcadey old school titles being made. South Korean studio Iggymob is ready to bring on the heat with their revival of Gungrave with G.O.R.E, or gunslinger of resurrection. Please note that there is no period after E, as I see many people misspell the title by adding one there. Gungrave G.O.R.E sees the return of Beyond The Grave, the reincarnation of Brandon Heat, the main protagonist of the Gungrave series, in a new third-person action adventure shoot’em up filled with bullets and blood.
Some prior knowledge of the franchise is recommended as the narrative of G.O.R.E directly follows the events of Gungrave Overdose. The game does give a brief recap at the beginning to catch you up on past events, which might mitigate some confusion. Many characters, including Mika Asagi and Bunji Kugashira, make a return from previous titles, so it’s best to understand their relationship with one another before jumping into this game. Mika, the adopted daughter of Grave and the leader of the resistance group El-Al Canhel, continues to track down the spread of an infectious drug known as SEED throughout southeastern Asian countries.
So does Gungrave G.O.R.E live up to the hype that its predecessors built up over the years and hold up to today’s modern gaming standards? Unfortunately, the answer is no, as it is riddled with uninspired gameplay elements, frustrating level design, game-breaking bugs, and overall unpolish. The story is also honestly half-baked and the voice acting is pretty bottom tier. The cherry on top of all of this is an outrageous price tag for such a low-budget project. There is undoubtedly respect for developer Iggymob for bringing back a piece of history and trying to do a great service to fans of the series. But nostalgia alone cannot satisfy the already niche audience that this game is targeting. At its current state, it is very hard to recommend this title to even the most hardcore fans.
Before diving into what makes this such a disastrous bore, let’s go over what kind of game it is. All the Gungrave games, G.O.R.E included, are third-person action shooters that can be compared to titles such as Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, with gameplay elements that emphasize high scores, stylish combos, and over-the-top finishers. The protagonist Beyond the Grave, or just Grave for short, carries dual pistols and a coffin that he slings behind his back that can transform into a cannon. Yes, you heard that right, a coffin. Surprisingly you have the ability to jump, despite the fact that you are carrying a two-ton coffin on your back.
Finger Workout Galore
What is cool is that you can play as other characters in some stages that I won’t spoil for you. Most of the time, you are just spamming the shoot button until you can execute an ability or are forced to break a shield or retaliate a missile with your melee attack. In fact, my index finger became so sore after playing just a few levels that I had to take a break. You are equipped with a dodge button as well, but it’s poorly implemented, as there is an input delay and no animation canceling. You also can’t dodge through enemies, so enemy swarms can stunlock you until you die. The terrible dodge mechanic is also noticeably accentuated during boss fights, where hitbox animations are clunky and inconsistent.
A beat counter increases the more shots you land on enemies, with some abilities only able to activate once you reach a certain threshold. You also have ultimate abilities known as demolition shots and the ability to hookshot onto enemies and use them as a human shield. Demolition shots are a huge letdown as most of them do the same thing, just with a different visual animation. I won’t lie; on the other hand, the human shield part is pretty sick. There is the occasional light platforming, quick time event, point defense, or boss encounter thrown in, but most of the gameplay stays very vanilla. Levels end with a score ranking your performance on a letter scale, with S being the best. The higher your score, the more points you earn, which you can then use to purchase better skills and upgrades.
Bloody Awful Level Design
The entire game is stage based and consists mostly of levels that have you mowing down endless waves of enemies before reaching the end. All the levels are painfully linear with absolutely zero exploration and simply consist of rooms of enemies to kill. No collectibles or shortcuts, just copy-pasted corridors to go down to face the next batch of goons. I do want to point out that the developers do make some effort to change up the level design. But I immediately wished they hadn’t when I reached a stage that took place on top of a train.
You are given a time limit to run to the far end of the train as it’s approaching a tunnel that will otherwise crush you. You must tackle twenty-plus enemies cramped on top of a narrow train while forced to jump over barriers along the way. Keep in mind you cannot dodge through enemies, and you run super slow. Multiple land mines are also scattered along the floor. They won’t kill you in one hit, but they sure will blow you off the train, killing you instantly. If you take the time to actually shoot the mines and kill the enemies, whilst jumping over the barriers, time will run out, and the tunnel will kill you instead. This terrible level design, along with horribly implemented controls, results in a beyond frustrating experience. I reckon most people will rage quit and won’t be able to get past this level, until a patch is implemented to tweak how unfair it is.
Locking Me Softly
Perhaps the greatest disappointment of all are the game-breaking bugs that this game suffers from. I guess you can say this also ties in with the awful stage design, as usually, you can’t exit a room until you kill most of, if not all, the enemies in it. In multiple stages, the door to the next area would not open even after defeating all the baddies in it, resulting in a dreaded soft lock. I tried reloading the checkpoint, and even the entire stage, wasting another five to ten minutes of mindless shooting just to get soft-locked again. I was on the verge of calling it quits until rebooting the game entirely and restarting my PlayStation 5 resolved the issue.
I played Gungrave G.O.R.E with zero knowledge of the franchise, and I reckon that is for the better. I would be infinitely more disappointed going into this game as a diehard fan of the series and seeing what a disservice G.O.R.E does to the Gungrave name. It’s astonishing to see Iggymob charging $50 for a low-budget, niche game riddled with unoriginal gameplay, multiple soft-locks, atrocious level design, and laughable voice acting.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PS4, PS5 (Reviewed); Publisher: Prime Matter; Developer: Iggymob; Players: 1; Released: Nov 22, 2022; ESRB: M; MSRP: $49.99 USD
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Gungrave G.O.R.E provided by the publisher.