Gungrave is such a weird thing. It’s not even the premise; guy comes back from the dead with superpowers is pretty standard stuff. But the rest of the world doesn’t make any sense, there’s no real continuity between the games and the folks running the brand can’t decide if Grave wears a cowboy hat or not. As if that’s the least plausible aspect of all this. My point is it’s hard to tell why Gungrave G.O.R.E. exists, besides just being here for the sake of itself. That doesn’t really matter though, because the name of the game is “Kick Their Ass.”
Gungrave G.O.R.E. knows exactly what it’s here for, and that’s for the crowd of sickos with extremely specific tastes who are just happy to see Frankenstein’s Mobster again. There’s a little menu option where you can catch up on the story if you want, but unless you’re not a Sicko yet but are climbing that mountain you don’t really need to. All you need to know is Beyond the Grave is a big zombie man who can summon ordinance from Hell and really doesn’t like drug trafficking.
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What’s the most interesting about this game is its runtime. You could blaze through the original Gungrave in two hours, as it was kind of an experimental, arcade-like shooter interested in score chasing and vibes. G.O.R.E. attempts to translate that to a proper, modern console game (over ten hours to get through the story). When playing the game you can feel how much of a task the developers knew they took on, and the result is an earnest effort that very nearly earns the entirety of its massive volume expansion. It’s also a niche IP with a practically miraculous existence. So there’s some jank, naturally.
Foundationally, Gungrave is a shooter that doesn’t behave like other shooters. It’s part arcade, part rhythm action, part character action. All wrapped up in an anime style based on the work of Trigun creator Yasuhiro Nightow (and Ikumi Nakamura). Rather than aiming shots, confirming combos or doing sweet backflips, your role as the player is more about sustaining the “beat.”
Grave is a lumbering hunk of rancid meat, weighed down even more by the giant coffin slung over his back. There’s a dodge button, but it’s not a regular part of combat. Instead, combat zones have Grave simply walking through storms of bullets, rockets and explosives. Taking damage is expected, but in managing your resources, using the right tools at the right times and pumping doodads into upgrades between levels, Grave is the one left standing when the smoke clears.
When everything comes together Gungrave G.O.R.E. puts the term “ballet of bullets” to the test. Despite how slowly his body moves, Grave can use his supernatural athleticism to twist and contort as he needs and never misses a shot. Your “beat” continues as long as you can find targets, and as long as you don’t get too cocky.
The other side of that is where G.O.R.E. has the most problems. There’s a weird balancing act between maintaining the game flow, encouraging upgrades and sustaining an arcadey shooter across 31 stages. Sometimes, especially if you’re not a Gungrave expert already, you might hit what feels like a brick wall. Some stages just throw shit at you without any rhyme or reason, and it can feel like a stat check. These choke points can make you feel forced to go replay levels simply to grind upgrade points.
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Many of the upgrades are definitely sick and help expand your bag of tricks, but others are simply “make number go up.” Those are the ones that matter most when it comes to Grave’s survivability, of course. But no upgrades can help you with this game’s bizarre insistence on making lumbering Frankenstein man tackle platforming challenges. Those are few and far between, but the times they show up are baffling to say the least.
Every now and then you also run into stuff like alternate playable characters, who show up just long enough to make you frustrated by their inclusion. For all the padding it feels like there can be from the stats grinding, you’d think more time with the other two protagonists would’ve been a given.
If you like anime, John Wick-like gunplay and have a certain tolerance for jagged edges, Gungrave G.O.R.E. is a fantastic use of your gaming time. If you’ve been around since Gungrave on the PS2 and Madhouse’s weirdly brilliant anime adaptation, I’m surprised you’re even reading this. You bought this shit already. Thanks for the read though; Sicko Solidarity.
- I mean, it’s a new Gungrave; that rules
- Tons of combat options compared to previous games
- Aims high for style and substance
- Spammy enemy encounters fuel frustrating grinding
- Disappointingly shallow story
- The two other playable characters show up and dip out before you can enjoy using them
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PS5.