2002 in 2022
I got into the works of Yasuhiro Nightow at a really young age. Pretty much directly after being mesmerized by Trigun, I knew I had to follow his work through any means necessary. That loyalty paid off when he got involved in video game development: partially helming the Gungrave franchise, which became an anime based on the first game.
He’s had a crazy career, and it isn’t done yet based on Gungrave Gore (and that upcoming Trigun anime).
Gungrave Gore (PC, PS4, PS5 [review], Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
Developer: Iggymob Co.,Ltd
Publisher: Prime Matter
Released: November 22, 2022
I’m of the opinion that we need more games that say “Kick Their Ass” at the start of every level, full stop. I got that with Gungrave Gore, as the slogan really helps sell its general vibe: messy, and stylish (and thankfully, better than the recent VR game).
Gungrave Gore isn’t a reboot, as it takes place after the events of prior games. While you can opt to watch the recap video on the main menu before you dive in, you’re still going to find a lot of it very silly (“a SEED Refinery in Scumland” is a very early plot point). Part of that is by design, as a lot of the focus is on how much ass the stoic Graves kicks.
He kicks ass during the cutscenes for sure, but it’s up to you to do most of the ass kicking through direct control of Graves, through arcadey levels that range from hallways in a bunker, to the tops of trains, to open air city streets. You’ll do most of your damage by way of Grave’s dual pistols, as well as the coffin on his back: which acts as a melee attack, and a creative collection of weaponry-based super abilities.
To keep the focus on constant attacking, an automatic aim system of sorts is implemented, which homes in on nearby enemies. One of my favorite aspects of the original series returns — diving/dodging while shooting — and it still feels good. You’re constantly in control of Graves at all times, including the ability to level up stats, and add abilities. Your coffin is your melee weapon, which also serves as your missile counter/deflector. There’s combos, special abilities, supers, all of which facilitate killing.
The constant tension that Gungrave builds works in its favor. It keeps things engaging, with its “you’re pretty much firing, and being fired at, at all times” pacing. Around level five, a lot of what the game was trying to do clicked. More enemy types showed up, and weaved into the fabric of the level layouts. I rushed up and slammed an enemy with my grab, dodged a missile volley in the process, then blew a super and took out a squad of 20 melee troops. It felt like a legitimate character action game moment, and from then on, the mechanical means in which Grave is taking out marry the stylish aesthetic Nightow and the art team worked so hard on.
This is another potentially polarizing thing to consider, but stages are aimed at being straight-forward, with frankly not-even-needed markers showing you where to go. Each level is around 10 minutes or less, then moves on. This is pretty much where where it should be for me. One thing I would have liked earlier on is more enemy types, and different enemy models. While I get that technical limitations are always a factor, sometimes I had to chuckle at the absurdity of fighting the same enemy model (within that enemy type) in the same room. While there is a good spread there (anything from Mafia goons to man-eating worms, or genetically mutated test subjects), it can feel samey depending on how the flow of a level goes. Bosses are a bright spot (with active dodging mattering more), but some of them are very quick, and there’s long strings of levels without them.
While character models are generally detailed enough, there are elements of Gungrave Gore that feel cheap. Depending on how the level actually plays out, some stages will feel more forgettable than others. As someone who still actively plays and seeks out demakes, even the middling ones, this doesn’t bother me as a whole. That said, an errant particle effect or lack of impact when using an ability can sting, especially given the MSRP.
It’s very important to keep in mind that Gungrave Gore is, in many ways, still stuck in 2002: and depending on your tastes, that could be a good or a bad thing. That mentality also applies to bugs. While I didn’t encounter anything nasty per se, I did have a few glitched out issues. On two occasions in separate stages, a checkpoint wouldn’t trigger, after meeting the required condition of clearing out the room. To solve these cases, I just restarted from the last checkpoint, lost maybe a minute of progress; and it worked on the second try. On performance mode on PS5, I noticed a steady 60 FPS framerate, so that area wasn’t a concern (hopefully the other ports, PC especially, fare as well). These issues have allegedly been addressed in a day one patch: but I wanted to share my experience regardless.
Go into Gungrave Gore with an open mind, the mindset that you’re going to kick some ass in an old school action game, and maybe, after a sale. The reaction to this thing is going to be all over the place (even from action enthusiasts), but once everything started to fire on all cylinders, I was having a lot of fun: amid some technical concerns.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]