Gungrave G.O.R.E. - Bullets, Blood and Bad Gameplay
Sometimes I yearn for simpler times. I have a hankering for a game that just wants to give you a blast from start to finish. No giant open worlds, no lore collectables, no complex checklists of things to do. Just pure gameplay and visceral entertainment. But if you are going to make a game like this, well that gameplay needs to be tight. You are putting all your eggs into that one basket so it had better be a good one. Sadly, with Gungrave G.O.R.E that is simply not the case.
Let me start with the setup. The main character is a stoic dude that carries unlimited bullets, a ridiculously oversized weapon that is called a “Gungrave” and wears the type of clothes that would feature in a fan-made Matrix or Blade film. The story is… well almost non-existent. Essentially you are there to take out some gangs that are distributing some sort of drug that does wild things to people, like cause mutations, and to achieve your goal you must kill the population of a small country. Really, the story is absolute tosh, the English voice acting amateurish and there is no story-based motivation to see this game to the end.
All that would be forgivable if the gameplay was top-notch, or even just mildly entertaining, but sadly that is not to be. 90% of the game is simply spamming the shoot button with the other 10% being a mix of trying to get the weird timing on melee swings right, spamming special moves as soon as you have charged it up or struggling with the camera to get it to target the enemy you actually want to hit. All of this needs to be achieved while getting swarmed by countless, faceless goons with the stupidity of a stump. Rinse and repeat for the entire game. The character you control is slow, unresponsive and frustrating to maneuver so there isn’t even some relief from the tedium with cool Bayonetta/DmC style moves. Just spam that shoot button until your fingers bleed.
What makes things worse is that the game, undoubtedly in an attempt to lengthen the run time, needs you to grind through early levels multiple times so you can afford the upgrades that make getting through the later stages possible. The game doesn’t tell you this either. This all became clear to me at one particular level. This level involved walking along the top of a train, trying to reach another carriage in a certain timeframe while avoiding crossbeams, landmines and shotgun-toting enemies which can kill you instantly by knocking you off the train. I must have attempted that level 40 times, dying just before the end each time. It wasn’t until I went back and bored myself to death playing through early levels on repeat and upgrading abilities and stats that I could finish the mission. It is an appallingly designed level that, had I not been reviewing, would have prompted me to uninstall the game in an instant.
Graphically the game looks like it is straight out of the PS3 era. Boring long hallways, uninspired enemy design and dull locations are the order of the day. The main character’s design seems to be decently detailed, but at the same time, it is hardly a work of art. In fact, the best thing I can say about the game is that it runs well, I didn’t get any glitches or crashes and the framerate seems consistent, which is something I suppose. But it is hard to celebrate one win in a sea of mediocrity. On the sound side of things, it is all ok. Guns sound like guns, dying minions sound like dying minions and the soundtrack is fine in a way that provides inoffensive background beats to slay the faceless minions too. It certainly isn’t a Mick Gordan soundtrack that’s for sure.
I think the worst part of the whole experience seems to be that it is easy to see a world where this is an entertaining romp. There is absolutely a place in the world for some big dumb action games that require little more than controller dexterity and gruesome on-screen kills. This game could have been that, but sadly no amount of patching can save where it has ended up. I have been known to enjoy a B-grade romp in my time (hey there Werewolf: The Apocalypse) but there is a charm to these games, an earnest quality that shines through and helps to soften my cold game-critic heart towards its janky adventures. Gungrave has none of that. From the ground up, it is sadly unlikeable.
I feel to go any further would just be punching down. Gungrave G.O.R.E is the sort of game you would have hired over the weekend during the PS1 era, played for two nights and forgotten about forever. In the year 2022 that is not good enough. The whole experience is outdated and poorly designed which leads to nothing but frustration and regret. To add icing to the terrible cake, the game lacks any sort of coherent story or even likeable characters to help get players through the rest of the problems. When the only nice thing you can say about a game is that it works, well things are rather bleak I am afraid. Gungrave G.O.R.E is, simply a bad experience and one I can’t recommend for anyone, even those with a deep love for the IP it is based upon.
Gungrave G.O.R.E was reviewed on the Xbox Series X with code kindly supplied by Plaion Australia