Gungrave G.O.R.E review: A love letter to a forgotten franchise

Joel Loynds
Gungrave Gore

A long-forgotten franchise is revived, but is Gungrave: G.O.R.E something that should have stayed dead or not?

B-tier games are something that I adore. These titles can either be secret gems, like Deadly Premonition or Mr. Mosquito. Other times, they might be completely horrid experiences, but not for lack of trying. Games like Disaster Report 4, or Siren, where they desperately try to achieve something that the development team just isn’t able to.

The PS2 was rife with these types of games. With development much cheaper due to a lack of HD requirements, you would see a plethora of titles leak out into the abyss. Here, from the creator of Trigun and a relatively unknown studio, Gungrave was born.

It had the hallmarks of Yasuhiro Nightow. A large, cumbersome main character who is inexplicably incredible at violence. Even on the PS2, the same feel of the animation was persistent in both games and the delightful cutscenes play out a surprisingly exciting story.

Gungrave G.O.R.E trailer:

Gungrave G.O.R.E: Key details

  • Price: $49.99/£39.99/Available on Game Pass
  • Developer: Iggymob
  • Release Date: November 18, 2022
  • Platforms: Xbox, PS4, PS5, PC

Gungrave of the past

A couple of days before starting Gungrave G.O.R.E, I decided to play the original two games. The first has this incredible vibe, with a convincing scoring system to encourage replays. Combat, while simple, is fast-paced and a wave of nostalgia flowed over me – even for a game I’d never played before.

The same cannot be said for the second game, Overdose. While it offers a far smoother experience, with a few more layers of complexity, it was designed without the original game studio in tow. It is filled with moments of frustration and confusing choices.

I then couldn’t imagine where G.O.R.E would lead. Would the sheer disappointment of the second game follow it? Or would it be able to distinguish itself among the large swathe of shooters since its last entry in 2004?

What’s the story here?

grave from Gungrave

If you want a quick idea of what type of game Gungrave G.O.R.E is, during heated action the backing track contains the lyrics ‘It’s time to die, it’s time to kill’.

Gungrave G.O.R.E sees the return of Grave, the titular character, as he and his partner, Mika, try to stamp out the still persistent drug crisis in the city.

The story isn’t exactly the game’s primary concern, but it does try its best. The cutscenes and story show that the team at Iggymob has a deep love for the series. This isn’t a reboot in any capacity, but a full-on sequel. The same tropes, style, and penchant for the ridiculous ooze out of Gungrave G.O.R.E, as if Iggymob had developed the originals themselves.

This too carries over into the game. Gungrave’s gimmick is that Grave has infinite ammo, which you use to build a meter and fire off a massive ‘Demolition Shot’, to finish off the enemies in the area. Aiming is entirely automatic, with a lock on available. To not shoot is to invite death.

You can also swing the massive coffin around for close-range combat.

All this feeds into a frenetic energy, that is juxtaposed by certain limitations on you and Grave. In the first game, Grave moves slowly, as a hulking beast and running prevents you from shooting.

The second, Overdose, Grave moves much quicker. Storing Demolition Shots to nine has been removed and healing, instead of being tied to a menu, is now tied to your damage dealt when shooting a Demolition Shot.

It forces you to keep moving, killing, and building up that meter so you can carry on through the game unimpeded.

Gungrave G.O.R.E is smart – to a point

gungrave boss fight

G.O.R.E carries on this tradition, opting to take after the second game rather than the first. In fact, as soon as I picked up the controller, it was almost as if the 18 years between never happened — that’s how seamless it was.

While Grave is far faster, he feels considerably weaker than his prior two outings. It’s not that much of a disappointment, as the options available to you are smartly designed around this.

Grave can now shoot a hook to finish off enemies, or take the hostage and used it as a temporary meat shield. His coffin attacks are a lot more in-depth, offering full combos once you begin upgrading. At the end of each level, you’ll be given experience points for you to pump up certain attributes.

It’s finally given a reason for you to actually replay completed levels, or the game itself, other than the satisfaction of shaving down your time. Iggymob knows exactly how to design systems, and they know Gungrave through and through.

Falling short

So why is it then, that this game falls short, in so many ways? Gungrave G.O.R.E starts out fairly strong, offering a completely chaotic and wild first set of levels. Sure, the animations aren’t smooth and it is fairly clunky, but it sure as hell is trying its best to provide that classic Gungrave experience – even in spite of the insurmountable odds of game design.

Gungrave G.O.R.E begins to fall apart sometime in the second section of the game. It’s here that you begin to realize that the new, fairly generic goons you’ll be taking on are no longer easy to decipher.

There’s a sequence of levels in which you can tell Iggymob felt bad for having you run through similar hallways and open spaces. They try to keep things fresh by introducing some new styles of levels. You know the rules now, so you can probably do just fine with whatever the game throws at you.

gungrave gore

However, the train level is a microcosm of everything wrong with the game. Disregarding the endless walk through the various carriages, you’re then forced into a semi-timed platforming sequence. Grave must make it to the other side of the train before he’s knocked off by the incoming bridge.

Once you’ve got the awkward timing down for the jumps over the incoming obstacles, it’s at this point you realize the game has wanted you to take note of the various enemy designs to know how to tackle each group that spawns.

In the previous games, the outlandish art style was used effectively. Bold designs allowed you to see exactly how to deal with incoming situations. Here, the mass generic goons with colors that blend into the environments force you into the fray. The elegant revival of Grave’s design is not matched by anything else in the game.

It’s with this lack of design in mind, that you’re suddenly confronted by the fact that on top of a lack of information, enemies aren’t placed in a manner that denotes any kind of planning. In some portions of the game, this makes total sense. The frantic, endless spewing of bullets and luring enemies around until you can progress allows for more loose planning in enemy placement.

Some sequences in the game, like the train section or even one where you’re forced to ride a crate in a factory when enemies are intentionally put in to knock you off with no chance of survival, makes you realize that not much thought went into the general placement of enemies, to begin with.

Levels also blend into one another. There’s no real distinction between each, aside from the aforementioned train one. Factories after factories, or facilities. There’s a real lack of flair in everything, except Grave himself.

Grave combat consequences

Gungrave Gore
This is what you’ll see most of the time.

Then there’s the combat. The infinite bullets are still ludicrously fun to barrage enemies with, but outside of moving the controls for shooting to your trigger, that’s roughly where the quality of life improvements since 2004 ended. There are no accessibility options to have the trigger be held down and Grave continuously shoot, further limiting its potential.

Instead, you must keep squeezing to fire off four bullets at a time. The game even states in a hint screen to “not tire yourself out”, but each enemy outside of the easy difficult takes far more than four bullets to put down.

G.O.R.E is also around 10 hours long, all said and done. The prior two games, with full knowledge that the score and time improvements were the main elements of attraction, were both around four hours long all said and done. It allows for a limited concept to flourish, not outstaying its welcome.

Here, you’re strung along, tiring out your finger and in the end, I became sick of the sight of it all.

B-tier games like Gungrave will always mean a lot to me. The fact that a sequel to this long since dormant franchise exists in 2022, is just the coolest thing. However, Gungrave G.O.R.E, despite being a love letter to the old games, does not live up to the potential offered.

Verdict – 2/5

Those looking for more Gungrave or even that nostalgic wave of something similar to it will be most delighted – as I was. It pains me to criticize something that is clearly made with love and adoration, and I hope that Iggymob gets another chance in the future.

Reviewed on Xbox Series S

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