Gungrave G.O.R.E Review
I can imagine that for many developers and publishers, making a reboot or remake is an attractive proposition. After all, someone else has done the hard work of creating the story, characters, mechanics, and setting. All the developer needs to do is slap a new coat of digital paint on the original, shove it out the door, and wait for the triple-digit Metacritic score. Of course, I’m being reductive and incredibly facetious. There are stellar remakes — most recently, Final Fantasy VII and Demon’s Souls come to mind — that genuinely improve on the original game. What about Gungrave G.O.R.E?
Long ago and far away
Gungrave was a third-person action game from 2004, built for the PlayStation 2. For its day, it had frenetic combat and an artistic anime-influenced design that inspired both an animated series and a sequel. That wasn’t the end of the franchise. Developer Iggymob released Gungrave VR and now, nearly twenty years on, we have a full-on remake, Gungrave G.O.R.E. (Gunslinger Of REsurrection). Let the bad puns begin, like maybe the game should have been called G.O.R.E.D (Gunslinger Of REsurrectile Dysfunction).
In any case, back to the matter at hand. You play as Beyond the Grave (Grave for short) a resurrected soldier tasked with killing a series of bosses and Grave’s former friend, Harry Macdowell (now there’s an evil-sounding boss name). Once, loyal members of the Millennion organization, Harry stages a coup, and company-loyalist Grave sides with Millennion and is killed. Now a Deadman — a vampiric undead — you kill your way through waves of Millennion canon fodder and its leaders from the evil Raven Clan. You have a mission-giver named Dr. T and are allied with Mika, a young girl whom you must protect. She screeches instructions in your ear. If the Game Awards had a category for Most Annoying Sidekick, Mika would win the top spot.
There’s more to the plot, but it doesn’t serve much purpose. Combat is almost entirely the focus of Gungrave G.O.R.E. That’s a good thing, because if there’s a shining light in the game, it’s courtesy of the combat mechanics.
The original Gungrave appeared long before the idea of character customization was part of action games. Grave never changes appearance much. Instead, his development comes from new abilities and combos.
Grave has two weapons. He has twin pistols called Cerberus (named after a three-headed dog?) and a mini-coffin chained to his back named Deathhauler. The coffin can unleash four different deadly attacks called Demolition Shots. Grave can also swing his coffin in melee combat, and use it to deflect incoming rockets. Grave’s pistols have unlimited ammo, but his most deadly attacks require him to fill a beat meter. The meter is filled by continually killing enemies and performing strings of combos. The idea is to keep shooting.
Throughout the short game, Grave learns new combos and eventually unlocks all the Demolition shots. At the end of each level, he can use points to upgrade his weapons. Gungrave G.O.R.E. effectively merges button-mashing combos with weapon abilities pretty well. There are actually moments when the flow of combat is fun and engaging. But that’s about where the good news ends.
A Remake That Needs a Remake
Sure, the PlayStation 2 era was primitive by current standards, but it also produced masterpieces like Final Fantasy X and GTA San Andreas. Even for its day, Gungrave was no masterpiece, so it’s the kind of game that’s perfect for a refresh. Take the solid core mechanics, upgrade the aesthetics, tweak the story and rebuild the levels. It has potential. Unfortunately, this remake misses the mark in just about every dimension.
Gungrave G.O.R.E. is an entirely linear shooter, mostly — save for a handful of outdoor greenspaces — set in bland hallways and industrial spaces. Textures are very basic and almost entirely lacking in detail or character. In fact, there is at least one way in which the remake actually looks worse than the original. The 2002 Gungrave had a unique, comic-book art style that predated that of Borderlands. The new version has an utterly generic action-game vibe. Character models are obviously less blocky than in 2002. Maybe it’s a bit sharper, brighter, and the engine can handle larger waves of enemies, but the animations are stiff and unconvincing. By and large, the character models aren’t impressive.
The enemies themselves are incredibly repetitive. Each level introduces a new enemy type, so eventually every stage is just a crowded, greatest-hits rehash of enemy waves with minimal AI savvy and an apparent death wish. You’re rated at the end of each level and you can replay them for a higher score, but I can’t imagine wanting to do so. The end bosses have a bit more variety, but getting to them is a chore. Gungrave G.O.R.E. plays like a humorless, less creative, blander version of Serious Sam. It desperately wants to be badass. It isn’t.
Gungrave’s disappointing presentation doesn’t end with its visuals. The game’s audio is glitchy, with effects and samples popping in at uneven levels. Weapon sounds are nothing special, and sometimes downright weird. The audio cue for performing an L3 finishing move is a birdlike tweet. Get three or four enemies onscreen, all ready to be stomped with the finisher, and it sounds like you’re in an electronic aviary. Gungrave G.O.R.E.’s writing and dialogue trails most modern action games by a mile. As noted, Mika’s frequent interjections to alert you to enemies — as though being hit by rockets didn’t clue you in enough — are immensely repetitive and grating.
Almost nothing about Gungrave G.O.R.E. feels like it was released in 2022. By sticking so closely to the original, it inherits all the faults of the PlayStation 2 game. It’s short, repetitive and while the combat system remains a highlight, it’s surrounded by story, mechanics, sound and art that somehow still feel dated and aren’t much fun compared to so many other, better action games. There are many devotees of the original, but I think they might be disappointed. However, if you’re a fan of chaotic third person shooters you might find Gungrave G.O.R.E. entertaining for a few minutes. Just don’t expect the fun to last.
***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***
- lots of useful combos and weapon abilities
- Fast action
- Relatively short
- Generic design
- Extremely repetitive
- Glitchy audio
- Poor controls