Even though I was a bit too young to get into the original Gungrave, Gungrave GORE has seemingly all it takes to catch my eye: a huge, buff man swinging around a chain and coffin, a techno-dystopic city and a promise of a hybrid between a third-person shooter and a hack-n-slash.
Still, despite all the good things it has going for it, Gungrave GORE is a game targeted at an extreme niche audience- one with slightly skewed sensibilities compared to your average gamer.
How does it stack up? Read on and find out.
Clever Hybrid Gameplay
One of the best things Gungrave GORE has going for it is its initial thesis statement. While it’s technically a third person shooter, it eschews everything the genre would lead you to believe are staples. There’s no cover in sight, no ammo to speak of and you barely even need to aim since the first thing the game shows you is the auto-aim function.
Instead, it’s way more important to treat GORE as what it secretly is: a character action game, where the main character’s weapons just so happen to be dual pistols. It has that very old school chara-action methodology of your starting kit technically being good enough to beat the game with- all additional moves you buy are just a matter of being flashier.
My main complaint with GORE’s combat is that it’s almost stuck in its 2002-era past. A lot of your combat if you’re not messing around trying to be artsy will be just walking forward and shooting. While it looks good in screenshots it certainly isn’t as fun to actually play. Instead it’s up to the player to constantly seek out new, fun combo ideas like grappling into dudes and doing sick dropkicks with your gun-coffin.
Still, that’s not to say there aren’t cool ideas being put on display here: Gore has a parry with a very generous window, but has a catch- you can only use it if you;’re standing still. Meanwhile, every coffin combo requires the player to be holding a directional input to use it. As a result now you’re really forced to think about the buttons you’re pressing, since you can’t combo off the parry swing but you absolutely can off the command-input version.
Similarly, there’s plenty of options you can buy with the game’s grab mechanic too. While originally the game only lets you used grabbed enemies as a human shield, you’re also able to buy two finishers- one where you execute the guy with your coffin and one more where you slam them into the ground so hard it causes an AoE explosion.
The fact every action you take has very specific functions makes for a very disciplined action shooter, and that’s great. Considering the game’s overshield-style health it’s great to see that so many of these decisions end up being offense-based, instead of just being a game of “find the nearest knee-high wall” to hide behind.
The Execution Of That Gameplay Though…
While mechanically the game has some great ideas, it’s the execution of these ideas that raise problems. The level design for Gungrave GORE is frustrating at best and downright unplayable at its worst, with levels that don’t feel fun to be in.
A huge part of it comes down to how linear the game is- even though you’ll see enemies come out from rooms, there’s never actually any reward for doing so. Instead the game is essentially long hallway with the occasional turn. Quite literally in at least one level’s case, where it straight-up was just a long hallway that you have to continuously move down.
It’s made worse by the fact Grave doesn’t control that well outside of combat. Your dodge roll has all the urgency of Digimon Survive’s development cycle, and feels downright unusable in the game. You can still shoot while dodging, but the lack of a clean dodge animation means you never feel like you’re getting out of danger, and dodging too early is almost always going to be punished.
It’s a bad feeling because mobility is one of those things you really notice in this genre- so the fact that it was an active decision to make Grave’s feel so bad without a good alternative just feels like an overall downer.
A Lack Of Polish
This doesn’t just extend to his crummy dodge, either. All in all, Gungrave GORE has a severe problem when it comes to its overall polish. So many animations lack that big kick that other games would make sure to have. A key part of Grave’s movesets are these executions and Demolition Shots, which replenish your shield and health respectively. The only problem is, they all have this weird delay to them that makes it really hard to tell if it actually replenished your meters or not.
Similarly, other big, meaty moves just lack that kick to them. One of the demolition shots you get is supposed to be a big ground slam, but it feels more like Grave gently knocking the ground to tell the floor to kill his enemies when it’s convenient.
Even the game’s Devil Trigger equivalent, Fury Mode, feels equally unremarkable. It’s just a shame because the game’s visual presentation is such a strong first impression- why can’t it follow it up?
Gungrave GORE is a great example of a game that absolutely nails its first impression, but doesn’t follow it up with the same gravitas. It’s not like I’d say to avoid the game entirely- I feel like character action fans are more tolerant of a little jank and I highly implore them to check out the game if it piques their interest.
But the game’s own shortcomings will definitely hurt its appeal to the mainstream. I doubt that’s what it was ever aiming for, but it should be noted that anyone expecting that triple-A level of polish or even cohesion is likely to play GORE for a few hours before deciding the game’s ultimately not for them.
Weirdly enough I find myself thinking of this title with some fondness. It reminds me of the peak of the PS3 era- weird games with unique controls, rather than constant retreads of the same genres and titles. The problem is that while definitely evoking a more old school design philosophy, it also feels about as polished as some of the less favorable entries of that generation as well.
Gungrave GORE Review
|Genuinely unique gameplay||Has all the polish of a rock half-buried in mud|
|Visually striking||Feels incredibly dated|
|Mobility is not this game's forte|
Gungrave GORE Reviewed on PS5. Review code provided by PLAION