Five stages. Just five short stages. That is the entire scope of Gungrave VR and that would be okay if they lasted longer than 10 minutes. I remember playing the original Gungrave on PS2 and hitting the end quite quickly in that as well. At the time I thought I had done something wrong ( I wasn’t arrogant enough to think I was so amazing I beat a game that quick), but no even then the Gungrave experience was short. Still, it can be short and feature one hell of a great experience, right? Wrong.
Gungrave VR was a strange announcement when it was revealed and it’s remains an odd title to have in VR when so much of the game could easily be played on a regular display. You’re in a third person mode for around half the game with the VR aspect solely used to aim at enemies and to look around the environment, which can also be done by rotating the right analogue stick. In fact, this view makes looking around the environment more awkward than if you were in first person or on a flat screen. A couple of times I got stuck on the environment while trying to work out the camera. It’s just not that intuitive.
The trailer says you can play in multiple perspectives, which boils down to first or third person, but that is down to the stage you’re playing and not through player choice. A couple of on the rails sections shift you into a first person view as enemies come at you from the front and sides of the screen. Again you’ll use your view to aim at enemies while holding the trigger to continuously fire, pressing the cooldown button every so often to avoid the guns overheating.
The core gameplay is a bit of a mess as well. For one thing you’re unable to move and shoot at the same time, a game design relic that belongs firmly in the early 00s, and that hampers what could have been a fast-paced action game. It could have made Gungrave VR more tolerable.
The levels themselves don’t look bad, but they’re quite devoid of any features that could be considered eye-catching. There’s a bland train ride for one on-the-rails section, which is a little bland, before setting off on an airship that offers a little more engagement, but features an unusual design decision. The airship you have to take down pops in and out of existence to make way for smaller enemy types, and once those are defeated it kind of just floats back in front of you. It’s not a smooth transition at all and the first time it happened I thought Gungrave VR had encountered a bug of some kind.
The game can be done and dusted in around an hour, but if you wanted a good reason to get more time out of this game, you won’t find any here. You can claim 100% of trophies by getting an SS rank on all the stages on normal difficulty and to an unlock an alternate costume for Grave, but there’s not even score challenges or leaderboards. For £25, it’s a pretty minimal offering.
Gungrave VR comes across as a game where the devs were hyped for the possibility of VR but didn’t know the best way to utilise it for an engaging experience. It’s very short, there’s no coherent story, the camera feels weird and not well implemented in the third person mode, and it all feels a bit bland. There are much better ways to spend your time and money unless you really have an hour to kill and Gungrave VR gets a very deep discount.