The original Gungrave was a game that I never got the chance to play on PS2, which is a shame because it’s exactly the kind of game that I’d like. From its mysterious lead character with dual pistols and a weaponised coffin called Death Hauler, to the stylish action where you mow down legions of enemies using gun fu, this teenager who grew up with the Matrix and anime would have been obsessed. Gungrave G.O.R.E is every bit as mental as I expected.
Gungrave GORE isn’t your traditional shooter; it uses auto-aim to lock onto enemies within a certain range while you get to focus on constantly firing, dodging incoming bullets, axes and more, and just making everything around you explode. You have plenty of tricks up your sleeve, including a Max Payne-style dodge (minus the slo-mo) where you dive in a direction whilst continuing to shoot, the Death Hook can pull enemies in to use as a human shield, and Storm Barrage which fires your pistols all around to damage surrounding enemies. The latter can only be used when your combo counter is at 50, which builds up by hitting enemies and environmental objects alike.
Basically this is the most shooter-y shooter ever. Thankfully, while you will sometimes need to use the environment to keep your combo going, there’s an almost implausible number of enemies to shoot at. You’ll mow your way through hundreds and hundreds of them in short order, no doubt having a devastating impact on the local economy. It’s very chaotic, but diving around and using Equilibrium-style gun fu to decimate surrounding enemies all feels very rewarding, especially since you are scored on your performance and then given currency to purchase upgrades.
Sometimes Gungrave GORE tries to do something else. There’s one level on a train that I was initially excited for, but that drained away as it devolved into dodging incoming signs and having to try and rush through large number of enemies with limited floor space to dive around on. Some of that floor space is taken up by mines and enemies liked to pop out of the carriages below six feet away and shotgun you off the side of the train. It became frustrating pretty quickly.
Another level had a brief section where you’re on a moving platform with basically no space to move and countless enemies to take out, most of which also had knockback. This one was more than frustrating, especially with another character repeating “don’t fall off” or something to that effect through the PS5 DualSense controller’s speaker.
The DualSense speaker is used quite a lot in Gungrave GORE, as every time you blow something up the explosion is fed through it. It’s actually pretty satisfying and a nice little touch, especially since there are so many explosions. Unfortunately the voice acting is a little hit and miss, and so are the cutscenes. The voice you hear the most – Grave’s partner Mika – is acted well enough, but it’s also the voice that’s constantly “warning” you that, in the middle of this now six minute long gunfight, there are in fact more enemies coming – There’s also lines repeated between levels, so it quickly becomes annoying. There’s a few secondary characters whose voices that aren’t particulary convincing as well.
Cutscenes are either rendered in-engine (and look a little awkward), or have been pre-rendered with much nicer graphics and better direction. Fight scenes in particular look fantastic in the pre-rendered scenes, but when there’s any kind of action in the in-engine cutscenes it looks haphazardly cut together and comes off as confusing. There’s some decent acrobatic and very gory combat to see, which is good as the story itself is a little underwhelming. It’s there and it has a handful of cool scenes, but the actual plot that connects everything together is threadbare and split between the cutscenes and text on each level’s loading screen.
Gungrave GORE isn’t exactly a graphical showcase either. Raytracing is an option, but it has a minimal effect when considering the frame rate drops to 30fps – this drop doesn’t affect gameplay as much as in other shooters. Perhaps it’s a concession made due to the sheer amount of mayhem that’s happening at any given moment, but outside cutscenes the game just looks fine. It’s not bad, but it’s not especially pretty either.
There’s also a handful of other quirks, like sometimes advancing too far into a room and accidentally triggering a cutscene before you’ve even finished defeating all the enemies. Melee attacks feel really inaccurate, as it’s difficult to gauge the range of your swipe, while the Shootdodge – the Max Payne-style diving while shooting – only lets you fire a couple of shots off whilst diving which, for some nebulous reason, feels a little unsatisfying, despite the move still being invaluable.
The basic design of gameplay is a little dated as well. Some will appreciate this as being “old school,” but others will see it as frustrating and unfair difficulty that’s down to the underlying level design. Changing the difficulty settings won’t help when you’re being knocked off things or falling through what you expected to be a floor. Outside of the train and moving platform sections though, there’s plenty of fun to be had here.