Gungrave G.O.R.E review

Our last review was of Evil West – a game that felt trapped in 2010, evocative of Xbox 360/PS3 era third-person shooters. Gungrave G.O.R.E takes us back even further, being a sequel to a 2004 PS2 shooter that achieved cult status. It’s so true to that era that we even had to double check that it wasn’t a full-on remaster of the PS2 original, with the game’s name failing to give that away.

For those not around back then, 2004 was when the genre was still in its infancy. We had yet to experience Gears of War, which ultimately defined third-person shooting. It was games like Max Payne and Metal Gear Solid 2 that set the bar, with Resident Evil 4 still a year away.

G.O.R.E isn’t dissimilar in its ethos – it’s a Japanese developed game created with the US market in mind. In this instance, it ramps up the violence to mind-numbing, but occasionally cathartic, levels. A ballet of bullets, gore, explosions, and supersized bosses accompanied by a side-line of Japanese lunacy.

Levels are short but high in number, lasting around 10 minutes each, and each shows your ranking based on enemies killed, damage taken, and highest combo count. Along with the main character Grave pulling off some outlandish stances while firing twin pistols, this means a few very light Bayonetta and Devil May Cry influences are present. That’s at least when it comes to the presentation – G.O.R.E can’t hold a candle to either when it comes to substance. Except maybe the disastrous Devil May Cry 2.

The bulk of G.O.R.E simply involves running through corridor-filled narrow environments while blasting a near-relentless slew of bad guys. When a wave ends, a door opens. This process is then repeated until either the level exit is reached, or a boss battle commences – with many being similar. Along the way, Grave faces enemies with shields – duly defeated with charge shots – and must rebound rockets by swinging his back-mounted coffin to deal with turrets. Even during the final levels, these two enemy types are in abundance, never being superseded.

Every few minutes a flashy demolition move can be unleashed that kills large groups of enemies, with new moves purchasable between stages.

This formula is reused for around 5-6 hours with only the level layouts being different from one stage to the next, and even then, they quickly blur into one another. The biggest challenge comes not from the uneven difficulty level, but from trying to find a reason to keep playing past the first hour or so.

When the game tries to introduce a unique idea, things go badly. There’s a stage on top of a freight train where Grave must dodge and leap over hazards – and a single hesitation sends you back to a checkpoint. Another level sees Grave riding containers, and if incoming missiles aren’t repelled quickly enough, the blast pushes our hero into a void. Later comes some awful platforming jumping sections that took us around 30 retries, with a continue screen to navigate in between.

Can you guess how G.O.R.E ramps up the difficulty level? It introduces more rocket troopers. Instead of being perched on top of a building, and thus easily dealt with, they start to emerge with regular enemies and fire rockets at closer distances. This means you’re bombarded with heavy fire more often, and the sense of timing for rebounding is often lost.

Now also seems a good time to point out that you can’t simply hold the fire button to blast the hundreds of enemies within each stage – the trigger button must be tapped; holding fire merely charges a shot. If G.O.R.E is ever patched, an auto-fire option would be much appreciated.

Visually, G.O.R.E isn’t too shabby – the action takes place in Japanese cities adorned with neon signs, and leafy jungles with waterfalls. The cut-scenes look decent enough, and the game engine sports reflections, realistic lighting, and particle effects. But under this visual sheen is a game trapped in 2004. It’s uncanny how closely it resembles a PS2 era title – right to the point where I can’t even tell if the developer intended it to feature the same faults that plagued shooters pre-Gears of War. Authentic to a fault? Perhaps. Or maybe the developer thought that if they modernised the gameplay too heavily, it would no longer feel like Gungrave.

The biggest question is whether anyone would want to revisit this era. A new release playing just like a PS2 game isn’t much of a selling point in 2022.

Iggymob’s Gungrave G.O.R.E is out now on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, and Xbox One.