Gungrave Preview: Fast-Paced but Uninspired

by David Sanchez July 1, 2018 @ 11:06 am

The original Gungrave launched in 2002 for PlayStation 2 and was then adapted into an anime series that ran from 2003 to 2004. Since then, the Gungrave name hasn’t exactly been all that prominent. That’s why it was kind of surprising to learn that developer IGGYMOB was working on not one but two new Gungrave titles.

One of those titles is Gungrave G.O.R.E., which will follow the original’s third-person shooting action closely. The other is Gungrave VR, which is a collaboration between IGGYMOB and Blueside and is currently already available in Japan. The latter is scheduled to arrive in North America later this year, and after going hands-on with the game at E3 in June, I’d say it’s really only for diehard fans of the Gungrave series who need something to tide them over until the release of Gungrave G.O.R.E., or for anyone in desperate need of a VR fix.

As its name suggests, the game utilizes the PlayStation VR headset for gameplay. Or rather, it uses the VR headset for camera controls as character actions are reserved for the DualShock 4. The first level I played was a first-person on-rails sequence that bombarded me with waves of enemies. This level was fairly standard, but it was still pretty fun, and the difficulty increased nicely the further along I got. If you dig these types of arcade-like experiences, you’ll probably find plenty enjoyment in these stages.

The other level was in third-person perspective. This stage allowed me to move the player character around a small map as enemies once again, you guessed it, bombarded me. Controlling the camera using the VR headset was a bit jarring in this sequence as it was bit awkward when paired with the free-roam character movement. Even then, it was still entertaining, though not as much as the first-person level. Aside from the change in perspective and full control of the protagonist, the main difference here was the ability to dodge-roll while moving around the screen.

Despite the difference between the two perspectives, both the first-person and third-person stages share a lot of the same mechanics. For instance, you can trigger slow motion in both, which allows you to regain your composure if you’re overwhelmed by gangs of enemies. In addition, both modes require you to cool down your guns, which adds a bit of strategy to the action, even if that strategy is minuscule.

In both first-person and third-person perspectives, you can also deflect certain enemy projectiles. Doing so isn’t too difficult, but it can get tricky when you’ve got multiple enemies shooting at you and lobbing deadly projectiles at you all at once. Still, if you’re able to focus — and your ability to do this may vary depending on your experience with VR — you should be able to fight off the opposition.

Another mechanic both modes share is the ability to use a railgun. Like in most games, the railgun is super-powered and designed to give you an edge in combat. It’s best to save your railgun for when you really need it, as it’s easy to waste this useful tool when there are smaller, grunt-type enemies that are more pesky than hazardous.

Visually, Gungrave VR isn’t anything special. It looks almost like a cross-between a late-era PlayStation 2 title and an early-era PlayStation 3 game. That’s not too bad, but given the game’s VR style, it would be cooler to have a game that at least looks a bit more modern in terms of graphics.

What I played of Gungrave VR was fun if largely unoriginal. The action was fast and frenzied, but it didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary. It’s a serviceable virtual reality experience, but it doesn’t break new ground for the format. If you’re really starving for either VR gaming or the Gungrave series, you may want to give Gungrave VR a go at launch in a few months — just don’t expect anything too amazing.

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