Gungrave VR, by Marvelous and XSEED, just launched as a Playstation VR exclusive – here’s our review.
We’ve actually had our eye on Gungrave VR for a while, as it was announced early in the summer and we got a sneak peek at it not long after. It was just gameplay footage at that point, so we’ve been eager to go hands on with it for a while – which finally happened just before the game’s release this month.
Some of that anticipation came from the fact that the original Gungrave was a bit of a PS2 cult classic – so I had it listed high on my watch list alongside Zone of the Enders. I’d have to say that Konami’s revival effort turned out a little better than Gungrave though….
In the VR reimagining of Gungrave, which also serves as a setup for a new game in the series, you instantly see the references to the anime series that were sparked by the original game. Knowledge of the anime isn’t required at all though, since the game relies heavily on arcade action and doesn’t delve into the story all that much.
You play as Grave, and the bulk of the action plays out from a third person perspective with you controlling everything using a DualShock gamepad. Aiming is done through head movement, with the right thumbstick being reserved for camera control – though this doesn’t work as smoothly as you’d expect and you’re better off just sticking to trying to see everything through head movements.
Gungrave VR looks like a straight up arcade game, but you can’t go in mindlessly shooting everything either. You’ll need to make sure your weapons don’t overheat, and you can also try to deflect incoming rockets. In addition, you can unleash special attacks as well, some of which slow down the action and briefly put you in a first person mode for a few stylish takedowns – aspects that evoke memories of the source material that also oozes style.
First person shooting isn’t just reserved for special attacks, as the game does a decent job at mixing up different gameplay styles. Specifically, there are levels that feel more like a wave shooter than a third person arcade action title, which is what the bulk of the game is. The problem, however, is that all of these game types are “just okay” and there are better examples out there – and that definitely includes the wave shooter genre.
What doesn’t help is that the game is incredibly short as well, with the whole campaign wrapping up in just over an hour. It fits with the arcade approach, but – here as well – we’ve seen better examples of short campaigns. Gungrave VR actually wraps up with a “to be continued” message, and the good news is that the follow-up is also available right now – and it’s called Gungrave VR U.N.
You can buy both titles as part of a “loaded coffin” package, but they’re available as standalone games as well. This will leave some feeling like Gungrave VR U.N. is really just DLC packaged differently, but it’s worth pointing out that U.N. also features a few different gameplay decisions that warrant a standalone release. Whether or not the price is justified is a different discussion.
Having said that, I enjoyed Gungrave VR U.N. because it used a gameplay style not often seen in VR. There are third person action sections as in Gungrave VR, but the action also frequently switched to a 2D side scrolling shooter in the same vein as Midnight Resistance, Metal Slug or Abuse. The genre certainly wasn’t reinvented during the creation of the game, but the fact that it can work in VR was also shown in games like Bloody Zombies. Although Gungrave doesn’t rise to the heights of that game in terms of using depth to add spice to a 2D action game, it’s nice to see enemies come in from the fore- and background.
So although unremarkable, Gungrave VR U.N. works well and provided me with a bit of retro gaming-inspired fun. It is, however, also incredibly short – clocking in at about 30 minutes. For a duo of games that doesn’t blow you away in any way and with better alternatives out there, you’ll end up thinking “this was okay-ish, but was it worth the money?” In that sense, unless you love the series, you’re better off waiting for a sale.