“Not another virtual reality shooter,” we hear you sigh. Yes, another one, but this time with a relatively recognisable name tacked on: Gungrave. For those that don’t know Gungrave VR isn’t the first title in the series, as it debuted on the PlayStation 2 in 2002 and did well enough to get a follow-up title, Gungrave: Overdose in 2004. This new PlayStation VR title is a prologue for a sequel Gungrave: GORE, but will it resurrect the series from its 13 year slumber or send it back to the grave for good?
Gungrave VR is a third-person shooter, a first-person shooter, and a 2D side scroller all in one, although it’s obvious that the third-person mode was the developer's main focus. Set in a world overrun with SEED infected beings, you take on the role of Grave on a mission to rid the world of these drug enhanced creatures, and that’s about it for the story found within the game. There are a total of six levels to work your way through, each one sending a bunch of SEED your way to slay, thugs armed with guns, women with whips, suicidal explosive dogs, and mechanical turrets to name but a few. Although the shooting functions well it gets very repetitive and lacks any sort of satisfaction when offing your foes.
At the end of every level is a boss to defeat; with various strong abilities these bosses can be tough competition especially due to the animations. Grave takes a long time to recover, causing you to take another unfair hit every time you take damage. When Grave gets knocked to the floor the lengthy animation often means you’re unable to recover and the boss will continuously hit you until your inevitable demise.
The game doesn’t benefit from having VR support, if anything it feels more cumbersome trying to play in VR than it would be without it. There’s no move controller support instead you are forced to move your head to aim and use the DualShock 4 to shoot and move Grave around. Rotating the camera needs to be used constantly but is extremely frustrating, as you can only turn 30-degrees at a time. This causes you to turn your head even more, straining to get a good view which gets you in some really uncomfortably positions when trying to fight fast enemies and bosses.
The environments throughout the game are noticeably barren with no details or aesthetic pleasantries: big empty cities, empty alleyways, empty warehouses, et al. The game's visuals are also noticeably outdated, grainy, jagged, and rough, looking more like an unpolished PS2 title than a futuristic virtual reality game.
The additional standalone game, Gungrave U.N., we found to be better than the main campaign with a better focus and a theme that runs throughout. Although it was short lived with only an hour of extra content, the addition of 2D side-scroller sections was a welcome addition.
Gungrave VR has a poorly implemented control scheme, a lack of story content, it doesn’t take advantage of the technology available in the PSVR headset, and ultimately lacks enjoyment in its core gameplay. Unfortunately, Gungrave VR has failed to raise the series from the grave and we’d advise everyone to let this one lay to rest.