Gungrave GORE review: a PS2 throwback, warts and all

Gungrave GORE review: a PS2 throwback, warts and all

Grav prepares to fire missiles from his rocket launcher in Gungrave GORE.

Gungrave GORE

MSRP $49.99

“Gungrave GORE delivers stylish action with a modern PS2-like layer of paint that you’ll either love or hate.”


  • An authentic PS2 comeback

  • Strong action

  • Expansive moving list

  • Great nature


  • Some ugly pictures

  • Very basic story

  • Mechanics lack fine-tuning

  • Rough difficulty spikes

I imagined it Gungrave GORE was going to be my little vacation from the current gaming landscape. I expected it to take me away from the giant open worlds filled with tons of sidequests and collectables that are so trendy we even see them with the Sonic franchise these days. The character action game quickly assured me that it would take me far away from the AAA trends. It brought me back to the age of Blockbuster rentals and finding a random PlayStation 2 game to take home and beat over a weekend – a true love letter back to a more simplistic time in gaming.

But when you open a time capsule, you sometimes realize how much bad was mixed in with the good.

Gungrave GORE is a true throwback rather than a modern game with a nostalgic coat of paint; it feels like a PlayStation 2 cult classic rebuilt for the new age. While there’s some bold brilliance to be found in the stylish action game, there are also plenty of archaic design choices that go along with the retro territory. It’s the right direction to take the reboot, but just like an early 2000s title, it’s tailored for a specific audience and almost no one else.

Gungrave’s return

Gungrave GORE is the latest entry in the long-dormant Gungrave series, which appeared on the PS2 in the early 2000s. Despite being available on modern consoles, it returns the series to its roots in every way imaginable. The simplistic run-and-gun action, the massive explosions, the ugly enemy animations, the edge factor – it all created an over-the-top experience that brings me back to the PS2-era games that Shadow the Hedgehog (perhaps it is the red-black color scheme that is so transporting).

It feels like controlling the hero in a Chow Yun-Fat, John Woo or John Wick movie.

The Gungrave series as a whole has similarities to classic action series such as Devil May Cry, God Hand and God of War. The original entries were stylish action games that towered over a flood of hack-and-slash titles on the PS2, but they were much different than your average action game. It carries over to the final section, which has a bit more modern sheen mixed in. Gungrave GORE feels more akin to Platinum Games’ Defeated or even the Doom series combined with an old arcade shooter Time crisis. Controlling the silent protagonist, Grave, players shoot through endless rooms and hallways stacked to the brim with monsters, mobs and experiments. It’s no walk in the park, but it does leave room for players to survive in style.

Even though it’s a brand new release, the controls work just like they did on the PS2. Everything is on point here, meaning players will never find themselves blaming deaths on missed inputs or bad lag. These tight controls work well with an expansive collection of moves that increase Grave’s arsenal, including tons of upgrades that can be purchased with in-game currency. With an extensive list of abilities and countless enemies to shoot at with infinite bullets and supers, I found it easy to get lost in the game’s high-octane rhythm. At its best, it feels like controlling the hero in a Chow Yun-Fat, John Woo or John Wick movie. It just makes you feel like an absolute badass.

Dig using an enemy as a shield while shooting others in Gungrave.

However, the action is not without some mess. Gungrave doesn’t hold back with the number of enemies it launches at players, which overwhelmed me even on lower difficulties. While I’m happy that the game isn’t as mindless as the earliest levels led me to believe, something doesn’t quite feel fine-tuned here. As a small example, players cannot combo enemies in the air to gain an advantage. Without such tools, which can help create a level playing field in action games like this, I ended up having to spam my dodge roll to survive half of my encounters. It certainly didn’t make me feel like that action movie hero. It doesn’t help that the dodge roll doesn’t always feel as effective, like it just needed a few more invincible frames. When enemies backed me up into a corner while I had no supers in stock, it basically meant instant death.

After so many mistakes, I went back in stages, planned my routes better and prepared my defenses more carefully. It’s a nice challenge if you’re up for it, but I wish I approached it more organically. The game throws everything and the kitchen sink at players and expects them to react to it all with a limited camera and not many movement options.

Back to basics

Let’s be real: When it comes to action games like Gungrave, not many players really pay attention to the story. If you come to this one you expect the emotional weight of Devil May Cry 5 or some multiverse-level shenanigans like Bayonetta 3look elsewhere. Gungrave GORE continues its PS2 philosophy by keeping the narrative simple and sweet above all else.

A boss character from Gungrave GORE

In an interview with Digital Trends, the game’s general manager, Kay Kim, described Gungrave GORE as a “fun game” and the story reflects that. Grave and friends capture Seed, a new drug on the market that destroys people’s souls – and the evil clan behind the distribution has history with Grave. The goal is to stop them with as many bullets and explosions as it takes. Yes, it’s not rocket science. But like the old era of games it harkens back to, it’s just a fun backdrop to place all the cool action in front of.

Gungrave GORE definitely won’t win any accolades for its narrative, but that’s not what it’s going for. What you see is what you get with this one. You’ll either love the simplicity of the popcorn movie, or you’ll hate it.

The good old PS2 smell might not be so good

Gungrave GORE is a brand new game in every sense of the word, but the visuals certainly don’t reflect that. In fact, it’s one area where the reversal of it all is more to the detriment of what could have been.

Gungrave GOREthe animations are the weakest area.

I love seeing the blood splatter after completely blasting an enemy, but that’s the only place I feel the impact of my hits. Melee attacks feel exciting to perform, but they don’t really have any effect on enemies until they unceremoniously cool down after taking a chainsaw to the chest.

The actual appearance of the game is also lacking. I love the cel-shaded visuals of the older titles in the series, and its presence is sorely missed here. I can see what the team was going for, aiming for a tougher style, which definitely works with Grave’s character model. It ends up feeling flat next to the anime look of the PS2 classics.

While visual fidelity leaves a lot to be desired, the game’s locations at least bring some charm. There’s a good variety in level themes, and each looks great as a visually appealing location for all the destruction. Lush jungles, neon-lit cities, sludge-filled labs… I loved the look and feel of every location I fought in. While there isn’t much to explore, I was happy to get a scenic look at it all while battling hordes of enemies.

Grave shooting enemies in Gungrave's city in Hong Kong.

Like a good B-movie, it has a certain charm Gungraveits duller parts. I feel like I’m playing a game that knows it’s a cult classic, and it’s chasing that look and feel in the right way. It just makes it feel like a very niche project that will only resonate with PS2 nostalgics.

It’s just another part of it Gungrave GORE‘s appeals to me, though. Unlike the harsh polish of other modern retro throwback titles such as Spade Knight or Understatement, Gungrave feels authentically raw. It brings me back to a time when gaming felt like a package of mystery. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, but you have to dig through some dirt to get to it. It’s an action game that really brings out the nostalgia of that era like no other, warts and all.

In addition, you can unlock new characters and replay the game with them. How many games let you do that anymore these days?

Gungrave GORE was reported on PC.

The editors’ recommendations

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