I’m not sure exactly who was campaigning for a Gungrave resurrection, let alone one in VR but, judging by just how ludicrously detailed the game’s Wikipedia entry is, they’re out there. If you are one of the few waving that flag then best strap yourself in; this is not going to be pretty.
Gungrave VR is probably the worst game I’ve played in VR this year. It’s a stripped back PS2-era shooter that can be beaten in less than an hour and has absolutely no reason to be in VR. It’s entirely incoherent, utterly devoid of intrigue and, despite releasing in Japan last year, plays like it’s half-finished.
This isn’t a port of the original game, though it may as well have been. In the 14 year gap between releases developer Iggymob hasn’t made a single change to the way you control protagonist Grave, who uses all of the same animations from the 2002 original let alone the 2004 sequel. For the most part, you run around in third person, dodge incoming bullets and then return fire by holding R2. The only difference between playing in VR and the old games is that you now aim with your head.
But what was an already-dated design is made worse here. At least the original Gungrave had a simple linear level structure and some impressive destruction, for the time. Gungrave VR’s three on-foot missions consist of, at most, three tiny areas in which you’ll just need to shoot enemies that pour in to set points until you’re allowed to move on. The destruction is completely gone and, aside from text-based mission briefings that you’ll miss if you don’t return to the main menu between levels, there isn’t any explanation for the different scenarios you’ll suddenly find yourself in.
It was a random, lifeless hour I spent inside VR.
There are missions that implement on-rails first-person shooting but they’re entirely unremarkable, lacking any sort of punch to its presentation and relying on the same basic set of enemies from start to finish. Perhaps the one level with some semblance of justification for being in VR is a mission on an air bike in which you face off against a massive blimp. But the game switches between fighting the blimp and fighting regular enemies at random. The blimp just suddenly disappears and then there are new enemies in front of you. It’s dizzying and disjointed nearly to the point of being unplayable.
All of this might be forgivable if the core ‘gun-fu’ aspect of the game was at least fun to play. In reality, Gungrave VR is one of those ugly reminders that some games don’t play as well as you remember them. The controls are stiff and animations have to be seen through before you can attack enemies as they arrive. Though the entire campaign is quite easy on Normal difficulty, there are some boss fights that will lock you into cheap attacks that push you over, repeating them until you die (at which point you need to start the level over). The most surreal thing about Gungrave VR is to be reminded how bad early 00’s game design could be inside VR. You could chase for high scores, of course, but the game simply doesn’t have the design complexity and agile control scheme that would convince you to do so.
Gungrave was a poorly received shooter in 2002. 16 years on, Gungrave VR copies and pastes its mechanics, tacks on pointless VR support and builds about 50 minutes worth of new content into the game. That’s not exactly a recipe for a runaway hit, is it?
Gungrave VR is available today on PSVR for $39.99. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.