It doesn’t happen often but bad games can have merit. Deadly Premonition, for example, played like crap but had a story that was far deeper than anyone gave it credit and featured a lively cast of characters with more charm and heart than any game out at the time. And then there are games where reviews function as public service announcements meant to steer unsuspecting people away from something not worth their time and money. Gungrave VR is one such game. I’m not going to waste any more time waxing poetic about bad games and Gungrave VR’s place in that conversation. All you need to know is that it’s awful, pure and simple.
Developed as some sort of sequel to the Gungrave series that debuted on the PlayStation 2, Gungrave VR is a poor attempt at a VR action game because everything about it is lazy, half-baked, and aggressively unenjoyable. The main character, Grave, is an anti-hero who rose from the dead like The Crow to wage a war of vengeance against those who betrayed and murdered him. None of that actually happens here and instead, he’s sent across the world to fight enemies and kill large, hulking bosses in five oddball stages. He’s equipped with two guns and a stylized coffin that can deflect special projectile attacks from certain enemy types. Together, they allow Grave to cut his way through a pint-sized mercenary force comprised of gun toting soldiers, dominatrices carrying electric whips, suicide bomber dogs, and mechanical drones. Instead of being a third-person action game like the PS2 titles, it’s more of a shmup as you avoid heavy bullet streams by dodging and slowing down time. One stage in particular is a straight up first-person shmup and in the hands of a better studio, it could have been awesome. However, it’s terribly implemented.
Gungrave VR does little to justify itself as needing PlayStation VR technology. The headset is used to aim, forcing you to spin your head around to spot and shoot enemies in a way that never really feels comfortable. Aiming also lets you take in the dull, uninspired scenery of the game’s different arenas, from empty city streets and empty alleys to empty rooftops and the world’s most blandest skybox. The aforementioned shmup level is the most spectacular of the locations because it highlights everything that’s wrong and dumb about the way Gungrave VR plays. Sitting atop a flying jet bike in the sky, you have to wait for an airship to pop in and out of a cloud bank so you can destroy its various turrets and missile pods while smaller foes fire at you with reckless abandon, chipping away at your health with attacks that cannot be blocked or dodged.
Stages are short and lack imagination. Boss fights are more interesting because the stakes are higher since they hit harder, move faster, and have attacks that can get you from multiple directions, something a really tight camera system could help you keep track of. Gungrave VR doesn’t have that. Instead, you can only move it thirty degrees to the left or right (which is fine, it curbs motion sickness) and you can’t spam the analog stick movements to make it move quickly. Instead, you flick the stick, wait for the camera to move, flick it again, wait for it to move, and repeat until you’re at the desired position. This sucks so much and has a real bad habit of making encounters far more difficult and frustrating than they need to be. Furthermore, bosses have attacks that’ll knock Grave down and trigger a recovery animation that’s way too long and leaves you vulnerable to further attacks.
Gungrave VR is a bad game that has little redeeming value. It’s bare-bones and if you can stand to play through all its stages, you’ll find it’s not very long. However, there is so much more out there more deserving of your attention. The high school grade “kick their asses!” tone falls on its face so hard it leaves an imprint on the asphalt. The levels are incoherent and the first-person sequences are an annoyance rather than a enjoyable novelty. As a character, Grave fails to impress and comes off as a tryhard edgelord with his gothic-inspired coffin chained to both arms. Even the product page on the PlayStation website appears slapdash, with text seemingly lifted from Google Translate without any readability edits. Gungrave VR is a total headache (which has nothing to do with virtual reality) and no one, either series fan or VR enthusiast, should waste their time.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.