Gungrave G.O.R.E review

By Tom West,

Gungrave G.O.R.E launches on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Game Pass today, bringing the explosive third-person action from the early 2000s to a new generation. Here are our thoughts on this return of the cult franchise.

When preparing your arsenal of weapons for a fight against a well-funded criminal enterprise, you'd typically make sure you're stocked up on ammo, have the appropriate attire for a combat situation, and most likely have at least a couple of other badass warrior types alongside you. Grave, though, doesn't need ammo. Ammo is for chumps. Who needs combat attire when you can strut in with a trench coat and a limitless supply of bullets to shred everything in sight? And a squad of other badasses? Bah, he's been resurrected from the dead and is now immortal. What could be more badass than that?

Gungrave G.O.R.E launch trailer

I was lucky enough to play the first stage of Gungrave G.O.R.E at Gamescom earlier this year, and while it was apparent then that this game was going to lean into the gameplay found in the original games from the early 2000s, I wasn't prepared for the nostalgic trip this full release serves up. Its chaotic action comes in ten-minute bursts of adrenaline-fueled stage-based gameplay, making it an ideal game to play when you're short on time, and it brings the bygone era of early score-chasing fun to a new generation of players.

Truth be told, I didn't quite click with Gungrave's story at the beginning. The last time I played anything in the series, the PlayStation 2 was the hottest thing to have sat under your TV, so to say I'm a little rusty is an understatement. Iggymob has provided a short recap video within the menu that gives an overview of Grave's history in Gungrave and Gungrave: Overdose, which helped a bunch, but I still felt a little lost at the beginning of this instalment. By the third area, though, I was up to speed with the events happening around me and the absolute whirlwind of bullets I was thrust into every ten minutes felt purposeful. Grave's return is brought on by the Raven Clan, a new criminal enterprise producing the enhancement drug known as Seed. The drug was initially thought to only be manufactured in the fictional area of Scumland, but we're soon taken across Asia to destroy refineries in other countries, such as Malaysia and Vietnam.

The locations are certainly easy on the eyes, seeing us leave a trail of destruction in our wake as we travel through jungles, cities, factories, an overly large casino, and more. The combat, though, is at the forefront of the Gungrave G.O.R.E experience, and I've personally found it to be a rather therapeutic experience in all honesty. Grave's arsenal comes in three forms: the dual-wielded handguns called Cerberus, the multipurpose coffin Death Hauler, and a Fury mode that amps Grave's damage output. Cerberus is your main and constant damage source, and due to the lack of reloading, the use of them becomes rhythmic in nature, only broken when you need to swing Death Hauler like a melee weapon or use it as a missile launcher, mini-gun, time machine, or various other function. It's that rhythmic approach to the gameplay that I've found to be quite therapeutic in a way and brings back many fond memories of early score-attack games.

While the general approach of Grave's attacks is therapeutic, don't mistake the game for being a breeze because it most certainly isn't, and I learned that lesson very early on. I slung the game on normal difficulty for this review, and by the second area, I had to drop it into easy as I was put on the receiving end of the pain. Once I unlocked more abilities and upgrades, I was better prepared to tackle the next difficulty levels. The general combat isn't the difficult part per see, as it's very much just learning to use your abilities the correct way and at the right moment, but every now and then, you'll come across a stage that has a pretty severe damage-check phase, which sees you slaughtered if you don't clear the enemies quick enough. My moment of realisation came at the end of one stage that required me to clear the enemies on top of a train, so I could drop into a carriage on the other side of them, all before we went through a tunnel and everyone was wiped out. No matter how hard I went at them, I couldn't clear them enough to get past them, or I was knocked off the train and, in turn, had to restart the checkpoint. This is where I saw pretty much the only major issue I have with the game.

While Grave's handguns are the baseline of his damage output, it's Death Hauler that obliterates enemies the best, and as such, uses a resource called Demolition Points that you build up when killing enemies — which stops you from just spamming Grave's best abilities. You can only hold a certain number of Points, and building them up isn't the quickest endeavour, so you have to be selective about when you use Death Hauler. Naturally, the end of stages is usually the best time to unload Death Hauler's abilities, as that's when bosses, waves, and damage checks generally appear. My issue comes from the fact that when you die, instead of reverting to the exact moment you were when you hit a checkpoint, Grave is sent back there, but everything like your Demolition Points is wiped clean, meaning moments like damage checks become much more difficult than they were when you died. It's a pretty infuriating thing to happen. I'd expect the end-of-stage scoring to be affected, of course, but the wiping of Demolition Points can be brutal to overcome.

All of the death and destruction you cause throughout the game is in pursuit of attaining the highest ranking at the end of each stage, which judges you on your performance, such as the amount of health you finish the stage with, how quickly you go through it, and other such statistics. The higher score you achieve, the more DNA currency you earn to spend on upgrades and abilities. Two major factors are your Art Score and Bullet Count. Art Score is accumulated by killing enemies with Grave's Death Hauler abilities and Fury mode, while Bullet Count is increased by continuously hitting enemies and destructible items, resetting after a few seconds of inactivity. At the time of my writing this, the Gungrave G.O.R.E achievements still aren't live, so I don't know if we're going to be tasked with clearing everything with the ultimate 'S' rank, but if that is there, then it's going to be a pretty difficult completion to achieve. Keeping your Bullet Count up is no easy feat, as a couple of knockdowns or being unaware of additional destructible objects will drop it immediately. I think the ten-minute pickup-and-drop style of each stage will make it a little less tedious to achieve but no less difficult.


Gungrave G.O.R.E proves that keeping with a series' core elements, no matter how old, can be a positive weapon to use when bringing an older franchise back to the masses. Its arcade-style gameplay loops offer quick ten-minute bursts of explosive action that are thrilling to play out while challenging to master at higher difficulties or chasing top ranks. Iggymob has created a game that brings nostalgic PS2-era mechanics to the latest generation of consoles and Xbox Game Pass, and you should definitely check it out. Grave remains the badass hero we need in our lives.
8 / 10
* Tom spent around 15 hours unleashing a storm of bullets on his enemies. A review copy was provided by the publisher and was played on an Xbox Series X.
Tom West
Written by Tom West
Tom has been playing video games since he was old enough to hold a controller, experimenting with systems like the Nintendo 64 and Playstation until he eventually fell in love with the Xbox 360. With a passion for the platform, he decided to make a career out of it, and now happily spends his days writing about that which he loves. If he’s not achievement hunting, you’ll likely find him somewhere in The Elder Scrolls Online.
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