VR is a remarkable piece of kit. Enabling gamers to get immersed in worlds like never before, perhaps even play the game through the eyes of our favourite video game characters. When you think about VR the most natural fit for games is the first-person type. REZ, for example, is even better in VR But in some cases like Moss, for example, the third person can also work just as well.
So when I heard that Gungrave was coming to VR I got a little excited because I love the character of Brandon Heat/Beyond the Grave, and with his dual wielding pistols would be an almost perfect charter to get the VR treatment. Time got get those two dusty Move controllers charged and unleash some bullet hell…
Oh, wait, no. Nope, I shall just put those Move controllers back and get my well worn DualShock 4 pad instead. You see Gungrave VR is a third person hack/slash game played in VR which, as you can imagine sounds as hideous as it is.
So, with that in mind, it’s safe to say that Gungrave in VR is an utter mess. Let me try and explain why. So you put on your VR helmet and in front of you is the hero. You can look all around the arena you as you would in any other VR game. Slapped in front of you is a bright orange crosshair which follows where you look. All the while Mr Gungrave himself stays put. To move your character you as expected use the left thumbstick, this allows you to move around the level like any other 3rd person game. The left thumbstick operates the camera, also just like any other 3rd person shooter. However, due to motion sickness, the developers have opted for a fixed angle rotation policy just like you would find in any other VR game. So to start with you have to move your head to aim, move the left stick to move, and the right stick to move the camera. When you have a screen full of enemies this control method makes the game virtually unplayable. Could you imagine playing Bayonetta or DmC with a fixed degree rotating camera? No. Of course not. They are too fast paced for that. The same applies to Gungrave. It’s too action-packed to have such a gargantuan fuck up of a control method.
The awfulness doesn’t stop there either. The entire game is played with the DualShock 4 pad. That’s right. VR game starring a dude that has two guns is played with the DS4, even during the odd first-person section that sprinkles the main game. This causes it’s own problems though. I started playing the game sitting down, as you generally do with a VR game using the DS4. The trouble is as it’s a 360-degree game, enemies and bullets come from all directions so you’re looking left and right near constantly and getting a stiff neck. This was horribly uncomfortable so I thought I would try standing up, at least then you can sort of turn a bit more. This was even worse because of all the strafIng and movement, you begin to sway and feel dizzy. It’s just awful. This game has no right to be in VR, I don’t know what the developers were thinking.
Onto the game itself. Gungrave VR comes in two editions, the Standard Edition and the exciting-sounding Loaded Coffin edition which features the standalone game and Gungrave U.N. which brings new levels and new perspectives. The majority of the game is played in the over the shoulder mode where you need to take out waves of enemies before moving onto the next area or face the level boss. There are some first person sections where you’re either on rails or standing still defending an objective. These are more fun and more suited to VR although why they are played on the DS4 still is beyond me. Finally, in the U.N edition, there is a 2D side-scrolling mode. Which like the over the over the shoulder mode is entirely needless in VR and adds little to the overall experience
Whatever mode you are playing in the gameplay is frantic and is a good old-fashioned arcade shooter/slasher. Despite the god awful control method, Gungrave can actually be fun at times. I say “at times” because more often than not, you’ll soon find yourself reaching for the power button when you start to feel nauseous or your neck is screaming at you for a rest.
Thankfully, (for all the wrong reasons) should you want to see the game through to the end, it won’t take you long at all with the main game taking little over 2 hours to complete and the U.N. expansion taking no more than half an hour. So you’re not getting a lot of game for the suffering you have to undertake to play it.
What I find so strange is that other games have done the 3rd person VR thing really well. Moss being one if you want 2D side-scrolling fun. Or Astro Bot if you want to have things more 3D, both of these games have been designed with VR in mind and not something that’s just been tacked onto an old PS2 game. I mean one of the stupidest things about this game which sums it up really is that Gungrave VR uses head tracking to shoot, but uses a fixed HUD. That’s means you have to look away from the action to check your health. On a normal TV that’s not a big deal, just a quick glance to the corner but in VR its an entire head movement so you have to break away from targeting. Stupid.
The shameful thing is that had Gungrave just been re-released with a lick of paint for the PS4 I probably would have bought it and enjoyed it as I like these types of games. And you can tell even while craning your neck to see the bad dude behind you, there is some good old-fashioned shooting/slashing gameplay to be had if it wasn’t in VR. But alas in VR it is and you’re left with a game that will either make you feel ill or give you cramp before you get past the first couple of levels. Which is a shame when you know that if this game was more traditional, it would be much better for it.
Gungrave VR is available now on PSVR (reviewed on PS4 Pro)
Developed by: IGGYMOB
Published by: XSEED Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publishers. For our full review policy, please go here.