I’ve played a lot of bad VR games for Ian’s VR Corner over the past year but Gungrave VR has to be up there with the worst of the worst. Put simply it’s an absolute mess that fails to be immersive in any way.
The Zone of Enders 2 remaster proved that it’s entirely possible for old-school gameplay to make the leap to VR but, as you’ll see in this week’s episode of Ian’s VR Corner, some things are best left buried…
Gungrave VR follows on from events in Gungrave: Overdose, a third-person shooter and sequel to the original Gungrave that launched on PS2 in 2004. In terms of presentation and production though, it’s like that 14 year gap between these games never existed at all – everything about the Gungrave VR feels archaic.
Now, if it was just the gameplay that was outdated, I think I’d be able to live with it. Gungrave is blatantly going to appeal the most to those who played the original games so pandering to their nostalgia with familiarly frantic shootouts seems wise. However, everything about the game seems to have been put together with the minimum amount of effort and I can’t quite work out why the developers chose to go the VR route at all. It does literally nothing with the tech to warrant its use and my list of complaints is endless.
The worst offence of all though that immersion is non-existent. Basic, ugly and often downright grotesque graphics will tear you out of the experience time and time again. Enemies will regularly appear or disappear in the blink of an eye, which is always a jarring experience that completely breaks what little believability there is.
There are a couple of points in the video above where bosses just appear mid battle with no warning and it’s so abrupt you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’d done a hard cut in the video edit. There is no flow to the gameplay, no satisfying build up to events and this just leads to confusion.
VR comfort settings are also non-existent in Gungrave and during the third-person sections the camera is set to blink turn only. This plays havoc with the already clumsy controls as you move Grave with the DualShock but aim with your gaze. This means if you change the camera angle mid-battle to get a better look at your target, your reticle will also change position, snapping to another part of the screen an inch or so away from where you were aiming before. So, you’re left with two choices – either twist your own neck off by constantly hitting your target from a weird angle or readjust the camera angle but then risk taking damage as you reacquaint yourself with your position in the game world.
If you think that would make for an uncomfortable VR experience though, you’ve not seen the first-person sections in action. There’s one level on a train where you’re locked to the spot in a glorified light-gun section that’s mind numbingly tedious but the real offender is a flight section where enemies spawn in directly above your head. The controls here are abysmal and often the only way to shoot the targets is to look directly upwards, something that leads to extended periods of neck strain.
My jaw was on the floor for all the wrong reasons whilst I played through the first hour or so of Gungrave VR. The whole experience is recorded in the video above and while I give the game the benefit of the doubt at the start, the borderline unplayability of some of the sections soon sees me losing my temper. As a flat game, Gungrave VR would have been a mess by today’s standards, but as a VR title it’s nothing short of a travesty and it’s one that should be avoided at all costs.
If you enjoyed this episode of Ian’s VR Corner, you can catch up with my previous adventures over on YouTube in our VR playlist, where I get silly with Kona VR, Salary Man Escape, The Exorcist: Legion VR, Killing Floor: Incursion, The Persistence, Detached, Pixel Ripped 1989, Rec Royale, Arizona Sunshine, Transference, Zone of The Enders 2, Downward Spiral: Horus Station, Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Evasion, Free-roam Zombie Survival, Home Sweet Home, Paper Dolls, Legends Of Catalonia: The Land Of Barcelona, Beat Saber and Arca’s Path VR.