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Gungrave Overdose
game: Gungrave Overdose
three star
posted by: Matt James
publisher: Mastiff
developer: Red Entertainment, Ikusabune Co., Ltd.
ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 12:00 AM Sun Oct 24th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Sun Oct 24th, 2004

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Gungrave Overdose is madness. It is intense, chaotic, nearly nauseating, madness. I am talking about a game that begins with a seizure warning. Yeah, that's right; this game causes medical problems. And that is just the good parts.

The game begins with an interesting but scant story. I have never played the first game so I only had a vague idea of what was going on. Luckily the anime series has just been released on DVD and I was able to watch the first four episodes (not a bad little series if you're interested). It seems out hero Brandon (Beyond The) Grave was once a member of the mafia until he was killed for a change of heart. Then he was brought back to life to fight the mafia and their new designer drug, Seed. Unfortunately, for the characters not the fans, Grave's work wasn't finished at the end of the last game. Now he has been brought back from the grave, again, to take out a new mafia threat, bent on afflicting the world with an addiction to Seed. Oh and one last problem: Seed turns its users into super strong, zombie, freaks, with cool glowy red eyes.

Just like real life, the best way to solve all of these problems is to shoot them. Shoot them with lots and lots and lots of bullets (and the occasional rocket blast). That kinda sums up the game. You can hit things with your coffin, an odd device you carry around on your back that is full of guns and ammo. But for the most part you are gonna spend your time running and gunning. A person can try and eek some strategy out of the gameplay but it works just as well, in most circumstances, to just shoot your gun as fast as you can. It is hilarious to tap the trigger button as fast as you can and watch Grave spaz his way through a melange of firing poses. This will be a nice change for some gamers. There is something to be said for furious button mashing fun and a complete lack of the cerebral. On the other hand I think the majority of gamers will be disappointed with Gungrave Overdose's lack of depth.

Gungrave Overdose doesn't do anything particularly well. The lock on feature left me constantly frustrated and I often found it was easier to just mash the trigger button faster and let the gods guide the bullets. You rack up Art points but neither the game nor the manual are all that clear on how or why (the manual is purposefully vague). Apparently, the cooler the shots you make the more Art points you get and once you get so many you do a really cool shot. So yeah, it really isn't that neat or important.

You also earn Beat points. You receive them by completing combo attacks. The more shots you land without missing a beat, the higher your Beat points rise. They tally up and allow Grave to do Demolition shots. There are a variety of Demolition shots that you can unlock. The first one you have is a rocket launcher type attack. Then you unlock an attack that covers all your surroundings. The third style of Demolition attack is a bullet time effect. After that you continue to unlock variations on these three attacks. As the game goes on you learn to rely on your Demolition attacks.

The game also employs a Haloesque shield system. You start with full health and a full shield. As you are attacked your shield takes all the damage until it is gone and then damage comes out of your health. The trick is your shield regenerates but your health does not. In fact, as far as I have found, there is no way to recover your health, short of completing a level or dying and starting anew. This would make for some strategy, but Gungrave is so frantic that there are rarely occasions for you to hang back long enough to regenerate the shield and there is very little cover for you to hide behind.

Part of the reason there is so little cover is because just about everything in the game can be destroyed. This is cool because it works both ways. If your enemy is taking cover behind something, chances are you can blow it up. I like blowing things up, so this makes me happy. You can blow up cars, gas tanks, and even killer slot machines. So, while this doesn't offer much of a defensive strategy, it does offer some offensive strategy.

The game's soundtrack isn't bad at all but it tends to disappear. Even when it is there it is overwhelmed by the sound effects. Gungrave has a nice gunshot sound effect and trust me you get to hear it plenty. I did find myself constantly turning the volume down because after a while it just became too much.

One of the biggest problems is in the story telling. The story itself is decent and the opening cinematic is pretty cool but after that you are treated almost exclusively to talking head storytelling. It is lame to watch a static shot shake on the screen instead of real animation. Especially since the animated scenes are kinda funky and different. I would have liked to have seen more of them.

Earlier I said that Gungrave Overdose doesn't really do anything well. On the other hand it doesn't really do anything horribly either. It walks a middle road and that is why ultimately it comes down to whether or not it is worth the reduced $14.99 price tag. It is a very simple style of gameplay that gets tedious but is also easy to come back to, it doesn't take a huge investment. The game also goes by pretty quickly. A dedicated person will easily go through the entire game in a single night. There are lots to unlock though. New characters and new moves will give you reasons to play through again and create yourself a new experience. On the other hand there is very little variation of gameplay through out the entire 12 stages. If I sound a little wishy washy that is because I am. I did enjoy playing through the game on some level but in the end I think I would be disappointed paying for the game, even at the $14.99 level.