Grave is back with a cooler coffin and ready to raise hell once again. Direct videos included.
Two years ago gamers were introduced to a twin pistol totting assassin named on a mission of revenge. Featuring frenetic third-person, arcade-style shooting action, players barrelled their way through the game's interactive environments, demolishing every one and every thing in their path.
The sequel, Gungrave Overdose features the same type of intense shooting action but on a significantly larger scale; the action is more hectic, the environments are a lot more destructible, and Grave has been provided with additional moves as well as two allies that players can take control of and raise even more hell.
The storyline takes place a few years after that of the original. Mika Asagi, the young girl that Grave watches over returns once again to play the "you used to love my mother now do my bidding" card as she reawakens Grave and sends him out to destroy yet another tight knit mob family. Ok, so she's not that bad, but the Corsiones are - and they've been pretty busy conducting some bizarre biological experiments that could lead to the creation of a new breed of mutants. So with that, Grave's mission becomes abundantly clear.
The gameplay of the original Gungrave was simple. Players ran, shot up everything around them and watched as structures crumbled, enemies died, and objects blew up all around them. Simplicity at its finest, gotta love it. Gungrave Overdose remains faithful to that formula while introducing a few new features that help beef up the run n' gun play mechanics of the game.
Controlling Grave and his new allies is easily accomplished thanks to the game's intuitive controls. While Grave's controls felt a little limited in the original, lacking the convenience of being able to move around while blasting away at the enemy horde, the updated control scheme fixes that, making it easier for players to send Grave rampaging through each level, bringing carnage and destruction with him as he demolishes the enemies he encounters and levels the surrounding environments with heavy amounts of gunfire streaming from the barrels of Cerebros.
Equipped with unlimited ammo, Grave can embark on a shooting spree like no other without having to concern himself with trivial matters like reloading or obtaining more ammo. Other moves in Grave's arsenal also include a simple jumping move as well as the ability to leap in all four directions in slow-motion, in order to dodge enemy fire or plow through a barrage of enemy gunmen by blasting away at them while in mid-leap - a pretty cool move that's highly reminiscent of Jack Slate's manoeuvres in Namco's Dead to Rights.
The game's targeting system is implemented well enough and features both auto targeting for convenience and manual targeting so players can cycle through different targets. If no enemies are locked on to then Grave will enter some type of shooting frenzy mode where he aimlessly fires away, randomly nailing any targets that are within range. A move that's effective in situations where you're surrounded by enemy goons.
In addition to his twin pistols, the coffin strapped to Grave's back is full of heavy armaments and can be used both offensively and defensively in battle. Defensively, players can use Grave's coffin as cover from enemy fire, shielding him from the barrage of bullets headed his way. In keeping with the defensive aspects of the game, there's also a shield meter that extends the punishment your characters can take before their life gauge diminishes. Fortunately the shield meter automatically replenishes itself whenever Grave isn't shooting or getting shot.
And when out on the offensive, players can wield the coffin like a weapon, swinging it around to deflect harmful projectiles, inflict further damage to the environments as well as perform three-hit combos that are quite effective in close range combat, especially against some of the tougher goons that have a tendency to block your shots. However, all things considered, the most significant aspect of Grave's coffin still remains the powerful special weapons concealed within it known as Demolition Shots. Demolition shots are quite powerful and can wipe out hordes of enemies en masse and bring entire structures crashing down with one or two well-placed shots.
While players start off armed with a single type of demolition shot, more will become available as you progress through the game. At the end of each level players will receive a grade based on their overall performance and get rewarded with skull items. Other types of demolition shots will become available, each devastating in their own way.
Overdose offers a well designed scoring system. Players are awarded Artistic Bonus points every time cool-looking attacks are performed to defeat the enemies. Never too busy to strike a pose, Grave and the crew are far from camera shy - by holding the analog stick in different positions while firing away, players can alternate between the different shooting styles that each character possesses. In Grave's case, he can alternate between firing away at multiple targets, to using more focused shots to pump out steady streams of bullets into individual targets.
Beat Counts are also part of the game's scoring system and work similarly to some of the combo chaining systems used in other games. While demolition shots are incredibly useful in getting players out of sticky situations, the reward is two fold; a Jackpot counter is activated and rewards players based on the destruction caused. The greater destruction, the higher your jackpot count. It's a scoring system that's more robust than in many comparable titles.
The game's ten levels are pretty long and at times seem to take forever to clear. For a game that tries to endear itself as an arcade styled action game, the incredibly lengthy levels and undeviating nature of the game happens to be its one significant flaw, and often results in the gameplay becoming quite repetitive. The end level boss encounters are one of the game's few highlights, allowing players to test their skills against monstrous foes, enemy machines, and a final boss that's most annoying.
As mentioned before, Grave is now joined by two new allies - Jyuji Kabane, and Rocketbilly Red Cadillac. Both possess different characteristics but fortunately share the same basic control scheme as Grave. Rocketbilly is wild and sports a red leather outfit and a rock guitar that he uses as his main weapon. Each guitar riff played sends out streams of super sonic notes that ricochet within the environments destroying any enemies or destructible objects they come into contact with, making Billy both a fun and useful character to use in close range and long range battles.
Jyuji Kabane on the other hand is the dark swordsman of the group and matches up a little better with Grave's character. Sporting a generic 'bad-ass' look, Jyuji is armed with guns and twin blades that allow him to make short work of his enemies in close range combat. Rocketbilly and Jyuji can be unlocked later on, adding a modicum of replay value to the game.
Graphically Gungrave OD sports sort of a slick cel-shaded look that's complimented by a variety of highly interactive environments and visual effects. Character designs have also seen some minor improvements with Grave himself sporting a new outfit and a cooler looking coffin than before. His comrades certainly have their own contrasting styles, with Rocketbilly being my personal favourite.
On the downside however, most of the enemy characters are pretty bland in appearance, and while there's plenty of onscreen activity to keep you blasting away almost non-stop, that only served to bring the frame rate crashing down, especially during the more hectic portions of the game. There are jaggies all over the place too.
The sound design is anything but memorable. With the exception of a few decent jazzy selections along with the recycling of themes from the TV show and original game, music really plays a small role in Gungrave Overdose and normally comes in at key points like boss battles and end level sequences. The sound effects are a small step up featuring solid voice acting, sharp sounding explosions, gunfire, as well as the other sounds of destruction heard while the environments are collapsing all around you.
Overall, Gungrave Overdose is a pretty average third person shooting game that offers many improvements on the original formula. Decent visuals, sharp sound effects, and lots of carnage await, but be forewarned - even with the improvements on the original, Overdose still suffers from a few problems that lessen the fun - inconsistent frame rates and occasional camera problems are easy to overlook, but the game's biggest flaw is its - some of the levels are simply just too long, and get a little boring.
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