Thank you XSEED Games for sending us these games to review!
GUNGRAVE was a relatively obscure set of games from the early 2000s that found enough of a hardcore fanbase to warrant a high-quality anime. I enjoyed the anime after determining that we would be getting this game to review, and I'm glad I did - it was great fun. Beyond the Grave, the name given to the playable character, was killed, but science experiments brought him back in a barely living form. He still retains his incredible gunplay skills from when he was alive, and he also remembers enough to know that he has to protect Mika Asagi, the daughter of Grave's former love. Grave is kept from complete death through powerful machinery, and if the other games and anime are to be believed, after a while he needs to go back to 'sleep' and is kept in that state until he's needed next.
GUNGRAVE VR and GUNGRAVE VR U.N are meant to be a form of teaser for the next major GUNGRAVE game, GUNGRAVE G.O.R.E., that is set to release some time this year (2020). It's being developed by the same team, and artistically, this game should be a great starting point for them.
Most VR games utilize a first-person view, since VR naturally lends itself to that perspective quite well. This one instead utilized a third-person view most of the time, with some first-person sections also. This works, but I am still quite sad that motion controls are not an option. While aiming with one's head is nice, it could have been even better by aiming with a gun/controller. Because it's a gamepad-only game, it also makes entering the experience a bit more of a hassle, since you need to switch between controllers to navigate the Oculus or Steam VR interfaces.
The action itself mostly consists of lots of shooting, with a reload-like action where Grave quickly cools down his guns from overheating. It basically vents a portion of the heat buildup, and you may choose to do it multiple times in a row if you want to get rid of all of the heat. Once you do, you can shoot for several seconds before heat buildup prevents firing again. Canonically, the special guns he wields, called Cerberus, never require reloading, so this is the way they seem to get around that. He can also quickly roll in any direction to dodge incoming fire and is also granted a melee attack to help with any baddies trying to rush him. There are a couple of other skills as well, including a burst fire mode and the ability to slow down time.
The base GUNGRAVE VR game is the longer of the two, but it's still rather short. It can be beaten in around two hours and is by far the 'fuller' of the two experiences, as it has action sequences in a city, on a train, in an aircraft, and more. GUNGRAVE VR U.N has a couple of third-person action sequences, but it's mostly side-scrolling sections. It's alright but less interesting and varied than the base game. It can also be beaten in just under an hour. The collection is a bit pricey, but the price is quite reasonable when on sale.
Graphically, it looks really good. That's probably its strongest suit. The voices, sound, and gunfire also work great. The lack of motion controls, again, really hampers how good this experience might have been. I'm not a huge fan of changing viewing direction by moving an analog stick on a gamepad for VR games. It cuts over in forty-five degree increments, which is meant to avoid motion sickness. It doesn't completely succeed. I certainly never had to go throw up, and I was able to play through each game in one sitting each, but my stomach certainly had some bad things to say about it afterwards.
I also noticed some odd bugs in both games. The loading screens lasted a bit longer than I expected, but that's not technically a bug. What is, though, is when the crosshairs in the menu (not in-game) are in the wrong spot and make you cross your eyes to see them as one crosshair. That's more annoying than you would expect. Otherwise, it ran decently enough to avoid being an immediate concern.
Morally, the game is fairly violent. Gunshots are flying everywhere, and enemies have huge robotic enhancements to attack you with. Blowing up incoming missiles is a common tactic needed to avoid damage. The only blood is when you are hit, as some may get on the screen/HUD. You also have a melee attack at your disposal. At the beginning of each level, the phrase 'Kick their *ss' is shown. I did not notice other curse words, but it's really hard to tell sometimes with the frenetic action, and it's notoriously difficult to take notes with a screen strapped to your face. It's pretty clean on sexual content, with the exception that Mika has very form-fitting clothes on.
GUNGRAVE VR and GUNGRAVE VR U.N are decent but not particularly special VR experiences that feel more like traditional games than optimized VR experiences. It's reasonably fun, but also feels like it could have been better. If you are a fan of the earlier games or anime, it's entertaining enough, even if a bit of a disappointment. I hate to do this, as I believe developers have good reasons for pricing things the way they do, but I would say this game is overpriced in its default form, unless you like to spend time replaying levels to improve your score and unlock skins. I'd say it's best to wait for a sale.