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GunGrave: Overdose

Kick their ass.

Everyone knows what that phrase means upon hearing it. Without hesitation, you know what they want you to do. This short phrase sums up GunGrave: Overdose. Thereís not much more to the game than run towards a waypoint and blow the *beep* out of everyone who gets in your way. When you get to that waypoint, odds are overwhelming that thereíll be more guys waiting there to ambush you, and youíll again have to kick their asses. Thatís the basic idea behind pretty much every game that you play these days, itís just plot, gameplay and character development are mixed with that idea in order to get you hooked and keep you playing.

The original GunGrave didnít have much for plot, or development, or story. For the most part, it didnít even have a lot of gameplay; it was easily beaten by yours truly in less than 4 hours, and once it was done, I shelved it and never touched the game again. Hell, I never even gave the game a proper review. Once GunGrave was done, it was done. Interestingly though, I was stoked about a sequel to the game. GunGrave had a lot of good things going for it, like a character that just exuded badassness (come on, you know an undead guy with a coffin filled with ammo gets you hot) and a mafia storyline that could have been awesome if it was understandable. So I was obviously pretty interested to see if the developers could get the job done right the second time around, this time with a new publisher to help guide them along. The results are mixed, but I do think that this budget-priced action romp is still a worthy purchase.

The first thing I noticed upon startup of the game is that Grave, our undead hero I previously mentioned, is no longer as dark and mysterious as he was in the first game. In fact, Iíd say upon shedding some of his darkness that he shed some of his coolness. Grave has been in hibernation for the last six years or so, and heís finally been awakened to bust some skulls and kick some ass. Seems like the drug Seed has once again taken hold on the citizens of his fair land, and heís pissed off about it. A young girl and boy have the tools to track Seed and they revive Grave so they have the means to stop it, and like in his previous romp, Grave fires first and asks questions later.

Overdose is a straight-up shooting game. Donít think that this is one of those sissified Final Fantasy adventures that features some dude thatís going to fall in love. This is beginning of level to end of level shooting, non-stop like the games of yesteryear. Between levels, youíll be shown cutscenes and told about missions and things, but the truth is, they all lead to the same thing: go in, and kill everyone. As you are probably imagining, fan of video games thatís reading my review, closely paying attention deciding whether or not to buy as a fifteen dollar video game, this can grow repetitive, especially if youíve played the first game, since itís the exact same thing.

So, if you played the first game and hated it, odds are overwhelming that you wonít like this one too much. Letís get that out of the way first and foremost. The sequel does however add in the addition of two playable characters, each with different fighting styles. It appears that while Grave was under, two more undead killing machines emerged by the names of Juji and ñget this- Rocketbilly Redcadillac. Juji kicks ass with a gunblade that would make little Squall of FFVIII quiver and shake because of its awesomeness and Rocketbilly fights with a guitar. Rocketbilly is not at all absurd, and I wish you to stop thinking that. Each of these characters offer some diversity to the game that was much missed in the first encounter and also actual replay value.

The three go off and fight the spread of Seed wherever theyíre told to go by youngsters Mika and Spike, who use a random tool that Spike designed to track Seed. They operate out of an armored truck, which they use to fix Grave up when he needs it. Basically, youíre told where youíre going, put there, and then you fight your way through repetitive swarms of enemies until you get to the end. Once you get there, thereís usually a boss battle that requires memorization of his technique and then blasting him. After that, you head back to the truck and get the next mission. Thereís not much more than that.

That doesnít necessarily make for a bad game, but it left quite a bit to be desired. Thereís still so much untapped potential in this title, but it seems like the developers just canít seem to figure out how to get all of it out in one game. The additional two characters really add a lot to the game because of their diverse fighting styles (which still roughly equates to mashing the same button over and over again as fast as you can), but they still end up feeling repetitive, even with the inclusion of additional ìdemolition shots,î which allow your character to unleash a devastating attack on enemies just when the time is right (which usually is a large battle). Overdose feels a lot less repetitive than the original game, but it still needs some more diversity outside of main characters. Youíll fight the same goons for a large portion of the game. Overdose is a game that vastly improves on many of the flaws of the original, but unfortunately still has a few kinks of itís own to work on.

One of the largest problems with GunGrave was the graphics engine: it was simply too much for the PS2 to handle, and intense gunfights were slowed down to an extreme level that made Max Payneís bullet-time seem fast. In order to rectify this problem, Red Entertainment made some concessions, and the result is a game that plays much faster with no noticeable slowdown. Unfortunately, that meant making quite a few sacrifices in environments. While they werenít very much to look at in the first game, theyíre pretty blocky and grainy now. But, these are concessions that Iím willing to make in order to have a much more playable game. The cutscenes in the game are however nicely done, each in an anime style that really suits the game. Included with my press copy of this game was a four episode anime surrounding the GunGrave universe that was pretty entertaining, though Iím probably not the best anime critic.

As for the audio, this has also been improved. The original game featured Japanese voice-overs, which wasnít bad, but the new English voice-overs for Overdose are helpful in figuring out what the hell is going on with the storyline. Cam Clarke, possibly one of the best voice actors, or at least most recognized, stars in this game as Juji (youíll remember him as Liquid Snake, but heís also been heard in Doom 3 and Metal of Honor). Interestingly, Renee Raudman is also featured, who was another star of Metal Gear Solid. These arenít the only Metal Gear Solid voice artists either. This either shows that A) Red Entertainment loved Metal Gear Solid or, most likely, B) they hired out great talent for the voices. The music isnít really too important, but most of the time drown out by all the gunfire.

GunGrave: Overdose has a lot of good things going for it, but itís still getting tripped up. But at fifteen dollars, thereís really no reason not to purchase this game even with its current problems. It could have been so much more, but even still it remains better than a lot of games that come out and cost more. I just hope that they can generate enough of a profit with this one to come out with a third GunGrave game. I think with one more chance, theyíll point the series into the direction it can (and should) most certainly go.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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