I don’t think I’ve ever punched this many walls before.
GORN is a goofy gladiator simulator that places you in an arena versus an onslaught of beefy dudes with swords, maces, flails, and the like. While its aesthetic is cartoonish, your newly acquired taste for virtual blood (paired with the game’s responsive and intuitive controls) will make the game feel incredibly visceral. In between kills, you may have brief moments of lucidity where you remember the floor was not red when you started playing, but your mind will quickly revert to its primal state when you see new enemies entering the arena, perfect targets for your big hammer. Welcome to GORN.
Game Name: GORN
Platform(s): PC (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index)
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): Free Lives
Release Date: July 18, 2019
GORN is an incredibly simple game at its core. You step into an arena, kill the other guys while managing to not get killed yourself, and you win. It’s a concept that’s been done time and time again, but it’s the tight controls, charm, and overall polish that sets GORN apart from other VR combat sandboxes.
Fair warning to anyone wanting to play GORN though, you’re going to punch a lot of stuff. Not just in the game, but also in real life. This game is the reason my Oculus Touch controllers have scuff marks. The gameplay is so much fun that you’ll punch a wall and be okay with it. It’s just that entertaining. Nothing is safe. Make sure to clear your area of lamps, pets, and small children before you start playing GORN. You’ll still probably uppercut your desk or something, though.
Combat in GORN is simple but satisfying. It feels good to wail on mindless goons, especially when the weapons are as responsive as they are in GORN. Melee combat in VR poses a problem that isn’t an issue in standard games. In Skyrim, for example, you’re just pressing a button to make your on-screen character slash at an enemy, but in VR, you’re doing the slashing yourself, and if your arm keeps moving after your in-game weapon hits something, it’s going to cause a serious disconnect. GORN works its way around this problem by making each weapon rubbery, so the handle will always follow your hand while the damage end of the weapon will bend around your foe.
It sounds like it’d completely take you out of the experience, but in practice it makes GORN‘s melee combat feel natural, and your weapon always goes where you want it to go. It also allows for wacky physics interactions. GORN‘s combat is physics-driven, so if you smack an enemy with a mace hard enough, it’ll send him flying across the arena. Some of the game’s different arenas take advantage of this, placing spikes on the walls to catch any enemy unfortunate enough to be sent up there. GORN‘s unique weapon physics give it the most responsive combat system in any VR game I’ve ever played. I can pull off cool moves with ease, and my weapons never get caught on anything. It just works.
Speaking of weapons, GORN boasts an impressive number of armaments, each with its own purpose and playstyle. It starts off simple. You’ll have access to maces, flails, clubs, swords, and shields. As you play more, however, you’ll unlock GORN‘s more interesting weaponry. Spears, bows, rapiers, giant hammers, a metal fist, claws that make you feel like Wolverine, pretty much any type of weapon you can think of is at your disposal. Even the rocks on the ground can be used as blunt instruments. The only limitation is your imagination.
Your enemies will use the same weapons against you, but they’re not too much of a threat. The AI isn’t the brightest, generally only approaching you directly and attacking you with highly-telegraphed attacks. What the enemies lack in strategy, they make up for in numbers. Sure, their attacks are simple, but if five or six are attacking you simultaneously, they become a threat. If you get hit, you’ll start to die, which takes a few seconds, but if you kill an enemy before everything fades to black, though, you’ll be as good as new. It reminds me a lot of Doom in that aggressive play is rewarded, and it makes perfect sense in a game like this. Luckily, to avoid damage you can dodge and even parry, which allows you to riposte in slow motion with ease.
When you’re not on the defensive, you can really mess these guys up. GORN features a full dismemberment system alongside destructible armor and, well, bodies. Swords can slice off arms and legs, which usually won’t kill the enemy, so they’ll just sort of grunt at you on the floor without any limbs. Blunt weaponry can shatter pieces of armor and even cave in heads and chests. Even if an enemy is dead, if you keep whacking them with a mace or hammer, they’ll explode into tiny pieces. You can even tear off limbs and heads with your bare hands, complete with a humorous stretching sound effect. The violence is by no means realistic, but understandably, seeing so much blood and gore can upset some people, so GORN features toggles for blood and even a low violence mode, which turns the enemies into piñatas and replaces blood with confetti. Fun for the whole family.
Options really are the name of the game with GORN. While you have a plethora of choices when it comes to weaponry, you also have a wide range of choices when it comes to locomotion and comfort. The game features a toggleable comfort mode that reduces the field of view when moving, and there is both smooth locomotion and “GORN” locomotion, which involves pulling yourself forward to move throughout the space, sort of like pulling yourself along a rope. Custom mode lets you tinker with just about any setting imaginable, from player size to enemy size to difficulty. If you’d rather not manually adjust settings, there are several fun presets readily available, like “one punch mode” and “giant mode.”
GORN does feature a sort-of campaign, which sees you taking on different champions after battling waves of enemies. Don’t expect a grand narrative here, but there is definitely some structured single-player content for those who prefer a little direction. The champions are interesting enough and the fights are fun, but there is little reason to go back and relive these battles after they’re done. Thankfully, GORN has an endless mode, which is unlocked after the first champion battle, for those who just want to get into the fray as quickly as possible and let loose. Whether you want themed fights, high kill counts, or custom mode shenanigans, you’re sure to find something to enjoy in one of GORN‘s modes.
While GORN may be incredibly violent, it still has a sense of humor. Make no mistake, GORN is not a gritty, brutal gladiator sim. Everything about it is over the top, from the cartoon eyeballs leaving the skulls of your enemies to the shower of coins you receive after being crowned victorious. Enemies with freshly-severed legs will flop about and try to reach you. The enemies speak in a funny, made-up language (there’s a full alphabet and everything, Free Lives even created an EP in the language which you can check out here). The game is super charming, in a bloody kind of way.
There’s even a local multiplayer party mode, which puts one player in the headset and up to four others in control of gladiators using gamepads. The gamepad players can work alongside the VR player to take down waves of enemies, or they can team up against the VR player and work with the AI opponents to slay the person wearing the headset. It’s not the greatest mode, but having it as a bonus is nice.
There aren’t many must-have VR games out there right now, but GORN is without a doubt one of them. It’s pick up and play nature makes it entertaining from the get-go, and with time and practice, you can pull off some really brutal stuff. The gameplay can get repetitive after a while, but working through the champion battles is more than enough to justify the price tag. Everything else is just icing on the cake. You’ll find yourself coming back to GORN time and time again, wanting just one more go in the arena. GORN easily makes its way into the VR hall of fame, standing proudly alongside the greatest experiences VR has to offer.
Review Disclosure Statement: GORN was provided to us by Free Lives for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Gorn is, simply put, one of the best games VR has to offer. The combat is hilariously brutal, and the endless possibilities will keep you coming back for more. I punched my wall and was happy about it. This is a must-have for any VR owner.
- Intuitive and responsive controls
- Wide array of locomotion and comfort settings
- Huge assortment of tweaks in custom mode
- Tons of fun weapons
- Great sense of humor
- Can get repetitive
- Mediocre multiplayer mode