Gorn Review – Violently Good Fun

Let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves: humans are violent creatures with strong impulses toward physically damaging each other or anything within range. It’s one of the biggest reasons we’ve survived as long as we have and while we’ve certainly learned to control those violent tendencies they still lurk just under the surface. It’s not a surprise that VR games that let you unleash some rage in a healthy way have taken off. That’s where Gorn comes in, a brilliantly over-the-top brawler that lets you vent a little anger by ripping off heads.

Basically Gorn is a straight-up arena fighter where you get dumped into a small area and have to kill the bad guys who want to show you this fancy new death thing they’ve discovered. Having spent a while in Early Access it has emerged onto VR platforms and will likely leave you wishing you had bought home insurance. There’s very little story except that there’s a crowd of floating heads demanding blood who you must salute at the start of each fight. If its gore they want, it’s Gorn they shall get.

Platforms: Ocolus Rift
Reviewed On: Oculus Rift S
Developer: Free Lives
Publisher: Devolver Digital

With the headset strapped on Gorn gives you a good amount of comfort options. The default movement style involves grabbing the air and dragging yourself along which I fully admit I just could not get the hang of. Nah, standard movement was my preferred choice, though the inclusion of teleportation would have been nice for players that struggle with moving around using the sticks. There’s also smooth turn or snap turn.

Once you step onto the sandy floor of the arena it’s time to get killing. Your enemies come staggering toward you while flailing their appendages and weapons like they’re being powered by some sort of internal windmill. They’re dangerous largely by accident or sheer numbers. But that’s why they’re fun to fight, and the game revels in the carnage by happily letting you lop off limbs, decapitate goons and otherwise rip enemies to shreds while blood soaks the sand. Despite the issues with repetition, which we’ll discuss later, watching someone’s eyeballs pop out of their skull never did get old. Hell, you can even nudge the eyeballs around on the floor, though to my disappointment you can’t pick them up and fling them around.

Even the weapons you use behave according to their own barmy physics system. Pick up an axe and it wibbles and wobbles like it’s made of jelly. Grab something like a two-handed spear and the whole thing swings around, the wooden handle completely defying the laws of physics as we know them. I feel like this was a decision made to combat the fact that we don’t have true feedback in VR, meaning hitting something with a big hammer doesn’t feel right because while we can visually see the hammer impacting something we can’t really feel it. By having weapons bend and flex it helps mitigate that disconnect.

Some of the weapons you get access to are gloriously good fun, like the extendable Wolverine-style claws that can slice through limbs like butter and are also incredibly handy for just straight-up stabbing people in the head. There are axes, swords, shields, chunky hammers, bows and even wrist-mounted mini-crossbows. It all feels superb to use, with the flail being especially fun as you whirl it around your head.

The bad guys get some upgrades too, often sporting chunky armour that takes some work to get through. Or you could just slice off the single leg they left stupidly unprotected. My personal favourite tactic is to punch the helmet off, punch ’em till their dazed then pick them up and use them as a giant metal-covered meat club to bludgeon everyone else to death. It’s these small pleasures in life that keep me going.

Some missions also let the other gladiators attack each other which is where their strange physics really kick into gear. Arms whirl, limbless torsos still try to join the fray and there are weapons everywhere for you to pick up and enjoy.

It’s fantastically funny cartoon violence and a hell of a workout when you get going. The strong visual style and the fact that enemies don’t react even when you literally yank their arms off both contribute toward keeping the action feeling light and breezy, rather than dark and sadistic. Even when missing limbs or pouring blood enemies will try to make their way over to you, a bit like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. They just don’t give up in their quest to break your bones. Poor dudes.

The campaign is basically a series of fights against waves of enemies but does break the action up a little by capping off each series of battles with a boss. It’s here that Gorn gets to have even more fun with itself, pitting players against such horrifying foes as a dude who literally throws angry badgers at you, and another that rides atop a huge crab. Even Achilles makes an appearance, complete with obvious weakness.

There’s the option to create a custom fight if you fancy, and there are plenty of options for doing that. You can make enemies bigger, increase their head sizes, make yourself tiny, mess with gravity or just turn the amount of blood up to fecking excessive levels.

Right, so Gorn is bloody good fun and also just very, very bloody. It’s big flaw is that after you play about five minutes of Gorn you’ve seen most of what it has to offer you outside of a few weapons and bosses. Like a lot of current VR games Gorn does feel more like a tech demo than a fully-fledged video game.

But with that said it’s a little difficult to care about the lack of content when the action is flowing and the adrenaline is…er, adrenalining. Gorn is the kind of game where you can easily lose track of where you are in the room and end up on top of the couch or whacking your knuckles off the table. Or accidentally annihilating your little niece. *cough*

There’s even local four-player co-op if you happen to have enough headsets lying around, and a house the size of a warehouse. It does feel a bit tacked on and some proper online multiplayer would have been a blast, but the inclusion is welcome nonetheless.

Gorn is a prime example of these early days of VR where everything feels more like someone’s experiment rather than a big, chunky game to sink your virtual teeth into. But it’d be a straight lie to say that Gorn isn’t incredibly good fun and a fantastic game to show VR noobs, provided you remove all the valuable breakable stuff in the vicinity.

4 out of 5


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