Developer / Publisher – Free Lives / Devolver Digital
Price – US $19.99 / EU €19.99 / UK £14.99
Release Date – July 10th, 2017
Input – Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Standing, Room-scale
Store – Steam
Reviewed on – HTC Vive
I don’t think I’ve ever felt this badass before. Not because I did anything cool in real life (obviously), but because I’ve been playing a lot of “Gorn” lately. A gladiator pit simulator that allows you to live out your most violent and disturbing fantasies. You’re placed into a colosseum with just your two fists, facing off against a similar opponent. As the game progresses, you unlock many different weapons to bash your opponents with and although this sounds generic, the game is anything but.
Everything about Gorn’s combat was intentionally designed to yield the most brutal and gory deaths imaginable. This includes innovative gore physics and graphic design which contribute to so much to the game, you’ll wish every action game had similar mechanics. Ragdoll and cutting physics work perfectly, allowing you to knock around enemies, dismember them at almost any point on their body, or even tear them limb-from-limb with your bare hands. The damage done to their bodies feels extremely crunchy and accurate. They even have dynamically removable teeth, eyes, skeletons, and hearts. This grants you an unprecedented amount of freedom to slaughter enemies however you want. You can knock an enemy to the ground, beat his face into a bloody pulp, and watch all his teeth fly out or smash a mace or flail into his face and see his eyeballs pop out, dangling there. If you can think of a way you want to kill your opponent, you can probably do it!
With this brutal freedom comes even more brutal physical activity: Gorn is one of the biggest workouts in VR I’ve experienced. My arms get sore, I need to stretch, and in nearly every play session I’ll take off the headset utterly drenched in sweat. If you like physically active games or are trying to exercise more, than this is for you. The unique locomotion system uses physical effort, requiring you move your controllers up and back as if you’re climbing. The action is so immersive, that you barely even feel how much of a workout you’re getting. You should also be warned, however, this game has more of a risk for damage or injury than any game I’ve played. I’ve repeatedly almost smashed things in my room, and came far too close to destroying my controller. Of course, mercilessly drowning yourself in the blood of your enemies is serious business and calling it an adrenaline rush would be an understatement.
Despite the god-tier brutality you’re granted, you still die in only two hits. You feel incredibly badass, but still face a huge challenge. This contradiction gives the game an excellent difficulty, which truly depends on the player’s skill, and keeps the game feeling fun and exciting, even after many hours of play.
After six hours of playtime, there’s still a lot calling me back to it as Gorn successfully keeps itself fresh with randomized enemies and weapons every time you enter the arena. I very rarely, if ever, get bored playing this game, even though the overall gameplay in each round is mostly the same. To mix up opponents, boss battles are also here which are extremely cool and fun to fight. The problem with these “Champion Fights” is that although badass, most aren’t that hard. Some are a great challenge, but most are essentially enemies with extra armor, and the first champion actually felt easier than most enemies. However, they’re all still plenty of fun to fight and only add to the game as a whole. Sweetening the deal further is an endless mode that’s included, only marginally different from the base game but still relentless enough to be a fun and fresh addition.
Gorn turns you into an absolute psychopath in the most enjoyable and refreshing way possible. It helps you vent anger better than anything I’ve ever experienced. Think Mortal Kombat VR. I’ve caught myself authentically screaming while smashing a mace into an enemy’s chest and panting as I gaze around the arena, which is completely painted in blood, loose body parts, and splayed internal organs. Completely desensitizing you to such horrific violence, you personally will feel like a murderous warrior until you take off the headset. This is intimidating at first, but soon feels visceral and incredibly immersive.
The visuals and art style only add to the game. While not holding the same visual standards as most games with superior graphics, the game succeeds at holding high fidelity for a cartoon environment and is rendered and portrayed well enough to feel serious. Likely thanks to its graphical style, Gorn generally runs smoothly at a high frame rate. There are exceptions, when it will dip to temporarily unplayable levels, but these only ever happen when you stretch something out until it causes a physics glitch, which is a forgivable reason for a physics-based game to have second-long frame rate drops.
Gorn is a perfect classic action fighter put into VR, jazzed up with some of the best gore mechanics I’ve ever experienced. It makes the player feel like a true badass, giving them a workout and rarely boring them. It deserves more content, but what’s here is still worth getting excited over. It has yet to disappoint me, and has secured its place as one of my top five favorite VR games. Although the base game is pretty bare-bones, it’s presented in a different way every time, which is always exciting and only slightly repetitive. For regular VR gamers and pro-violent videogame activists alike, Gorn is an absolute must-buy!
What would I pay for it? I would easily pay $25. If they added more content (which they plan on doing in the future, seeing as this is an early access title), Gorn could be worth as much as double its current listing of $20.