Developer / Publisher – Free Lives / Devolver Digital
Price – US $19.99 / CA $26.99 / EU €19.99 / UK £15.99 / AU $29.95
Release date – July 18th, 2019(PC), May 19, 2020(PSVR)
Control Method – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Digital only – Yes
Reviewed on – PSVR(PS4 Pro) / Oculus Rift
Store Links –PlayStation / Steam / Oculus
It’s time to get your brawl on in 1 of VR’s most lauded titles, GORN. Originally released in Early Access all the way back in July of 2017 for PCVR headsets, GORN puts you in the role of a gladiator in this physics heavy brawler that has you bashing in the skulls of your foes, dismembering them, impaling them or just straight up tearing them apart with your bare hands all to appease the onlookers watching your efforts. With the release of the PlayStation VR version of this title, I thought it would a be great time to see how this title holds up in 2020.
On the PC side you have a few movement options from full locomotion, click or smooth turning, teleportation and a really odd movement scheme similar to what we saw in Creed that has you twirling and moving your arms to pull yourself around which I found to be incredibly unintuitive and cumbersome, requiring the hands you need to defend and attack to instead move, making for an experience mired in awkwardness, especially when facing foes on multiple fronts. Regardless of your preference or headset, it’s all about the action and GORN, despite its almost 3-year age still delivers some solid wave slashing with some hilarious physics. The campaign, if you want to call it that, is a series of rooms with ever increasing challenge. You’ll start off in a small arena where your king hypes you up with a quick speech before asking you to raise your hand in salute to start a battle. Once a battle begins you could be facing a singular foe though more often then not, you’ll be facing many enemies at once with more coming as you dispatch each gladiator. Each wave gives you a “new” weapon to start off with though sometimes you can carry a weapon forward between each wave, possibly giving you a huge advantage in the next battle. A couple of the arenas may have spikes on the walls or in pits with the goal always being the same, kill everyone in front of you though bonus objectives are available like pulling out 10 hearts with a sword or killing opponents by launching them into spikes, adding to the challenge and mayhem. You can only take 1 hit and if you do get hit, you’ll start to get dizzy before passing out. To prevent that failure, if you kill a gladiator before you pass out, that removes your dizziness and lets you carry on the carnage. You can’t play the next floors challenges until you conquer 2 of the current floors rooms you are on though you can revisit any stage you have already unlocked with the final stage requiring you to beat all the previous levels first.
On the PlayStation VR headset, that same awkward pull yourself around the world movement system that I did not enjoy using on my Rift is the only control scheme available. It took some practice to get used to those controls though they never felt natural and I longed for a control scheme similar to what we have seen in Saints and Sinners or Killing Floor. Don’t get me wrong, it works alright but every time I died in the game, it felt like the controls were the reason, not my lack of ability. What PSVR has that the PC doesn’t is a visible grid that shows up indicating the limits of the camera tracking your headset and controllers which is welcome in theory as losing tracking is never a fun thing, but in practice, given the relatively small area that is tracked by the PS camera, that grid is almost always present as you swing at and grab foes as well as nabbing weapons off of the ground making it a constant, immersion ruining ,reminder that you are in a game. Beyond the control scheme, GORN’s gameplay options are identical to the PC version so for those who might be familiar with all the games content, everything is here in the PSVR version, including all the whacky custom brawl options I’ll talk about in a minute.
GORN is stylized to look very cartoonish in just about every aspect of the game, including the over the top violence. The gladiators you face off against are massive and muscular with huge upper bodies wearing very little clothing to being fully armored opponents armed with anything from just their fists, clubs, maces, pole-arms, nunchuks and a host more weapons designed to cause you pain. Many weapons behave like rubbery props as they waggle back and forth in your hands but rest assured, they are as deadly as they are supposed to be. Ragdoll physics are in constant play with every movement made by your foes looking awkward and uncomfortable, but so comedic it’s as if they were all marionettes being directed your way. The star of the show is those physics and the destruction that accompanies them as you unleash all hell upon everyone around you. Every successful blow will place some kind of damage on the enemy from it just being some bruising to some more severe damage like exposed bones or even going further then that with you being able to sever just about anything you can get your hands on. Blood sprays are rampant and the overall carnage after a long battle is legendary in proportions. Boss battles offer their own insanity and with each stage having some kind of final encounter be it an armored foe named Achilles with NO WEAKNESSES to a man armed only with rabbid badgers and a few more surprises during the final 3 stages. You fight in 3 arenas and always looking at you from overhead is that ruler as well as a crowd comprised of some floating heads that snicker and laugh at all the violence unfolding in front of them. In the options menu are some wonderful modifiers that let you mess around with almost every aspect of the game from the size of your foes, yourself, gravity and a host more visual options that add some very comedic flare.
Accompanying all that bloody craziness is some on point audio with every impact of your weapons eliciting all the juicy noises you would expect. Impacting on metal or wood armor yields sound effects that match those collisions perfectly and when combined with the simple AI and ragdoll physics make for some large-scale battles that sound great. That ruler guy only gets more furious with your efforts the further you make it through the game, and, his distaste for you is clear and even the other gladiators you face will spout out nonsensical lines in a foreign language that just add to the overall sense of quality this game has. 3D audio is present though depending on the noises made by your foes, it can be tricky to hear them coming so it’s best to always be looking around lest you get assaulted by a sneak attack.
GORN surprised me with just how much fun I had with it. I’m not always one to just relish in non-sensical action with next to no-point save for just getting to the next fight but I have to admit that I was always down to play “just one more battle” and ended up crushing the campaign in around 2 hours or so. The absolute depravity in here is unparalleled whether your slicing of heads, launching enemies on to spiked walls, literally tearing your foes limbs off of their bodies and with so many other unique ways to kill everything it’s morbidly fun to experiment. Still for those looking for any kind of depth, outside of the multitude of ways to kill those peons, there isn’t too much here. The story is minimal, each stage feels largely the same save for when you are forced to use specific weapons and once you beat the campaign there is no real reason to return save for just to enjoy the carnage. Endless mode is available to further test your skills with weapons being unlocked and available for use in your own custom matches after you have conquered the level that makes you use them. The modifiers I mentioned also add to the replay value and increase the hilarity as you make your foes teeny tiny, give them giant heads, mess with gravity with plenty more options to choose from making this a solid party-game as well. Fun fact, I haven’t smashed so much stuff around me in the real world in a long time, knocking over containers and punching my desk as I got a little too into the action and while my hands might not be to happy with me, my brain is so satisfied with this level of brutality.
GORN is ultimately dumb fun that will appeal to your more childish and destructive side. It’s stupid, hilarious and so over the top with the violence that it’s kind of a treat as we really don’t see too many titles with the balls to go this far when it comes to this amount of gruesome. For those just in the mood to bash some skulls without much care in the world, GORN is exactly that and fans of VR brawlers should pick this up as it’s nothing short of a bloody good time.
What would I pay? The $20 US asking price on this is perfectly fine. Everything works as it should and the presentation factor in this one is high, if not quite a bit silly. This won’t be for everyone but those are looking to let off a little steam and have a good time doing it, GORN is damned fun.