Out of the many, gimmicky one-trick-ponies that have stumbled into PSVR’s library, GORN feels like one of the most memorable. Mostly because it’s kind of hard to remove the image of you literally ripping the arm off of an opponent and flinging it at his comrade. Combined with a goofy, self-aware tone and crazy physics, GORN can really make for a fun night to either let your frustration out on a couple of knuckleheads, or alternatively, get a good laugh in for an hour or two. Unfortunately, some of the design choices and technical issues do get in the way of the carnage and an overall lack of depth can wear down the novelty.
I’ve been interested to check out GORN for a while as it’s become quite a popular game on PC VR for a couple of years now. While GORN mostly delivers on the promise of providing a bloodbath of fun, it comes off as a little too late as the whole gimmick feels quite dated now in 2020. PSVR, and indeed VR in general, has come a long way in the last year or so.
My Chemical Bromance
GORN is very simple in its premise, which actually works in its favour as it makes the whole experience accessible and easy to grasp. Players are thrown into a colliseum and pitted against various gladiators (which are really just barbarians on steroids) as they pick up their weapons and lay havoc against their opponents.
The impressive and hilariously Goat Simulator-style physics system allows players to grab enemies, pull or break off certain limbs and throw them around like the ragdolls they are. The more sadistic players can even rip the legs off of the poor chaps and make them crawl around in agony. Eyes burst out of heads and legs fly off into the horizon as you smash, bash, throw, swing, stab and act out any other verb that leaves your victims in a bloody pulp.
This is all backed up by a silly, cel-shaded-like art style that gives an overall madness to the whole experience, creating some truly laugh out loud moments. The simple presentation holds up well enough given it’s suited to VR and some of the cartoony facial animations really help sell all of that. I did find some blurriness, especially with enemies in the distance but it isn’t really an issue once you’re up in/breaking their faces.
Simple is good
The game itself has a number of ‘levels’ accompanied by boss fights. Each level provides you with a specific weapon with which to destroy your enemies. The game isn’t always as dumb as it seems and there are times when enemies can overwhelm you if you’re not too careful. Overall there is some variety in the main mode but the tasks you’re given don’t change too much and the bosses themselves aren’t too outlandish compared to the rest of the fodder. The game does offer an impressive number of weapons though, allowing you to switch up the gameplay inside battles to a degree.
GORN also offers an additional Endless Mode allowing you to customize different presets and settings (such as making your enemies tiny with large heads) to your preference. In fact, it’s in this mode where you can really experiment and get the most fun out of the game. It’s a shame there’s no competitive multiplayer with other VR players online as I feel it would have been a great opportunity to just lay into each other and laugh while we do it.
My finest work of art
The only other issues I have with GORN are the control scheme and some of the design choices in relation to traversal and setup. At its heart, GORN is designed to be played standing. This is mostly due to the fact that you’ll be bending down a lot to pick up weapons from the ground. Therefore, sitting too close to the floor is going to make your tools of destruction unreachable. The game also has a matrix that appears whenever your hands or body fall out of the play zone. Most VR games have this in place and it does provide a good bearing on your play space, but it seems to pop up constantly in GORN to the point where I feel like I’m in a small virtual box.
Then there is the movement system. For some bizarre reason unbeknownst to me, you can’t move forward in GORN like you can in traditional games. Instead of pressing a stick or pushing a button to move forward you’re literally grabbing the screen and pulling it towards you. It reminded me of playing an RTS or strategy game, which feels unintuitive and a bit jarring. Of course this was in place as a motion sickness prevention method, but not having an option to toggle on traditional movement in 2020 is disappointing. This in combination with using the face buttons on the Move controller for turning is just clumsy, and half the time I was fumbling more than my already thick-headed adversaries were. Overall though, the tracking system itself with my hands and weapons was really solid and I had no issues navigating my fist to my opponent’s jaw.
GORN can definitely be a fun night in where you can grab a beer, kick back and lay carnage with a big grin on your face. There are enough weapons available and a plethora of settings and presets in the Endless Mode to keep you distracted for a while. GORN is not trying to be more than what it is and I appreciate that. I think it’s also an easier game to jump into compared to some of the more involved VR experiences out there. However, offering more options for movement, controls, modes and customization would have made that $24.95 AUD asking price slightly more tantalizing. Brutal fisticuffs with your mates would have been even sweeter, but I guess we all need to practice social distancing, even in VR.
Reviewed on PSVR using a PlayStation 4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher