Take a little bit of Superhot, a little bit of QWOP, mix them together inside a VR helmet, then slather the mixture in enough blood to shut down a black pudding factory, and you end up with GORN.
Free Lives’ ridiculous gladiator simulator is classic VR fodder, letting you experience what it’s like to chop off a bodybuilder’s arms and legs before smacking them across an oversized sandpit with a flail. GORN is well worth considering if you fancy a laugh and a workout at the same time.
A straightforward arena fighter, GORN puts you in the sandals of a neophyte gladiator in a Roman world that’s somehow even more absurd than the actual ancient Rome. You square off against waves of squat homunculi, slicing and battering them with a range of increasingly preposterous weapons.
GORN is stupendously violent. Your musclebound opponents can have their limbs sliced off, their heads crushed and/or removed and their eyeballs gouged out. Even their jawbones can explode out of their faces. Rival combatants can also survive the severing of one or multiple limbs, leaving them biting at your ankles like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
This latter point hints at why GORN’s VR grisliness strangely isn’t nauseating or repulsive – the violence is distinctly cartoonish, making the experience more silly than shocking. Your enemies have a highly transient relationship with gravity, flailing about as if their bones are made of rubber. Similarly, your weapons were apparently designed by an evil clown, boasting floppy handles that lends them a toy-like appearance belying their brutal lethality.
GORN has no real story or broader arc, focusing purely on a series of arena fights. However, it packs an impressive amount of interactive nuance into its combat. Beyond basic swords and maces are throwing weapons, bows that must be manually drawn and fired, a wrist-mounted crossbow that has to be cranked for each shot, and even a literal hand-cannon. Enemies, meanwhile, sport varying types of shields and armour and will often attack you in groups, requiring you to think tactically about crowd control and how to defeat individual opponents.
There’s nothing massively wrong with GORN, at least in terms of core features. The movement controls are rather idiosyncratic, with you pressing the face buttons of the touch controllers and then dragging your arms to move forwards and backwards. It’s unusual, but it makes sense in the small arenas where combat takes place. GORN is also highly physical, and requires a clear 2 x 2m space in which to play. Try to play it in an inappropriate space, and you’ll end up with bruised knuckles and/or a smashed computer screen.
GORN is by no means a VR masterpiece, lacking the style of Superhot or the ambition of Half-Life: Alyx to be considered a true great. However, its simpler VR pleasures are no less entertaining for that, and if Covid-induced cabin fever has got you ready to smash something, there are far worse outlets for that than GORN.
£14.99 inc VAT
- Satisfying, grisly combat
- Amusing cartoon style
- Easy to pick up and play
- Unusual movement controls
- Needs a decent-sized open space
Simple and brutally effective, GORN is a messy and silly VR take on Roman gladiatorial combat.