If you’re the type that believes VR and violence shouldn’t mix then best look away now; Gorn has no sympathy for you. This is the game you imagined when you wondered what Robo Recall would look like if you replaced its cold, disconnected robots with flesh and blood, and it’s every bit as brilliantly gruesome as you suspected it might be.
It is, at least, all in the name of comedy. Gorn is a hilariously cartoonish gladiator simulator in which the violence is so over the top that it’s practically impossible to have it taken seriously. Limbs are torn asunder after being pulled far enough to make Stretch Armstrong cry, maces are tossed at heads, bursting them like bubbles upon contact, and corpses are to be picked up and used as shields before slamming into enemies. It’s jaw-droppingly blood-soaked mayhem, but I’d like to see you try and deny it’s viciously good fun.
In its current Early Access state, the game pits you in a series of battles that you can play over and over as you work your way up and unlock fights with harder Champion enemies. You’ll start off with just your fists to defend yourself with but as you rack up certain types of kills, you’ll unlock new weapons like maces, swords and armor-smashing hammers.
Each match starts with you saluting your emperor before a fence is lifted and your enemies dance towards you like Iggy Pop brandishing their own weapons. Just two hits will see you off, but your meat-headed opponents crumple like jelly with a sturdy knock to the head. Stars will rotate around them when they’re merely stunned; don’t be surprised to see them get back up seconds after dismembering their arm or with part of their skull showing. These guys can take a beating, but that’s kind of the point.
Saying this may put me on some sort of watch list, but there’s a glorious pleasure to ripping off a man’s head and then bowling it under another’s feet to knock him over. Gorn thrives not only on the invention of your violence, but in the accidents of it, too. I quickly discarded a sword only to watch it fly through an enemy’s arm, and circled around to foes to watch them mistakenly swing maces into each other’s heads.
I mean look at this. I leaned down to pick up a stunned enemy’s weapon. I ended up taking his hand with me and beating him to death with it. This game is a shrine to the glee of violence, filled with spectacular moments to celebrate your blood lust.
Many of them come from its physics system. The mechanics at play here must be hell to perfectly replicate, and so Gorn instead embraces the many glitches that they’ll inevitably create. Skin stretches in contact with spikes, weapons bend like rubber, and bodies occasionally fly into the air with the slightest tap. Not every hiccup feels deliberate, and some cause frustration, but the decision to play up to VR’s shortcomings rather than pretend like they don’t exist is a wise one.
The Champion battles are just as silly. After building to a reveal, the first boss smashes out of his confines and manages to knock himself out for a few seconds before even reaching me. If Gorn were to hone in on its more mechanical side then it would probably be a frustrating mess (and it can be tough as is); it’s much better served as a comedy game.
Movement could use a little work, though. The game uses arm-pull locomotion, meaning you reach out with one hand, hold the trackpad, and then pull towards yourself to move through space. It works fine for quieter moments but in the heat of battle it can be a little too fiddly, especially if you’re playing with smaller room scale setups and are conscious of your outside environment. It does ensure you get a good workout though; I was covered in sweat after half an hour of throwing my arms around.
Ultimately I want to see Gorn offer more than enough content to push it beyond being another amusing tech demo to show your friends. Free Lives is planning to add more weapons to the game and we’ll hopefully see just a touch of refinement to smooth out some of the more unintentional creases in the combat too. As it stands though I really don’t have much trouble recommending Gorn to you even in its current state. That is unless you have small children.
Gorn is available now in Early Access on HTC Vive for $14.99.