Gorn Review: Heavy Metal Battles
Whether you love or loathe it, violence has been a part of media for a long time. Gorn is one of the first VR titles to lean into hyper-violence as a key selling point. This is noteworthy because while in other forms of media, you can close your eyes or simply look away if things get too much, it's simply not an option in VR.
Hyper-violence can be deeply uncomfortable. It's often used to shock and horrify viewers and is a crucial component of many cult films like Kill Bill and Ichi the Killer (to very different degrees). Its presence in a piece of media is often due to a desire to get across a specific message or even titillate consumers. After all, how else can you see something so needlessly over-the-top?
The cartoony Gorn is about as hyper-violent as a game can get, but it's not wouldn't the uncomfortable sort despite being a VR game.
You compete with other gladiators in melee combat in the hope of coming out victorious. Your aim is to be the last one standing amongst the scattered body parts of your fallen foes, all for the entertainment of some severely bizarre-looking overlords. But hey, at least you get to keep living.
The combat is hard too; if you're too far from being a perfect fighter, then you're going to get your head caved in by a heavy iron mace. Defeat is upsetting, defeat when you know your eye is hanging out of its socket is humiliating and disturbing.
Well, it would be were it not for the cartoonish presentation that underlines every aspect of Gorn. You see, this level of violence would be uncomfortable in VR, but Gorn comes to us from the same minds that created Genital Jousting and Broforce, so it doesn't want to be taken seriously.
In fact, the game doesn't want you to be taken seriously, either.
Let's start with movement; you move around the world by swinging your arms around and holding a button. If you move your arm in front of you, hold the button down, then swing your arm behind you, you'll be dragged forward. Repeating this from side to side in order to charge your enemies results in your character drunkenly swaying around.
If that doesn't diffuse the whole thing, watching your competitors staggering around like a toddler definitely will. Suddenly the violence is incredibly funny because it's being presented in a similar way to something like Tom and Jerry. It's over the top, it's abhorrent, but it's so intensely silly.
The combat is genuinely challenging too, defeat is humiliating, but mostly because the one who vanquishes you probably tripped over their own feet to get to you. You have to be completely aware of your surrounding at all times. If you don't make sure your enemies are dead, they're likely to stand up again when you're distracted.
The battles take place in a fairly small arena with doors on each side. At the start of a match, you only have to worry about what's in front of you. As you progress, everything changes. You need to keep an eye on the doors behind you, new weapons will start appearing, and if you get far enough, you'll even have to face off against huge boss enemies.
A single match might only last thirty seconds, so you can progress through things quickly if you're good enough. That speed makes it perfect for a quick round or two in between other games, but it also has that wonderful 'one more match' quality that could easily consume your entire weekend.
When you add in a wealth of challenges, special arena fights, and the innate replayability of this style of game, you have an experience that could easily give you months of joy. It's also easy enough to play that it makes for a tremendous first VR experience, which is made all the funnier when you're watching a friend flail around for the first time.
- Genuinely funny
- Great variety of weapons
- Unique movement and easy to learn controls
- If you don't like the combat, then there's nothing for you here
Gorn is challenging, horrifying, hilarious, and a genuine joy to play. It manages to be brilliant in both short bursts and long sessions, and there are so many little challenges to complete and weapons to master that you'll never really be able to put it down for good.