Wolverine claws and a brutal, realistic gore system. That sentence alone is what sold me on Gorn, a physics-driven brawler that's finally been ported to PSVR. Also, speaking of sentences, I'm certain to get a lengthy one if I'm ever unfairly implicated in a murder and a jury is shown footage of me playing this game. I'm not one, but Gorn's got this power to make anybody look like a gleeful psychopath.
The setup couldn't be simpler. You're a pair of disembodied hands that have been thrown into a gladiator pit for the purpose of entertaining a bunch of freaky, disembodied heads. Using two PlayStation Move controllers, you'll need to scoop up a weapon (or weapons), salute the king, and begin a fight to the death. Ape-like, latin-spouting gladiator clones then spawn (at no more than four or five at a time) and you get to go ham.
The first three red-soaked arenas of Gorn on PSVR
Initially, I wasn't a fan of the mandatory twin Move control system, but it grew on me. Much like your top-heavy, gorilla like opponents, you essentially knuckle drag yourself about the arena. You'll stretch out a hand, hold down the T (read: top) button and drag the world behind you as you outstretch another hand to repeat the process. Meanwhile turning can be a segmented or smooth affair that resides on Circle and X. Admittedly, these wouldn't be my first choices in mobility and VR viewing controls, but in the absence of analogue sticks, it's perfectly functional.
“The setup couldn't be simpler. You're a pair of disembodied hands that have been thrown into a gladiator pit for the purpose of entertaining a bunch of freaky, disembodied heads."
The better news is that Gorn has some decent hand tracking going on. Scooping up weapons can either be done with a temporary grip (using the trigger) or you can tap a face button that perma-latches until you press it again to relinquish. Keeping with the comical nature of the proceedings, all the melee weapons have a wacky rubbery-ness that serves to increase the sense of heft and to make the violence all the more hilarious.
Basically, it feels as if you're battering people to death with an array of gigantic adult toys. Like some sort of virtual Harry “Horrible Hatchet” Londsdale, dealing with geezers who owe you money.
When it comes to the strengths of your foes, they very much lie in superior numbers and their ever-increasing supply of body armour. Not in speed. Not in swing accuracy. And certainly not in cunning. Physics-wise they're like a helium balloon tied to a roller-skate. They wobble on over to you, get within spitting range and wind up a haymaker to your face or an awkward sweeping chop to your invisible legs. The latter almost makes them headbutt the ground as they do it. You can also routinely trick them into walking off into spiked pits.
What starts as a comedic slaughter steadily ramps up in stress and difficulty. Archers are soon folded in – often behind you – and the tell-tale shout they make before they loose a shaft of the pointy stuff is, well, pure dread. Likewise, these bumbling brutes become kitted out in no time with shields, armoured limbs, and the sort of Great Swords that'd make Cloud Strife call bullshit.
The worst part: copping the slightest nick from any weapon, swung to hit you or not, can trigger your death. When the screen starts going red, you've got maybe four seconds to kill somebody – anybody at all – or your virtual eyes close and you bleed out. Honestly, those clutch kills are Gorn at its absolute finest. The cunning comebacks you'll make up on the fly will make you feel like Maximus Decimus Meridius himself.
You shall also be entertained when it comes to weapon selection. Initially, you're in a mindless belt-fest with maces, flails, and spiked batons – all of them okay choices for breaking limbs, shields, and virtual faces. That said, as your clientele start to escalate in number, height, and equipment, so too does your need to match your weaponry to their weak-points.
“Basically, it feels as if you're battering people to death with an array of gigantic adult toys."
Some quick tactical examples: bladed weapons can prune unprotected limbs with ease but sprang right off armour. Well-aimed arrows and thrusted spear/rapier strikes can insta-kill if you hit a major organ (which can be ripped out). You need time and superior accuracy to “wind up” such a strike, though. Honestly, by the time you brutalise your way through Gorn's six or so arenas, you'll be a veritable master of crowd-control and cold, economical death-strikes.
Your arms will ache to buggery too. Fighting for your life for three hours is sweaty, sweaty work. It'll tone the hell out of your trapezius. In a very literal sense, Gorn will make a gladiator out of you.
The mild pain I put myself through to finish Gorn is a testament to just how fun an addictive it is. For me, Gorn's claws dug in when I realised you could make a variety of rude gestures with your hands. Being able to ninja-parry incoming strikes and disarm (or “dis-head”) people got me hooked even more. But really, it's the evolving access to increasingly nasty weapons that will keep the PSVR stuck on your head, long after those lenses have fogged and your forehead is running like Niagara.
The joy of dual swords gives way to giant halberd flails and wicked double headed battle-axes. The satisfaction of bulls-eyeing people with a bow gives way to endless double throwing knives, wrist-mounted stake shooters, razor frisbees, grappling hooks and a goddamned hand cannon.
The pinnacle of Gorn, however, are the retractable claws. Being able to go full Weapon X on a room of baddies is the worth the price of admission. If you need further convincing, they show up right around the time you get access to crab claws that let you limb-lock and headlock baddies to the point of dissection.
Gorn is big fun, but it isn't all Logan wish-fulfilment and crustacean-based black comedy. For starters, the end boss remains one of the most frustratingly designed fights in recent memory. Without spoiling too much, it suddenly asks you to do super accurate things with a physics system that's been delightfully wishy-washy up until this point.
“By the time you brutalise your way through Gorn's six or so arenas, you'll be a veritable master of crowd-control and cold, economical death-strikes."
There's also the matter of length. Gorn can be completed in roughly two and a half hours. That runtime is padded out with an Endless Mode and chasing weapon unlocks by appeasing certain in-arena objectives. What I really wanted to see was the asymmetrical Party Mode multiplayer that's in the PC version. The basic gist: mates on controllers can team up and try to do you in using gladiator avatars who all handle like drunk Octodads. Fingers crossed this shows up in an update.
For the respectable asking price, I don't think the above situation is a deal-breaker. If you were to go out on a (severed) limb for a speculative purchase, I think you'd find Gorn represents the nicest and red-iest slice of PSVR we've seen in some time.