Pocket-lint is supported by its readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

(Pocket-lint) - The wonderful thing about virtual reality is that it opens gaming up to a whole world of possibilities and experiences that aren't possible elsewhere. Sure, gaming has always done that in one dimension, but being wrapped entirely in a game's environment makes for a far more enthralling experience.

We've seen plenty of different VR games so far, but GORN is something special. The game sees you dropped into the dangerous and deadly gladiator arena of old, fighting desperately for your life against a mass of fiendish brutes intent on pounding you into a pulp.

We love its style of gameplay, which is where VR really shines - when you're swinging your arms around, bobbing and weaving in the real world while fighting it out in the virtual one. 


But is GORN little more than gratuitous violence? We donned our armour, unsheathed our sword and strapped on our HTC Vive to find out. 

Our quick take

GORN is a cracking game if you can stomach the blood-curdling brutality. It's awash with content and arena battles that will keep you coming back for hours and hours if you want.

As VR games go, there's a lot to like about this one. Its graphics are impressive, as is the gruesome gore and hilarious delights that come with battling the bumbling opponents thrown at you in the gladiatorial ring. 

On the downside, the ease of the fights means there's a danger that GORN could become a bit too samey too quickly. 

If you're looking for something new and refreshing, then GORN is well worth every penny. For a smashingly good time, you won't find as much value for money elsewhere. Just be careful not to smash up too much of the real world when you play. 

GORN, which is currently in early access, is compatible with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and is available to buy on Steam.

GORN VR review: Hilarity and brutality abound


4.0 stars
  • Satisfying combat mechanics
  • Great cel-shaded graphics
  • Fantastic price
  • Hours of content
  • Can get a bit samey a bit too quickly
  • No current online multi-player or co-op options

Hilarity and brutality abound

GORN is immediately amusing. The cartoon-like cel-shaded graphics are quaint, yet impressive, helping to take away from some of the horror that would otherwise come with hacking off limbs and bashing in heads.

GORN is still brutal, though. This is certainly not a game for children. 

Jumping in, we found ourselves faced with a selection of doors to choose from - and immediately picked the wrong one. This threw us into an arena with multiple enemies to battle, where you'd normally fight a single gladiator as way of a tutorial. Still, this was an excellent view of things to come. 

It's immediately apparent that battling in the arena is not only going to be tiring, it's also a dangerous exercise. The developers recommend a two-metre square Room-Scale play space - and with good reason. When you're thwacking and slashing in the VR arena, you need to be sure you're not in danger of hitting other people in the real world. We found ourselves bashing tables, hitting chairs and knocking things off surfaces, which was a shame as it detracted from the VR fun. Certainly not the game's fault though - we just need more space!

GORN gives you a multitude of levels to fight through. These are selected from a moving platform inside what is essentially your prison cell. Battling through the arenas of increasing difficulties gives you access to new and more exciting fights.

Opening a door and stepping forth into the arena you are given a selection of weapons to choose from and forced to raise your arms and bow to your oppressors before the battle begins.

Choosing the best weapon gives you access to new and improved versions as you get kills with them. A multitude of weapons are available, including everything from swords and maces to nunchucks, throwing knives and two-handed hammers. Fallen enemies also drop weapons that you can grab if you prefer the look of their equipment.

There's something superbly satisfying about flailing a mace about and casually knocking opposing gladiators out of your way. 

You can even do stuff like pick up a rock and get kills with that, which then unlocks a giant boulder that you can use. Hilarity then ensues when you realise the boulder can be used to knock opponents clean out of the arena like hitting a home run. 

Playing through several arena battles unlocks champion fights which, when you complete them, unlocks extra weapons hidden in the lower levels of your cell. You get things like a giant metal fist or harpoon hands that you can fire at your enemies. These add an extra level of amusement and fun to the game.

Each weapon deals blood-splattering damage. You can slice off limbs, lop off heads and cause general brutal chaos by flailing around like a mad-person until you're the only gladiator left standing in the arena. 

However, when we first started playing GORN, we struggled with the movement mechanics. Default movement is unusually awkward until you get the hang of it. To move forward you need to hold the trackpad and pull the world towards you, as if you're moving the scenery, not the other way around.

Pocket-lint Gorn gladiator screengrabs image 10

Luckily we found we could change this in the settings so the trackpad became the tool for movement and all we needed to do was rub our thumb in the direction we wanted to travel. There are a variety of different movement options, so you can choose what suits you best, but we found this the easiest to use. 

The rest of the controls are pretty intuitive. The menu button is a toggle hold, so tapping it as you pick up a weapon will keep it in your hand. Then it's just a case of swinging it at your opponents. 

Lumbering and bungling to victory

There are plenty of chortles to be had from the graphics, gameplay and the design of the levels. We love watching the way enemy gladiators lumber about, especially when they have too much armour and seem to be weighed down by their own load. They're equally hilarious when they come out swinging their weapons at you and bumbling around the arena trying to get the upper hand.    

Pocket-lint Gorn gladiator screengrabs image 4

We also enjoy the little things like the chants of the crowd and the way they toss coins after a win. The weapons also have a hilarious wobble to them which makes them feel like they're made out of bendy felt or jelly rather than solid steel and wood. 

Other levels include tongue-in-cheek humour. One example is when the Lords of the arena let forth a large man clad from head-to-toe in armour and announce: "fight Achilles, he has no weaknesses at all" - but one of his ankles is uncovered. 

GORN isn't that tough, though. Once we got the hang of things there's not much threat from enemy gladiators. A swing and a swipe is often enough to kill them, but they really struggle to knock you about unless you're too slow to respond. The more difficult enemies have armour plating that needs to be knocked off before you can deal real damage.

Pocket-lint Gorn gladiator screengrabs image 7

Where GORN gets tougher is when you're surrounded and have to keep your head constantly moving to watch for threats. Enemy gladiators might well be slow and lumbering, as are their swings, but if there are a handful of them this soon becomes a major issue. 

To recap

GORN is a cracking good game if you can stomach the blood-curdling brutality. There is hours and hours of gameplay here and plenty to enjoy. Just make sure you have the space and be prepared to sweat a lot.

Writing by Adrian Willings.
Sections Games AR & VR