GORN PS VR2 Review
GORN is an over-the-top gladiator brawler first released on PS VR1 in 2019. It featured an alluring mix of goofy gore and over-the-top physics. You do battle in gladiator arenas as you work your way up the ranks to become champion. Don’t get carried away though, this is no Russell Crowe, Gladiator clone.
Developed by Free Lives, who also released BroForce, GORN was generally well received despite a clumsy movement system and lack of gameplay options. Fast forward to 2023 and the release of PS VR2. Due to the technical differences between the two generations of PlayStation VR, PS VR1 games are not backwards compatible with PS VR2.
It is up to the developers of PS VR1 games to update their games to make them compatible with PS VR2. Quite a few developers have seen fit to do so. It’s a win-win for gamers and the devs. The devs have the opportunity for to further recoup their costs and possibly taking advantage of the new tech possible with the PS VR2. Gamers get to continue playing their PS VR1 games on a new platform.
There have been excellent upgrades to previous PS VR1 games such as Pistol Whip, Synth Riders, Song in the Smoke, and Tetris Effect to name a few. So I was interested to see what changes Free Lives would make to GORN to improve the game playing experience. Sadly, this is the most basic port of a PS VR1 game to date. And in some aspects, it is a step backward.
Same Old, Same Old
The first inkling of the lack of improvements starts as soon as you fire up the game. You start in an arena with no way to access any options to set your playing preferences. Only after you defeat the first enemy and sent to the main hub, can you change the game settings. Disappointment deepens when the paucity of options is revealed.
PS VR2 GORN has the exact same options as the PS VR options. Even on the PS VR1, the default locomotion option turned off players. Movement is by grabbing air and pulling either forwards or backwards. It’s akin to rowing a boat. Like the game’s physics, movement is sluggish and floaty. The only positive about this scheme is it provides a good workout.
GORN makes little use of PS VR2’s Sense Controllers. There is an option to use the joysticks, but a control scheme that offers little flexibility hampers their usefulness. You can select snap turning, but that is an immersion breaking option. However, it remains the best choice because horrid vignetting gimps the smooth turning option. It is not adjustable and imposes a near keyhole sized world view. Given the PS VR2’s power, such a restriction is unacceptable.
Visually, the game is a step up from the PSVR 1 version, but this comes solely from the greater resolution of the PS VR2. Graphically, both versions appear very similar. Reprojection is also apparent, which is disappointing. A cleaner 90 FPS mode would be better.
Most surprising is the audio of the game. It is inferior to the previous version. There is no sense of directionality. Even worse, environmental cues are muted or missing. When multiple enemies are on the screen, those out of your line-of-sight make no sound. This leaves you vulnerable to attacks from behind.
GORN has always been a one-trick pony. The game couples goofy physics with the over-the-top gore. In the best tradition of Monty Python and the Holy Grail – it’s only a flesh wound – you can dismember and maim enemies to ridiculous extremes. All served up with copious amounts of blood.
Combat is based on gladiator weapons such as swords, shields, pikes, ball and chains, and even your fists. Weapons are not rigid but have a flexibility to them that makes their use cartoony, and not realistic. You really have to put extra mustard on your swings to get satisfactory results. You also have to consider weapon flex in order to line up your swings properly.
There is another missed opportunity to elevate gameplay. The devs could have taken advantage of the Sense Controllers and Headset Haptics, but they did not. So hitting or being hit by enemies has no feedback. It’s sterile. The lack of any in-game music exacerbates the sterility. Battle music gets your blood racing and enhances your emotional connection to the gameplay. There’s none of that present.
As a PS VR1 title, GORN barely passed as a worthy game. The game received a better reception than it should have been because of the limitations of the PS VR1, especially in the tracking and controller areas. Four years later, in 2023, VR Gamers expect more from games. PS VR2 owners expect even more from games. Beyond the higher resolution of the headset, there is eye tracking plus foveated rendering which could yield even higher graphics if used. After playing a handful of PS VR2 titles, the tactile immersion of the controllers takes the VR experience to the next level. GORN on PS VR2 uses none of these features.
GORN is a limited gameplaying experience. There is an undeniable visceral thrill in beating your opponents to a pulp, but it’s a thrill that doesn’t last long. There’s also no denying that sometimes you just want to play a game that is mindless fun. GORN certainly fills such a need. It’s just a shame that this port doesn’t elevate the original game in any way.
*** PS5 code provided by the publisher ***
Goofy, fun combat
Can provide a good workout
No PS VR2 enhancements
Clumsy & limited locomotion controls