Gladiatorial combat may have gained popularity in the arena’s of ancient Rome, but it can still be found alive and well on the HTC VIVE with GORN.  Hack, slash, and dismember your way to victory and better health with this hilarious take on this popular ancient sport.

Preparation

I chose to wear the full Maximus Decimus Meridius outfit.  This helped me channel my
inner gladiator and get myself mentally prepared for the carnage on the horizon.  I wasn’t able to fit the full metal Roman helmet over the HMD, so I had to settle for the plume being attached to the head strap.  As always, I wore my trusty bandana to help with perspiration and potential blood splatters as well as an Apple Watch to track heart rate and calories burned.

Intensity – 5/10

Although the game is focused on combat, most movements are restricted to the upper
body.  There were short bursts of punches and weapon flailing that started to elevate my heart rate, but once I conquered my foes or was vanquished I had ample time to rest.  However, after looking over a number of reviews on the Steam store it appears that a number of players are working up a pretty good sweat playing this game.

Workout duration: 30 minutes

  • Calories burned: 156 active/214 total
  • Average heart rate: 79 BPM
  • Max heart rate: 91

Arms – 6/10

There are several boxing games that are pretty taxing on the arms, but many of the movements are prescribed by the opponent.  This isn’t the case with GORN.  The array of weapons available, combined with their rubbery flexion when swung, allows the user to move their arms in a number of different ways.  For example, I used a spearlike much like a pool cue, flails like nunchucks, and warhammer like a fishing pole.  Again, in the heat of battle, I could feel my arms getting a workout, but the flurries were too short to have any lasting benefit.

Legs – 2/10

Getting around in GORN involves little to no legs.  If you want you can essentially stand flat footed the entire time and just use the directional pad to to move about.  However, this is another one of those experiences that the user has the ability to overcome the game’s ambulatory deficiencies.  By consciously making an effort to duck, squat, and shuffle more often to avoid the NPC’s blows, the player can increase the activity that the lower extremities get.

Movement in GORN

Core and Balance 5/10

If you play long enough you will start to get some benefit to your core.  When you hold a weapon in each hand and swing them back and forth from side-to-side you end up using your obliques.  Bending over to pick up objects, weapons and body parts as well as ducking and dodging enemy attacks will all help strengthen stabilizer muscles which will in turn help to improve balance.

Time Perception 8/10

In the tongue of the Roman’s tempus fugit (time flies) while playing GORN.  I set out to play for 20 minutes.  I paused to check my watch after what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes and was surprised to find that I had been playing for 30.  GORN is another great example of how a well-made VR game can really immerse the user and warp their perception of time.  It is a great mental boost knowing that you are going to work out for 30 minutes but it’s going to feel like 15 instead of the other way around.

Replayability 8/10

GORN is a game that you can play over and over.  A users can spend a great deal of time in the game without fully mastering all of the various weapons.  There are a number of unexpected things that happen from time-to-time that keeps a user’s interest piqued.  For instance, I speared an NPC through the chest and when I pulled the weapon back there was a heart on it. There are also a number of unlockables that come from breaking armor or using a certain weapons a number of times.  Endless Mode offers players a challenge as a never ending stream of NPCs fill the arena floor.  This is perhaps the best and bloodiest way to ramp up the fitness potential of the game.

Fitness Scalability 6/10

If a player decides to go all out for this game and incorporates additional movements that aren’t necessary like squatting to dodge attacks, jumping while striking at NPCs, or even wearing weighted wrist wraps, the fitness benefits will be elevated.

Lack of Nausea 6/10

Generally speaking I get a bit of a weak stomach in those experiences that make it seem like the environment is being moved instead of the player.  This is especially the case in smaller virtual landscapes.  However, that feeling is almost completely eliminated by the large open-sky arena of GORN.

Social Competition 4/10

Unfortunately there isn’t a competitive mode where you can either face NPCs with a friend or even face off against another player.  It would be amazing if you could battle it out with another real player.  There is perhaps no better way to settle an argument than by decapitating your friend – in VR of course.

Thumbs down

VRFI Fit Score 5.5/10

GORN will get you up and moving and put a smile on your face at the same time.  Although  the game won’t have you begging for mercy from a fitness standpoint it does push you just enough to elevate your heart rate and engage your core and arms.  This is a game you can play for a good deal of time, and that will translate to calories burned.

Are you not entertained?

 

The Good

  • One of the funnest games on VIVE
  • Humorous ways to dispatch foes
  • Enough movement and action to get the heart pumping

The Bad

  • Cable management system can get in way of attacks
  • Limited use of legs
  • Not appropriate for younger players

No matter your fitness level, GORN is an enjoyable and comical experience with enough variety and fitness benefits to keep you coming back.  Even if you don’t pick this game up to burn some extra calories I recommend getting it because it is fun as heck.

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Chuck Westerberg
Chuck Westerberg is VR/AR evangelist and Idaho native. He attended graduate and undergraduate school at Boise State University and has degrees in history and Latin. Chuck has an affinity for immersive technologies and spends a great deal of his time bringing VR and AR to the masses through community events, STEM education programs, and enterprise use case discussions. When he’s not in an HMD you can find him volunteering for various local non-profits, coaching his two wonderful kid’s baseball teams, and backpacking in Idaho’s great outdoors.