There’s no use burying the lead here; Arizona Sunshine is one of the best experiences you can have in VR. The title has you step into the shoes of a pretty unusual man who is searching for the source of a radio broadcast, hoping to find fellow survivors in a zombie infested Arizona. The unnamed protagonist clearly has a few screws loose, such as his referring to zombies as Freddy’s or Fred. His humor never really worked for me, as it was trying to go for a meta flavor of comedy that didn’t fit the world he occupied. The protagonist doesn’t feel like a real person, but rather a character that knows he’s in a video game. It was frustrating to be in otherwise tense moments, only for the tension to be broken by one of the protagonists “jokes” that feel like something a D-grade Deadpool ripoff would say. Luckily Arizona Sunshine rises above its barebones plot and lackluster writing and offers a solid and lengthy campaign (for a VR title) that can be played solo or in co-op, as well as an enjoyable horde-survival mode.
The controls are intuitive and about what you’d expect for a well-made VR shooter. There are two forms of movement, track-pad locomotion and teleporting. I personally found teleporting to be the better system of movement due the speed advantage gained verses the more leisurely pace at which the character walks. Also I rarely get motion sick in VR, but the slow gliding across the ground that happens with touchpad locomotion is one of the few times where I felt nauseous.
I think what Sunshine nails is how natural and fast everything feels. There are some VR shooters where several hours in, I’m still trying to remember the finer points of the controls. With Arizona Sunshine, things couldn’t be simpler. Storing ammo is as simple as grabbing magazines with the grip buttons and dragging it to your stomach. Storing grenades is the same except for placing it near your chest. Reloading is as simple as bringing the gun towards your ammo belt, and switching out weapons (of which you can carry 4 at a time) just means gripping at the holsters strapped to your waist. When not using the trigger to shoot, you’re main actions will be executed with the grip buttons. This is a survival game, so resources are limited. As such, you’ll be spending a lot of time rummaging through abandoned cars, file cabinets, etc. so you won’t find yourself coming short in some of the hairier encounters in Arizona’s campaign.
This brings me to something that I did not expect before playing this game, namely that it can be quite hard at times. Most of the time you travel along a linear path where you can avoid zombies if you choose to do so. The zombies that are scattered along the trails and roads are rarely a huge threat. However there are times where you’re forced hold up in a small area for a short time while waves of the undead shamble, and in many cases sprint towards you. Well-placed shots and fast reloads are essential for staying alive during these encounters. One segment in particular during the mine level, killed me about a dozen times before I was able to find a strategy to manage all the zombies coming from all sides. This was on medium as well. Speaking of the mine level, despite Arizona Sunshine being a zombie survival game, the game is not scary enough to be considered horror. The closest it gets to wearing that moniker is the mine level however where the environment is almost completely dark and all you have is a flashlight to help you spot your enemies. This entire section was particularly intense, and I, like the character I played as, sighed in relief upon seeing daylight again.
Of course none of what I’ve said would make much difference if the gameplay was lackluster, but luckily that isn’t the case. Weapons feel powerful with headshots always resulting in a gory end to your undead foes. The aiming is tight and accurate and the campaign itself is well paced offering the right ratio of downtime to intense gunfights. And though the story mode is mostly linear, there is enough incentive to explore all nooks and crannies as well as some objectives that require backtracking that the linearity is never so apparent.
The weapon variety is pretty good with a large number of guns, though pistols make up the majority of firearms. Later in the campaign you have plenty of access to fully automatic weapons as well as at least one shotgun. There may have been a shotgun that I missed earlier on, but if not, that is one the disappointments I have with Arizona Sunshine. I always love a good shotgun in shooting games and the one I got a hold of came so late in the game, I barely got to use it. That, along with my gripes with the writing and plot, are the extent of my complaints which bodes well for this VR zombie title.
The Horde mode on offer serves up 3 condensed maps where you and up to 3 other players can try to survive increasingly difficult waves against undead enemies. Later waves give access to better guns and more ammunition, which you will need. There isn’t much to say about this mode other than it’s a bit better than most horde shooters, but it still could have used a little something extra to really hold my attention. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try it out with other players, but as a solo experience, my biggest gripe with it is how you can’t start from later waves, or have immediate access to the weapons you want. I feel an unlock/progression system in the horde mode could make this one of the more re-playable VR titles.
As far as how everything looks and sounds, I would say that everything is mostly great. The guns sound powerful and satisfying. Ambience and music are also top notch. The graphics however are a mixed bag, that still mostly impresses. Zombies look pretty good and the environment is often great looking. The guns too are exceptionally modeled and detailed. Other things fare worse however. Cars that are abandoned on the roads you travel wouldn’t be out of place in a PS2 title. Their interiors are not only bare, but are often out of proportion with seats looking way too large to be practical. Another area where the graphics suffer is the blurriness of distant objects, which may be just down to the screen door effect. That said, this isn’t enough to take away from the fact that this one of the most visually impressive VR titles.
Arizona Sunshine proves the viability of VR as a gaming platform, and shows what can be achieved when VR developers get access to higher budgets. It’s campaign isn’t perfect, but it’s long compared to most VR titles and it’s got it where it counts; namely in zombie shooting carnage. There’s plenty of polish here and smooth mechanics that just work. If you own a VR headset, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t own this title.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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