Developer Jaywalker Interactive and publisher Vertigo Games released a zombie shooter named Arizona Sunshine last December on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The popular VR shooter has been ported over to Sony’s Playstation VR platform this week. The game is now available digitally on the Playstation Store for $39.99. In a sea of VR titles that offer short interactive experiences and mini-games, Arizona Sunshine sets out to deliver a more fleshed out gaming experience. While Arizona Sunshine is rather bland in theory, the VR support and motion controls help elevate it to a much more enjoyable shooter.
Arizona Sunshine takes place in, you guessed it, the hot deserts of Arizona during the zombie apocalypse. You play as a lone survivor who picks up a radio feed that reveals a possible location of a safe zone held by other surviving humans. Your goal is to fight your way through the zombie hordes in order to reach this possible safe zone. The entire game consists of blasting zombies, exploring your environment and scavenging ammo as you find the safest path to your destination.
The game utilizes three different control schemes that each have their advantages and disadvantages. Playing the game with two Playstation Move controllers is the recommended control scheme by the developer. Equipped with a Move controller in each hand, the game allows you to dual wield weapons and items as intended. Simply pointing the Move controller in the direction you wish and pulling the trigger is easy and intuitive.
Traveral, however, is a little more tricky with the Move controllers since you must press the face buttons to move forward and turn. Using the head tracking functions of the PSVR headset can help fine-tune your turns by simply turning your head left and right. Once you get the hang of things, moving around and blasting zombies with the Move controllers works fairly well. My biggest complaint is that there isn’t any way to quickly turn around or move backwards. If I simply wanted my character to back up a bit, I had to turn around, move forward, and turn back around again. This made fighting large waves of zombies a little frustrating.
Sony’s standard Dual Shock 4 is also compatible with Arizona Sunshine and includes more traditional controls. The problem here is that you cannot dual wield two weapons, which hurts the gameplay in situations with many zombies running towards you. Aiming consists of holding up the Dual Shock 4 and aiming with the light bar, which I found less than ideal but easy to get used to.
Finally, the newly released Playstation Aim controller is also compatible, which combines the solid movement of the Dual Shock 4 with the stronger aiming of the Move controllers. However, the Aim controller also disables dual wielding which kills some of the fun of the combat. Overall, I enjoyed playing the game much more with a Dual Shock 4 due to the increased mobility.
Arizona Sunshine’s inventory system uses a virtual utility belt, which works very similar to Batman: Arkham VR. You can equip a gun or holster it by shifting your arm down towards your waist and pressing the interaction button. Pressing the same button again on your hip allows you to swap weapons. Each hand can holster two different weapons with a total of four that can be carried at all times. Ammo indicators are displayed on your belt so you can easy tell how much ammo remains for each gun.
Grenades can also be held on your belt which are equipped by moving your hand halfway between your torso and waist. By pressing the Move’s trigger button, you can pull the pin and literally throw the grenade at enemies. The trajectory of throwing grenades can be a little tricky, so expect to blow yourself up the first few times you use them. Reloading your gun works with a simple button press on each controller. I found that sometimes the reload can bug out when waving your arms around in tense situations, which lead to many frustrating deaths.
Aside from blowing away zombies, each level consists of exploring the environment and finding the exit. Along the way, there will be obstacles that will block your progress. Light puzzle solving, such as finding items to lower bridges or figuring out how to blow up debris blocking your path, is key to the gameplay. The game likes to pull the same predictable tricks at you, such as grabbing the key item which also triggers horde of zombies to run after you before you can progress further. In a nutshell, that’s pretty much everything you’ll be doing in this game.
Outside of VR, Arizona Sunshine would be a rather bland, predictable game. It’s saving grace is that blowing the heads off of zombies in VR is pretty damn fun. If it wasn’t for the solid combat and the spectacle of exploring in VR, I probably would have quit playing after the first level. Thankfully, the game does a good job of changing up the environments. One level takes place in a dark cave that equips you with a flash light. This stage was pretty unsettling and provided some good scares to mix things up. The game will take you through canyons, refineries and even trailer parks.
Not everything in Arizona Sunshine is fun. I found several instances where I fought with the controls in large battles that resulted in a lot of frustrating deaths. Sometimes my gun wouldn’t reload correctly or the lack of a back up button would make maneuvering around in tense situations very difficult with Move controllers. On easier difficulties, the guns include a small red laser pointer that assists with aiming. Unfortunately within bright outdoor levels, that laser pointer is way too small and hard to see. Again, if you find yourself struggling with the Move controllers, just swap to the Dual Shock 4 and take the loss of an extra gun.
Often I found myself getting stuck on rocks and various objects in the environment that would kill my mobility, forcing me to fumble with the controls to get back on track. A moment in the cave stage had me fuming when I was overrun by zombies in a tight space that was difficult to move around in. I would also recommend playing the game with transitional turning movements too since the “smooth” setting made me almost throw up after 20 minutes of playing.
Arizona Sunshine isn’t the prettiest looking game, but it performs well on the Playstation 4 hardware. There’s definitely a downgrade here from the PC version — most notably in the textures. The game also has PS4 Pro support that helps smooth the game out, making it look less blurry in the headset. Audio design is rather generic with typical zombie groans and gun shots but the musical score fits nicely.
The protagonist cracks many jokes throughout the game and while the writing is cheesy, his voice actor pulls off the comedic delivery well. It’s nice that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. I like how the game can have fun with the situations you find yourself in. Towards the end of the game the narrative does take a few dark turns that caught me off guard, taking a break from the silliness to add a touch of humanity.
I do appreciate that Jaywalker Interactive crafted a VR game that resembles a normal shooter with a decent length instead of making a short experience. The game’s campaign can be finished in about 4 hours with several difficulty options available. A bonus horde mode is included that can be played with friends online too. Personally, the horde mode wasn’t very appealing to me due to the issues I had with the controls and movement, but I’m glad its there. Jaywalker has continued to support the PC version very well with free content updates so hopefully the PSVR version will receive the same treatment.
Arizona Sunshine is a by-the-numbers zombie shooter that’s elevated thanks to virtual reality. Even though it doesn’t do anything revolutionary, it does make blasting zombies and exploring the hot Arizona environments enjoyable. Aside from some frustrations I had with the controls and movement in large scale battles, Arizona Sunshine is a good reason to dust off that PSVR headset. I wouldn’t quite recommend it at the $40 MSRP, but at a reduced price, it’s a fun, worthy VR title with a good sense of humor.