Arizona Sunshine became somewhat of an early poster child during the emergence of virtual reality. Amidst nifty tech demos and snippets of concept footage, here was a game promising an experience many of us have always dreamt of: living through a zombie apocalypse.
Dutch develop Vertigo Games and Jaywalkers Interactive have certainly delivered on that promise, and then some. Having originally launched on Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive last December, Arizona Sunshine has made a most-welcome leap over to PlayStation VR where it now reigns as the platform’s best shooter.
There’s no awkward preamble or needless exposition here, no sitting through an intro cutscene, swivelling your head to soak in some kind of elaborate backstory. Instead, the five or so hour campaign kicks off with simplest of tutorials, instructing our nameless protagonist to shoot a zombie head casually laying in the dirt after rolling into his cave hideaway.
And so begins a fairly light-hearted albeit typical road trip through a world now infested by the living dead. As the name suggests, players will explore the U.S. state of Arizona, trekking across sun-scorched canyons, deserted highways, and a trailer park among other locations.
Like Farpoint, the sci-fi VR shooter from Sony and Impulse Gear, this isn’t an on-rails shooter, allowing players full control of their movements as they traverse each level. Regardless of which control scheme you use you can move, turn, and strafe without being rooted to the spot, making gunfights immediately more dynamic and engaging.
As I’ve personally experienced in VR games like RIGS, Here They Lie, and Resident Evil VII, traditional first person controls can quickly lead to bouts of motion sickness. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case when I played Arizona Sunshine. The game encourages players to use its own unique movement system which kinda feels like a slingshot loaded with a teleporting device. Instead of manually walking from place to place (which can be nauseating when strapped into a VR headset) this allows you to reposition quickly and comfortably. We’d be very surprised if this doesn’t become the defacto system for similar VR games in future.
Shooting away at zombies, or “Freddies” as our survivor calls them, is fluid, precise, and, more importantly, loads of fun. Whether using the snazzy PlayStation VR Aim controller, DualShock 4, or a pair of Move controllers, the gunplay feels great, each weapon having a nice kick to it. Naturally, thanks to the power of motion controls, you can approach combat scenarios however you wish, spraying from the hip or holding a gun up to your face, one eye closed as look down the sights.
The least exciting of the three control schemes is the DualShock 4. It’s actually a bit more stable than the Aim controller, though it creates a disconnect when seeing the character’s hands in a position that don’t align with your own. Sony’s gun-shaped peripheral helps add that extra layer of immersion with its one-to-one tracking and will be the preferred way to play for most PSVR die-hards. However, when aiming down sights there’s a slight wobble to the tracking, making longshots hard to pull off.
Finally, we have the PlayStation Move wands. Using these will swap out any two-handed weapons for pistols, machine subs, and hand cannons. Doing so doesn’t make Arizona Sunshine any better or worse, it’s just a different way to experience the game, and is in fact the only way to play the game on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The game is balanced slightly differently between twinned Move controllers and the Aim controller, as you’re given different weapons to use.
Beyond a decently sized campaign which can also be played in two player online co-op, there’s a wave-based horde mode for those looking to hone their survival skills. Allowing up to four players, it’s a fun addition to the core game even if it doesn’t exactly break new ground.
If you’re serious about PlayStation VR and love first person shooters, Arizona Sunshine is a no-brainer. Mowing down mobs of the undead is immensely satisfying with a great spread of weapons and plenty of opportunities to have some fun. The campaign is well-paced, supplying small but welcome diversions to break up the action with little morsels of story here and there. At £33, some players will naturally want more bang for their buck, but the quality of content on offer here is fantastic. With the bar set even higher than before, it will be interesting to watch how developers try to emulate and improve upon Arizona Sunshine.
Version tested: PlayStation VR