There is No More Room in Hell
I’ll be the first to admit that I was seriously jealous when Arizona Sunshine was released this past December on the Vive and Rift. Here I am, a PlayStation VR owner, (who just happens to be one of the few gamers that hasn’t grown tired of the multitude of zombie titles) being denied yet another horror VR experience. My jealousy began to grow to dangerous proportions when I noticed all of the “Best VR Game of 2016” awards that Arizona Sunshine was accumulating. I would stare at my PlayStation VR headset in despair, wondering if I have made the right choice when deciding on which virtual reality platform to support. Then, finally, a glimmer of hope started to shine through all my PSVR titles that have been collecting digital dust. Developer Vertigo Games announced that Arizona Sunshine would get a release on the platform, and to sweeten the deal, PlayStation’s new Aim controller would be supported!
Are You Ready to Party?
Arizona Sunshine wastes no time with storytelling and starts the player off right in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Every corner you turn will be followed by a handful of the undead just waiting to dig their rotten fingers and decaying teeth into your living flesh. Other living members of society are nowhere in site, and the only sounds that you can hear are the moans of zombies who are hopefully far off in the distance. You are alone. Desperate to find someone, anyone to stand next to so you don’t have to witness the end of the world unaccompanied. Luckily, there is an old, dusty radio that you’ve managed to find that has been transmitting a cryptic signal. The signal is weak, but a few words can be deciphered, and that means that maybe, just maybe, there is someone out there who is still alive. You need to find where the signal is coming from, but between you and the unknown location of the transmitter is about a thousand hungry undead.
The story is basic, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoyed every minute of it. I was worried at first because the protagonist starts off as an obnoxious tool, making fun of the zombies, and making sure not to miss an opportunity to make a snarky comment. But as the story dug itself deeper and the ammo was thinning out, I started to feel for the dude since every bit of hope he had of finding other survivors just kept getting squashed. His voice starts to soften towards the end of Arizona Sunshine’s four-hour campaign, and hearing his disappointment when things kept going wrong was heart wrenching. It’s not all sad though. He’d lighten the story up every time he referred to the zombies as “Fred” (a name he has given to any of the undead), and that actually had me hopeful that this oaf would eventually find peace. I’m not going to delve much deeper into the story, but let me say that the ending was pretty bad ass.
I’ve Seen Weird Things Come and I’ve Seen Weird Things Go
I first played through the campaign using the PlayStation Aim controller. Fret not if you haven’t acquired the hard to find peripheral because Arizona Sunshine can be played in a multitude of ways. The PlayStation move controllers can be used as well as the trusty Dual Shock 4 controller, but after playing portions of the campaign with all three, I can say the Aim controller worked best for me. Each controller has it’s benefits and obstacles, the main issue with using the Aim being the wobble that all of us PSVR owners have grown accustomed to.
The Aim controller begs to be held like a two-handed gun, with the player looking down its sights to get an accurate shot. Due to the wobble effect of the PSVR headset, it’s quite difficult to get a head shot off when a large group of zombies are running toward you. It can best be described as trying to use a gun while sitting shotgun in a car that has really bad shocks. I was able to pull off some really nice head shots, but only if I was dispatching one or two zombies that were standing completely still. If a horde of zombies were rushing toward me I’d just shoot at the hip and hope for the best. The move and Dual Shock 4 controllers didn’t’ seem to have as much of the wobble issue, but I think that’s because I wasn’t looking down the sights of my weapon as much. The Dual Shock 4 controller seemed to be the most accurate, but using it felt unnatural, especially when dual-wielding handguns.
Whichever controller you end up using, each one offers the player two different movement options. At first I used roam, which will lets the player walk wherever they would like, but even though I’ve never experience motion sickness with a VR game before, Arizona Sunshine gave me a headache after a few hours of playtime. The teleport option worked best for me, and using the Aim Controller’s analogue sticks to choose my facing direction worked like a charm. The PS Move controller requires the player to hold down a button to move forward which is fine, but to face a direction would require turning your head while moving, even while teleporting. Considering the Dual Shock 4 controller has analogue sticks, the movement function worked exactly as it did with the Aim controller. Vertigo Games made sure to incorporate every controller into Arizona Sunshine, and considering there are so many options, you’re sure to find one that suits you best.
Send More Cops!
When it comes to visuals I can’t really compare the PSVR version of Arizona Sunshine to its PC counterpart. I’ve only played it for a few minutes on the PC, and that was way back in December when the game first launched. I can say that the PSVR version, although not ugly, does not look as good as some other titles on the platform. The sun-drenched Arizona environments look nice, but it’s the zombies that are in desperate need a visual upgrade. Additionally, there were way too many duplicate zombies throughout the campaign. This may not be completely accurate, but I think out of the hundred of zombies that I’ve dispatched, I only saw about 10-15 different models.
Other than the limited models, the zombie actions came down to either being fast or slow. The fast zombies stop at nothing to get to you. They’ll climb fences, houses, cars, and even bridges to get a bite out of your flesh. The slower variety would shuffle their way toward you if you happened to make noise. Toward the end of the campaign you’ll come across armored zombies that are wearing helmets and shoulder pads, and those will obviously take a few more bullets to take out. The zombies, although dumb, do have a few nasty tricks up their sleeve. On two occasions I turned my back on a zombie that was behind a fence, but as I walked away they somehow clipped through the fence and started attacking me. It actually frightened me, but took me out of the experience when I realized what had happened. Sadly, the zombies will vanish after they’ve been dispatched, leaving any hopes of admiring all of your kills lost.
Even though the zombie visuals could have been improved upon, the sound effects and music in Arizona Sunshine are nothing short of amazing. The moans of the zombies were creepy, and played into the game extremely well. Whenever I was about to enter a house or building, I’d always stop and listen to what was going on inside. If I heard shuffling or groans I’d make sure to step back a few paces before cracking open the door. Arizona Sunshine knows when to be quiet, and better yet, knows when to introduce pulse-pounding music to keep you on edge. When something bad is about to happen, you’ll know about it. Composer Jonathan van den Wijngaarden’s score has a very John Carpenter-esq sound to it, and it fit the game’s setting perfectly. The zombie’s groans mixed with music and gun blasts had me feeling like a total bad ass that could handle himself in the midst of the zombie apocalypse.
How Do You Kill it if it’s Already Dead?
The $40 price tag that Arizona Sunshine has attached to it may seem hard to swallow considering it’ll only take four hours to finish the campaign, but there is a lot more to bite into after the credits roll. The campaign can also be tackled with a friend in 2-player co-op mode and an additional horde mode with online rankings can be played with up to 3 friends. All of these modes together make Arizona Sunshine a well-rounded package that offers several hours of playtime.
If you are a zombie fan you’re going to absolutely love Arizona Sunshine. The campaign is badass, the sound effects and music are amazing, and the multiplayer modes will keep you busy for a long time. The game does have its quirks though. The zombie visuals are lacking and the constant wobble of the gun can get annoying, but the wobble is something that most owners of Sony’s headset just have to accept. If you’re a zombie fan that just so happens to own a PlayStation VR headset, I highly recommend you give Arizona Sunshine your attention.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Playstation 4 (reviewed), PC; Publisher: Vertigo Games ; Developer: Vertigo Games & Jaywalkers Interactive; Players: 1-4 ; Released: June 27, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Playstation 4 review copy of Arizona Sunshine given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.