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Arizona Sunshine Updated Review: The Best VR Zombie Shooter Yet

by David Jagneaux • June 29th, 2017
Platforms: Oculus Touch (reviewed), HTC Vive and PSVR (reviewed)
Positives

- Full campaign with optional co-op
- Up to 4-player horde mode
- Amazing characterization of the protagonist
- Great gun mechanics

Negatives

- Straight forward story with no surprises at all
- Lack of depth in horde mode

Editor’s Note: The majority of this review focuses on the game as it was at launch on Oculus Rift with Touch and HTC Vive. Since then it has been updated with full locomotion and new maps. For our thoughts on the PSVR version, you can read more here and see the updated section at the end of this review, which was contributed by Staff Writer Jamie Feltham.

Standing back-to-back with my fellow zombie slayer, UploadVR’s very own Joe Durbin, I peer down the barrel of my pistol at the walking corpse that’s stumbling toward me. I glance down at the ammo belt around my waist and notice I’m running low — only about 4 shots left after this clip is done. The hulking mass of a former human is only a few feet from my face now, so I level my sights at its head and squeeze the trigger. Click. Out of shots. I frantically release the magazine, then slam a new one into place by bringing the gun down to my belt, and raise my arms again just in time to blow a huge chunk of its head off, dropping it to the ground, just before it gnaws on my face.

Wave completed. I take a deep breath and get ready for the next onslaught.


This happened in Arizona Sunshine’s multiplayer horde mode — a small slice of the game that would have been enough for most developers to sell as a standalone product. Instead, with Arizona Sunshine, Vertigo Games have packed in not only a single player and multiplayer horde mode with endless waves of zombies, but they’ve also thrown in a robust campaign mode that can also be played both alone and with a friend. It combines together into a deep and diverse overall package that leaves me wanting more as I write these words.

Before approaching this review, I had to ask myself: What really makes a good zombie game? Obviously, zombies are at the core of the experience. They’ve got to be scary, first and foremost. In Arizona Sunshine there are a handful of moments that raised my hairs and gave me goosebumps, but it wasn’t as frequent as other games that bill themselves as primarily horror experiences. Instead, just like its approach to everything, the horror elements are only a small part of a much more complex puzzle.

You’ll hear them shuffling toward you, growling and moaning with each step, and you’ll feel the terror as an entire horde of them comes pouring over a gate or down a mine shaft after you. That’s all here. But what you won’t find is the inability to escape, or reposition yourself, or at least move out of the way. So many other zombie shooters in VR right now are obsessed with either locking you in place, neutralizing your ability to move other than what your room allows, or location-based teleportation to pre-defined areas. Luckily, Arizona Sunshine’s movement system offers flexibility, even if it’s still a form of teleportation.

arizona-sunshine-concept-art

By pressing forward on one of the Oculus Touch controllers’ analog sticks, or pressing the touchpad of a Vive controller, and then aiming out in front of me, I can choose where I’d like to teleport in the world, which results in a blink of the screen to simulate the movement. You’re faced with managing an endurance meter so you can’t just endlessly teleport across entire levels. It’s an effective solution to the movement problem, one popularized by Cloudhead’s The Gallery, and it avoids motion sickness. However, it would have been nice for the option of a more traditional control scheme for those that don’t suffer from motion sickness.

Even though the zombies in Arizona Sunshine retain a lot of what make zombies so scary in pop culture, it loses some of that effect once you realize how simple the A.I. is in the game. They either slowly walk around until noticing you, crawl on the ground if shot in the leg, or sprint toward you. One thing I really appreciated is that, regardless of the type of zombie, they’re lethal. If you make the mistake of letting one get close enough to hit you, they’ll start wildly flailing their arms making it tough to shoot their head and dealing severe damage very, very quickly. Within seconds, a single zombie can drop you from full health to death without much trouble. Luckily, there’s no risk of turning from a bite to worry about that I noticed.

arizona-sunshine-highway

Throughout the campaign mode I grew fond of the main character’s wit and humor. I began the journey waking up inside of a cave, presumably a hideout location. A zombie head rolls into the cave after getting lopped off by a bear trap — a safety precaution the main character took before resting. Jokingly, he refers to the dead monstrosity as ‘Fred’, a comical moniker he uses to refer to any and all zombies throughout the game.

After exiting the cave, I hear a human voice over the radio for the first time. I set out on my mission to find the source of the transmission and, ideally, a safe haven from all of the madness. It’s a simple story that never veers off track and has zero twists or turns, but it gets the job done. The focus isn’t so much on the overarching narrative, but more so on the world and the main character’s relationship to the apocalypse that makes it so pleasurable to play through.

arizona-sunshine-zombie-mouth

Over the course of the 4+ hour campaign, the character’s humor is effective at offering a foil to the otherwise horrific hellscape of the Arizona desert during the apocalypse. Between scavenging for food and ammunition it’s refreshing to hear the protagonist remark about how ugly one of the Freds appears to be, or how the horde of Freds is ruining the intimate get-together he had planned for the single dead zombie in the middle of the room. Hearing my character exclaim, “You just had to invite your entire damn family, didn’t ya Fred!?” is much more entertaining than the stock grunts and complaints.

That personality shines through in the end, as well as his anger and frustration mounts and all serves to mark the ending of the campaign in a huge climactic battle. That personality was enough to make it an adventure worth taking, but it never ascends to he heights of other narrative VR games, such as The Gallery, in its storytelling. The utter lack of any other characters, or at least diversions in the plot, make this a very by-the-numbers story of the zombie apocalypse, one that we’ve all heard before, even if it’s exciting to play again in VR.

arizona-sunshine-two-zombies

Which is what a lot of the experience boils down to. In terms of game design and mechanics, there isn’t a whole lot to make it sound very exciting on paper. You can move around large environments, point flashlights in the dark, shoot zombies, and fight for your life — but that’s been in games for years. The difference between a game like Arizona Sunshine and anything you’d play on a 2D display is that in this game, you feel like you’re part of the world. You embody the character, rather than piloting them through the window of your television.

My memories of playing the game feel more like I visited this place and vividly recall getting lost in the mines, scared for my life. In this way, it’s much more than just a simple video game. By crafting a full campaign mode that lasts several hours, Arizona Sunshine effectively transports you to this other world in such a convincing way that you feel what your character feels much more so than you would in any other traditional game.

Playing the campaign in multiplayer offers the exact same experience, but increases the difficulty in just as many ways as it decreases it. While you have a second pair of guns and pair of eyes in the world, you don’t have twice as much ammo to go around, forcing you to share and ration out each stash. The dark levels also require immense teamwork as only person is afforded the use of the flashlight. You better trust whoever you’ve asked to watch your back.

arizona-sunshine-zombie-cave

Then going one step further, Arizona Sunshine also offers a dynamic horde mode as well. You can play this endless wave section of the game either alone or, as we would recommend, with up to 3 other people, scaling it from either 1-4 players total. Each time we tried it out the zombies came from different locations, in different quantities, and different styles. Just like in the campaign mode, some of them were wearing helmets, while others were not. In later waves they started running and pouring into the arena in larger numbers, amping up the intensity even further.

Each time we tried to plan out our positioning, watching each other’s backs. It never panned out how we’d have liked. Eventually we got overrun, chaos ensued, and we died. But hey — at least we put up a good fight, right?

The horde mode is great, addictive, and immensely exhilarating, but I came away wishing for more. There only appears to be a single map with the same layout and time of day settings. There’s no progression system other than spawning newer and better guns as the rounds go on, and once you play it a few times, there isn’t much else to see. I’d love for some unlockable customization options, the ability to increase rank, acquire abilities, place environmental defenses like walls or barricades, or at least try out more than a single level. Those would make for great additions in an update.

arizona-sunshine-zombie-tie

Over half a year on and Arizona Sunshine finally arrives on PSVR as a slightly watered down but still very much enjoyable experience. You get all of the same modes and features, but an added twist on the campaign that lets you play with the new Aim Controller. Graphically the game’s taken a big hit, though it’s by no means unsightly and playing with the rifle-shaped device is a real joy.

PSVR’s tracking and feature limitations are never too far from your mind; the Aim jitters when looking down the sights, and walking/turning with the Move controllers is cumbersome at best. Still the game gives you plenty of options to fine-tune the experience and the core gameplay is just as fun as it is on PC. If you can’t go Rift or Vive, then the PSVR version is still a great choice.

Final Score: 8.5/10 – Great

Vertigo Games proved that even in the most saturated genre we’ve seen for VR games this year — shooters with zombies — there was still room for something fresh. Arizona Sunshine combines the narrative power of a fully-featured 4+ hour campaign mode, with the intensity of a wave-based horde mode, and then adds multiplayer to both experiences. The protagonist’s witty humor make it worth recommending on his charming personality alone, with enough depth and variety to keep people coming back for several hours. By doing so many things so well, Arizona Sunshine quickly rose to the top of the pack as the best overall zombie shooter we’ve seen yet in VR.

Arizona Sunshine will be available on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, as well as on the Oculus Home Store for the Rift. The game is also now available on PSVR with optional Aim Controller support. You can find more purchasing options on the game’s official website. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

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  • wheeler

    Looks like a great game and I’d certainly like to play some coop. I can’t really justify the purchase without a smooth locomotion option but I’ll keep an eye on this.

    • Mane Fit

      I will be skipping this game too for the same reason

  • Trooper

    This has been on my wishlist for absolute ages…..trouble is I am broke for a while as I bought a 1070 for better VR experiences, still it’s not like the game will disappear in the next month or so.

    EDIT : They gave me Watch Dogs 2 as a free game with my purchase…….I would have much preferred this if I am honest.

    • I bet it will get a decent discount during the Steam winter sale in a month or so!

      • Trooper

        I think it starts on the 22nd of December untill the 29th, and I hope you are right …….. but to be honest I will probably bought it by then 🙂

      • mirak

        I doubt there will.

    • nargorn

      Just sell your watch dogs 2 key and buy a steam key for much less than it is priced in oculus home. You might save even 10-15 bucks;)

      • Trooper

        I think they try to discourage that as whilst redeeming the watchdogs key through Nvidia you have to link it to your Uplay account to get the actual key and by the time you have the key (so I could sell it) the game was already associated to my Uplay account…..Sneaky gits.

    • mirak

      So you buy a >400$ vidéo card and can’t afford 30$ for on of the best vr game ?
      That’s really a bad excuse. xD

      • Trooper

        not really, I have to save up for everything I buy so I have to plan things and prioritise everything and the new GPU was the best option for my entire gaming needs. In case you didn’t see my profile pic I have a great difficulty in earning money so the money I do get is spent as wisely as is possible and in the most beneficial way.

        • mirak

          Sorry, I can’t see it.

    • Wingnut

      Did you buy this game yet or no?

      • Trooper

        Yes I did and it was completely worth every penny. I got it not long after this review was posted, I think it was a couple of days before they removed the “i7 exclusive” stuff. I would suggest that people buy the game as it is really out of this world and now has better movement options to boot.

  • Angelo Overmeier

    It looks amazing, but because of the lack of smooth/normal locomotion I will skip this… 🙁 I’m still having so much fun with Doom 3.

    • mirak

      that’s really not an excuse to skip such a VR game

      • Mane Fit

        yes it is. in fact it’s one of the best reason to skip a vr game if u r someone who don’t get sick and this option is taken away from you the game feels limiting the whole time u have this feeling like u should be able to move but u r stuck in a spot till u teleport at which time for a second or too u feel out of place. it’s one of the worse feeling in vr next to getting sick I guess. I can’t enjoy a game that doesn’t let me move as I would in any other game

        • Graham J ⭐️

          You shouldn’t speak so generally – I don’t experience sim sickness yet enjoy the teleport mechanic. Just decide that it’s fine and it will be fine. Mind over matter.

          • Mane Fit

            so I should force myself to like it… nah i’m better off just skipping ALL games that don’t give more than just teleporting for locomotion to give in now is to accept limits force onto u by someone telling u they know what best for u and no amount of acting like I like something is going to make me like it… that like say here eat s#!t just tell urself it’s steak and it will taste like steak

          • njevans

            I guess if a game restricts you and only gives you third person without giving you the option of first person you probably skip those too right???

            Ohh wait.. that wouldn’t make any sense.

            You locomotion nuts are hilarious. This is the way the game was designed. Deal with it. You don’t speak for all of VR and it’s development. That is up to the devs.

          • Mane Fit

            Huh i have skip games for many reason like its pvp only or that story looks like crap even i don’t like the art style… it’s call freedom of choice. Just like i am choosing to not spend my money on any vr games that doesn’t give me the option i feel will allow me to enjoy the game. It is up to the devs but its up to me on whether to buy it.. and i can call attention to it so those who feel like me can also not buy it amd if there is enough of us that theae devs don’t make the money they were hoping for then they will give us option that is call capitalism u see how that works. Freedom is a wonderful thing

        • DougP

          Re: “I can’t enjoy a game that doesn’t let me move as I would in any other game”
          Why would you want to move in VR as you would an “any other game”?

          Assuming you’re talking about non-VR games, why be restricted?

          I mean, in VR I can actually WALK around a play-space instead of sitting in a chair/on couch clicking some controller.

          • Mane Fit

            simple cause that what I enjoy doing in my game that doesn’t change simply cause this is vr. I want to sit relax and game not move around. if walking around ur play space is what U want more power to u I just think there should be the OPTION for those of us who don’t wish to do that

      • Sebastien Mathieu

        agreed!

    • Kelborn Sinclair

      There’s no such thing as “normal” for VR locomotion. Trackpads are just as bad as teleportation compared to actual VR locomotion: your feet.

  • Mane Fit

    Wow i love this “However, it would have been nice for the option of a more traditional control scheme for those that don’t suffer from motion sickness.” Keep this up in ur reviews thanks for saying this

  • Ploppy Man

    Me no move, me no play. No teleportation please.

  • Peter S

    Preordered and don’t care about the locomotion. These devs know what they’re doing so don’t care how I move in this game.

    • Allan

      Agreed. No locomation for me thanks.

  • Matthew Wetzel

    Since it has only teleportation, no thanks.

  • Wingnut

    Is it worth 40 bucks? I just saw it was on “sale” in the OVR Store

  • Wow Really?

    Yeah they actually made a game! unlike all the other lack luster titles.

  • direx1974

    Those screens were never took from the real game. These are misleading target renderers … The real ingame graphic looks way less god, even on PC.

    • mirak

      Since you can’t illustrate the immersion of a VR game on a monitor, I think it’s fair.
      You would have to render screen door effect, low resolution, and aliasing of the headsets if you want it to reflect what you exactly see, but this is mostly the hardware fault, rather than limitations from the game engine.

      • Niche

        Resolution differences aside, the game doesn’t have those lighting or depth of field effects. Even the detail level looks wildly exaggerated. They’re pure bullshots.

      • Stacey Bright

        They could have at least been in-engine shots rendered from whats displayed on the monitor.

        • mirak

          I agree that someone who knows VR might be misled, but you would also have people who don’t know VR thinking that VR is shit, because you can’t render real depth and immersion on a 2D screen.

          I think they could render lights with the engine, since they use unity, but nobody could run it smoothly in VR.

  • Irakli Kokrashvili

    Most over-hyped game on VR imho. And they keep reviewing it every month. common guys do your job.

  • Mane Vr

    have they fix their crappy load time yet in this games

    • Simplex

      Yes they did.

  • mirak

    I think Dead Effect 2 matches Arizona Sunshine as a Zombie shooter.
    Dead Effect 2 have more depth, and feels more like a complete normal game, because has a game made for 2D first, it has all what is needed to make a 2D shooter interesting, while Arizona Sunshine rely on the VR effect to overlook many things.

    What Dead Effect 2 proves is that they don’t necessarily need to make new games from scratch for VR, and could easily sell VR versions of old games.
    We would be more than happy with that for now.

    • I’d *LOVE IT* if Dead Effect 2 were given a VR upgrade!
      It’s not the prettiest game, but it’s certainly not the ugliest either and it’s actually a pretty decent game. I’ve got it on both PS4 and Android.

      • J.C.

        Ah, was confused for a moment. DE2 has VR support, on PC.

      • mirak

        Actually Dead Effect 2 has the best locomotion system I used yet.
        I can’t strafe all the time, so I like to be able to teleport when just moving around, and strafe when you have to shot around.

        The weapon interface is similar to Arizona Sunshine, you holster weapons on your body. However Arizona Sunshine is a bit more polished on that.

        • Hmm…. I don’t think I’d like that. I hate teleportation locomotion -but that’s because I don’t get motion sickness and prefer to be able to move normally, including strafing, smooth turning, all that. To me, pretty much every single ‘VR comfort’ setting I’ve experienced has been more distracting than helpful, especially incremental turning that causes the screen to blink in any manner –I have clinical light-sensitivity and flashing like that trigger migraines with me; though I have no problem running at full speed in VR like I were playing a standard 2D game.

          The first time I experienced flashing as a so called VR comfort setting, I had a headache for the next 3 days. Now, I play with all VR comfort settings disabled and never have any problems from it –but I’ve also been VR gaming nearly daily now for over 6 months (and gaming as a whole for over 36 years, since I was 8 years old).

  • Simplex

    I wish the game looked half as good as on those bullshots.

  • MaeseDude

    It’s a very mediocre, if not bad game by itself, but I had a lot of fun with the Aim controller. Especially with full-on free locomotion. Strangely enough, since I can zip and zoom around freely and fast in this game or Farpoint, I have no problems at all anymore. I realized that it was the restrictive slow movement in games like “Resident Evil 7”, and the strange “walk in the direction you are looking”-behavior that always made me sick. I am so looking forward to “Skyrim VR” now…