Gamescom 2018: Arizona Sunshine Free-Roaming Multiplayer Hands-On

by Tal Blevins • August 22nd, 2018

Although zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine was released relatively early in the latest VR headset lifecycle (late 2016), it’s still one of the best games out there. Developer Vertigo Games is looking to recreate that success in a multiplayer arcade setting with Arizona Sunshine LB (ASLB) VR. We had a chance to take on massive zombie hordes with friends at Gamescom this year, and we lived to tell the tale.

The Arizona Sunshine multiplayer experience supports up to four players in a 10m x 10m space, but since we were in a slightly smaller 6m x 6m space, we went for three humans vs. thousands of undead. We strapped on our wireless adaptor-equipped Vives, picked up a couple of tracked Hyperkin blaster, and were transported to a military base being overrun by walkers.

In the below video you can see a similar setup that we tried at CES 2018, except this was just the original game’s horde mode, not ASLB:

Similar to the events in the Dead Man DLC, ASLB  takes place before Arizona Sunshine, soon after the zombie apocalypse begins. While taking down as many undead as possible is your primary focus, the ultimate goal is to launch a nuclear missile to try and take out thousands of zeds clustered in the urban core.

Gameplay consists of lots of shooting as well as some puzzle elements as you work your way further and further down into the belly of the nuclear missile facility in order to reach the launch computer. There are a number of times when one person has to ride a platform away from the other team members in order to operate a lever or button while teammates cover them from afar. It’s all very tense, and proper teamwork is key in these situations. There are also a number of beam walks and small jumps and gaps to avoid while navigating the levels, and while you know there’s solid ground under your feet in the real world, those types of spatial puzzles are always powerful in VR because the brain wants to believe what the brain perceives.

Literally walking around in the environment is the best way to play VR as it’s highly immersive, and while there were some early walking animations which looked particularly stiff since the models’ knees didn’t bend yet, there’s still some time to go until the code is final, so we’re confident that will be improved before launch. To be honest, I was wary of getting an errant gun in the teeth when we first started playing, but the trackers worked well, so spatial awareness of my two live teammates wasn’t an issue, even with an HMD on.

Most of the roomscale VR arcade experiences to date have been very scripted, and as such don’t lend themselves to replayabilty, but I could see hopping back into Arizona Sunshine on multiple occasions and still having fun with it. While the puzzle elements remain the same, the enemies are fairly dynamic, and even increase their speed and numbers the more you shoot, meaning it always feels like you’re right on the verge of being overrun. And while we only used the blasters during our playthrough, Vertigo let us know the game would support a variety of gun devices, so you could have one person with an assault rifle, another with a shotgun, and two others dual-wielding pistols.

All in all ASLB took us about 20 minutes to beat, so it should translate to a 30-45 minute total experience in the arcade after outfitting everyone and giving them some basic instructions. There is also a horde mode which you can play for as long as you survive. The setup itself is also very conducive to multiple scenarios, so I could see Vertigo iterating and releasing additional arcade episodes in the future if the first does well.

Featured Image Credit: Shen Ye

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