So there I was toward the end of my Arizona Sunshine 2 preview period, surrounded by a horde of zombies. While reloading my assault rifle, I heard one snarling behind me to the left. I knew I had to act fast.
I did what anyone else would do: pull the pump-action shotgun off my back, casually shoot it with one hand, re-holster it, and continue reloading the rifle. Sure, I could’ve reached for the machete on my hip, but the shotgun felt right in the moment.
I hadn’t played the first Arizona Sunshine because I’m relatively new to virtual reality. I only jumped in with the PlayStation VR 2, where I played Ragnarock for so long my arms still hurt to this day. And I can see myself saying the same thing about Arizona Sunshine 2 when that launches later this year.
Run & Gun in the Arizona Sun
When I played Arizona Sunshine 2's preview build, I started with a basic pistol, but over the course of roughly an hour, I got my hands on more weapons than I could deal with. There’s a revolver, an assault rifle, a pump shotgun, multiple axes, a machete, and even a grenade launcher.
All the guns have intricate, intuitive reload systems that almost feel like mini games. The pistol has a button to eject the clip; then you have to slot in a new clip and pull back the slide. The reload button for the revolver pops out the chamber, and after you put in fresh bullets, I found that jerking the gun to the side would slot the chamber back in place. It felt pretty cool to do, honestly.
All these little systems happen one step at a time, allowing you to dictate the pace. Is it easier to stop mid-reload and swap to a different gun on my belt? While swapping, can I swing an axe with my other hand?
These sorts of questions went through my mind while playing, but after getting used to the systems, my hands had answers faster than my brain did.
It’s like what I mentioned above; one-handing that shotgun just felt right in the moment. In the same way, reaching for the axe on my belt for nearby zombies became almost instinctual. Some hits end up lodging the blade into zombies, and yanking it out always felt meaty and visceral.
It may sound overwhelming at first, but once I was in the flow of things, it all felt very natural and exciting. The start of the demo also had a lot of slow-moving, meandering shamblers, so it was easy to get in the groove of things and practice.
The only thing that really got to me was a small headache toward the end of the session, but of course, your mileage may vary based on your own experience with VR. Arizona Sunshine 2 is playable while standing or sitting, and you can teleport or slide to move around.
I chose to stand and slide, which gave me a lot of mobility, but it took its toll on me. That’s not something I hold against the game, either; it’s just a reality of VR, and it hits everyone differently.
The Heart of the Zombie Matter
There’s a lot of personality to be found in Arizona Sunshine 2. The player character is very quippy, sarcastic, and irreverent. If you look at something unique or interesting, he’ll probably have something to say.
Sometimes, it’s very directive, like a sort of tutorial you’d see in most video games. Other times, it’s a witty observation or a so-bad-it's-maybe-good joke. It all depends on your sense of humor, but I felt very middle-of-the-road with him by the end of the demo. Our review editor Sam Guglielmo was not a fan of him when he reviewed Arizona Sunshine.
I came across a lot of opportunities for the game to show off its character. I found a Zippo lighter and cigarettes, both of which are interactable. When I found a dead zombie at the bottom of a drained-out pool, the protagonist said something like, “Looks like someone took a dive.” It didn’t all land with me, but I was having too much fun with the combat, anyway.
The big show stealer though, is the player character’s dog, Buddy, who feels precision-engineered for YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels. You can pet him, play fetch, and direct him to go wherever you can see.
You can direct him to places you can’t fit, adding a puzzle-solving element to Arizona Sunshine 2. If you point at a zombie, he’ll tackle it to the ground and maul it to death, which is great for crowd control. He can even carry two smaller weapons, expanding your arsenal on the go.
Arizona Sunshine 2 Preview | Final Thoughts
Overall, I came away from Arizona Sunshine 2 pretty positively. It felt like a great sandbox to play with some weapons, shoot some zombies, and feel like an action hero. Is it groundbreaking? No, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s just some good ol’ fashioned fun.
I played Arizona Sunshine 2 on a Meta Quest 2 at a press event for roughly one hour. The game will also be available on PlayStation VR 2, and it’s slated for release in 2023.