It Will Eat Your Brain
When it originally released back in 2016, Arizona Sunshine was one of the few full FPSes available in VR. The game launched to pretty good reviews, even getting a few game of the year awards from VR-focused sites. The game has now hit PlayStation VR, bringing its zombie shooting gunplay to a platform that already has several of these. Does this mean Arizona Sunshine still holds up, or does it shamble along like the undead it portrays?
Arizona Sunshine starts you off taking cover from the zombie apocalypse. When you hear a broadcast from a group of survivors over the radio you pack your things up and set off through the state of Arizona to go find them. That's really about the extent of the story, but the game is still drowning in dialogue. Not of characters talking to each other, but rather of the sole survivor talking to himself. My best guess is that the developers were going for a Deadpool-esque "makes tons of sarcastic quips constantly" vibe, but not a single joke lands on the mark.
Instead, the main character comes off like an annoying psychopath. He'll spend entire levels screaming at zombies to suck his dick, fabricating award ceremonies, and butchering movie quotes to extend them well beyond their actual length. It barely took a couple of levels before I was diving into the menus praying that the game would just allow me to mute him.
Arizona Sunshine lets players choose between three different control methods, working with the DualShock 4, the PSVR Aim, or a pair of PS Move controllers. Gameplay feels like it is built with Move controllers in mind (it is what it suggests you use after all) but I actually found this to be the worst way to play the game. The teleport-movement never feels effective, even if it does allow you to have two guns rather than one.
The PSVR Aim and DualShock both allow analog movement, but they come with their own control issues. Tapping up on the right stick causes you to access teleporting while tapping down does a quick about face, and both are extremely easy to trigger by accident. Worse, the game requires you to move your controller to open doors, pick up items, or pull switches, but this rarely worked. I often had to grab things and flail around in the hopes that it'd register. On top of everything, Arizona Sunshine lacks the extensive comfort options that Resident Evil 7 and Farpoint provide. In the end, not a single control scheme felt all that good to use. If you've needed to adjust VR games in the past to keep yourself from getting sick, this might not be the one for you.
Eventually, I managed to get used to controlling Arizona Sunshine, I personally stuck with the PSVR Aim, and I moved onto the game proper. I'm not entirely sure it was worth it though. The game consists of little more than moving from point A to point B while shooting zombies (or Fred, as the main character insists on calling them) along the way. All of these zombies are the exact same unless you consider the speed at which they shamble towards you to be a major difference. The game seems more interested in trying to swarm you with as many enemies as possible, but the zombies are so easy to dispatch that it just kind of becomes more boring than anything else. There are a couple spots where you can pick up and use a sniper rifle and one where you get a turret, but all you're doing is making it so the super boring zombies can't even fight back now.
You'll wander around the deserts of Arizona, passing through a bunch of identical locations. The only exception to this is a level that takes place in an abandoned mine, plunging the game into darkness and making you rely on a headlamp. It's not particularly creative or unique, but it's a nice change in a game that otherwise doesn't have much variety. Through most of Arizona Sunshine, you'll get a sandy canyon, a sandy trailer park, a sandy train station, and other locations that all use the same few buildings that have been copied and pasted throughout the game.
As I played, the game's systems kept getting in my way, adding in weird unnecessary issues. Reloading my gun was one of the strangest and the most annoying systems to keep track of. Any time you reload, no matter how much ammo you had left, you'd lose an entire magazine's worth. At the same time, your half-empty magazine would fall to the ground and could be picked up to restore those bullets you would have lost. Why they felt like they had to add the need to pick up dropped ammo is beyond me, especially when the simple act of picking things up was already unnecessarily difficult. Grenade throwing was equally complicated, requiring pressing several buttons in ways that didn't quite make sense. You also can't pause the game, which is just a baffling decision that did little more than drive me nuts.
The campaign took me about three hours to finish, which I probably would have thought was too short if I wasn't so sick of Arizona Sunshine by the time the credits rolled. You can play the campaign online with another player, which is a nice way to help bring a bit more entertainment to an otherwise dull game. The PSVR version of the game also features a new "two-handed mode" which turns all the pistols in the game into rifles to work better with the PSVR Aim. However, all the rifles felt off to me, as it was obvious they just took a pistol's stats and tossed it onto a rifle model. Guns constantly felt underpowered and did not match up with their design at all. At one point I picked up a Thompson submachine gun only to find it locked to single-shot.
Once you're done with the campaign, there's also a hoard survival mode. It's just a wave-based gauntlet that doesn't actually do anything unique or interesting. You can play with up to three other people online, but I had some trouble finding people to actually play a game with. Since the extra mode offered little more than the same shooting the main game did, I was bored of it after only a single session and had no interest in replaying it.
The other area where Arizona Sunshine suffered most from its port is in its graphics. Much of this comes from the game's pop-in, which was constantly distracting me from any other technical or artistic move made in the game. It's not just limited to details in the environment either: enemies will also just spawn into existence depending on how close you are. It feels as if there was an attempt to keep the game's good looking details and graphical fidelity from the PC version, but it means the trade off of having a draw distance of barely a few feet in front of you. I was constantly distracted by the pop-in to the point where I couldn't appreciate the game's few good moments and it's very likely that it'll be all that I remember of it.
When it originally came out Arizona Sunshine was more interesting due to the lack of fully fledged VR games. However, we've seen several successful VR games that have accomplished way more than Arizona Sunshine. Even ignoring that, this is a poor port that suffers from both graphical and control issues. I don't particularly think this is a game worth playing, but you should especially make an effort to avoid the PSVR version. Just stay in the shade where it's cool.
- Some Fights Can be Fun
- Co-Op Campaign
- Barely Any Story, Terrible Main Character
- Repetitive Gameplay and Environments
- Terrible Pop-In
- Poor Controls
- Boring Hoard Mode