Arizona Sunshine Review: Burning Bright On PSVR
Arizona Sunshine made quite the splash when it launched for virtual reality platforms on PC late last year, giving players a chance to blast their way through a smoldering zombie apocalypse. The game is now available for the PlayStation VR, but how well did it translate to Sony’s home console?
The short answer to that question is “surprisingly well.” I’ve been impressed with the PlayStation Move controllers since they first launched for the PlayStation 3 several years back and, though it is considered underpowered in comparison to the competition, the PlayStation VR headset has proven to be no slouch, either. Still, I wasn’t expecting the tracking to be so damn accurate in Arizona Sunshine for PSVR and, while the campaign is a bit on the short side, it proved to be a rootin’-tootin’ good time shootin’.
When you first boot up Arizona Sunshine, you’ll find yourself in a crummy trailer with nothing but a classic game console and a light gun for entertainment. The cartridges lying around allow you to explore the game’s various features, including a plethora of options, the credits, a campaign mode and, since this is a game with zombies, a horde mode.
One of the coolest things about Az Sun is that the team at Vertigo Games took into consideration the various quirks of VR gaming. You can play with a standard controller, two Move controllers or even the new PlayStation Aim controller (more on that later). When it comes to moving around in the game world, you can either try free roam or teleportation. In either of those modes, you can also set the camera’s turning to smooth or segmented. In other words, if you find yourself feeling a bit queasy playing one way, there’s probably a combination of options that will work for you.
Since it’s the suggested way to play, I jumped straight into the campaign with teleportation and segmented turning. Once you get the hang of the controls, this actually proves to be a perfectly comfortable way to play, even if zipping around like Nightcrawler does remove a bit of the immersion from the game.
In the campaign, you play as a guy who, up until this point, has decided to survive the undead apocalypse in a cave. Wandering around the desert landscape, you hear a radio broadcast that makes it seem like other survivors might be gathering nearby. So, of course, you decide to try and track them down. The levels are linear but open enough to allow (and reward) exploration. When you’re not shooting zombies, you’ll be looting cars and digging through file cabinets on the lookout for ammo, grenades and health-replenishing burgers. There’s a bunch of other in-game items you can pick up, but they don’t exactly do anything. Still, it’s kind of neat to hold a soda can and shoot it out of your hand from time to time, or pick up a new mask and plop it onto your face.
As you make your way through the game, you’ll discover a couple dozen weapons ranging from pistols to SMGs, shotguns and the like. If you play the Two-Handed Mode with the Aim controller, you’ll get to tackle a tweaked version of the game that incorporates 13 new weapons that fit the rifle-esque controller nicely. It actually makes for a pretty unique experience compared to the dual-wielding campaign, giving you plenty of reason to blast your way through the four-hour story a second time.
If this was a standard FPS, it wouldn’t exactly be a mindblowing experience. However, as I’ve learned with VR, everything old is new again. Just the simple act of exploring these very basic levels, solving very basic environmental puzzles and blasting zombies with a very basic arsenal of weapons proves to be barrels of fun with a VR headset strapped to your face.
Picking off solo zombies as you make your way from area to area serves as great practice for the inevitable horde of walkers that will eventually converge on your location. This is further bolstered by the random assortment of zombies that shamble onto the scene. Some are slow-moving while others will sprint at you. Some have protective clothing on while others are literally in swimsuits.
But what really sets Arizona Sunshine apart is how precise and fun the shooting is. You won’t get by with just “good enough” shooting in this particular outing. You’ll need to slow down, actually close one eye and aim properly if you want to land those all-important headshots. It’s extremely gratifying once you get the hang of things and the variety of guns is enough to keep things interesting. I can’t tell you how good it felt to land headshot after headshot as a horde moved in closer and, just as they got to the point of overtaking me, I dropped both hands to my side without looking, swapped to a pair of SMGs and unleashed holy hell upon the masses in a blind spray of fury.
Of course, this is virtual reality, so even Arizona Sunshine isn’t without its quirks. Playing in low light at night and standing, I had zero issues shooting my way through the game with a pair of Move controllers in hand. With bright sunlight shining in the window or playing while sitting, sometimes the visuals would get a bit wonky and need to be adjusted. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally hit the “turn” button when I meant to reload my gun or, similarly, threw a clip out of my gun when what I meant to do was turn. That last bit kind of fits the theme, though, as I never had these issues when I played calm and collected. If I let the zombies overwhelm me and got frantic with the buttons, I was a goner.
Also, maybe it’s just me, but every time I tried to throw a grenade it landed about two feet in front of me. If I wasn’t quick enough to turn and teleport away, trying to blow up zombies usually resulted in a restarted level for me instead.
Outside of the campaign is a multiplayer horde mode. I wasn’t able to get a group going during the review period, but the mode is still a lot of fun in single player. You’re restricted to a set area while waves of zombies make their way toward you. You’ll have limited resources, but they replenish between waves. Also, never underestimate the usefulness of a red barrel when the mass of bodies is getting a bit too thick. One of the coolest features, though, is the live leaderboard that’s literally a billboard within the level. While you’re blasting away, you can glance toward the board to see how you’re doing and get live updates on your progress once the round is over.
It seems like a lot of developers are going the FPS route here in the early stages of VR because, let’s face it, it’s the genre that makes the most sense for the technology. I’d like to see a bit more diversity moving forward but, so long as a shooter is as solid as Arizona Sunshine, I won’t mind taking it for a spin.
I had a lot of fun working through the campaign and am really looking forward to putting the horde mode through its paces now that I’ll be able to team up with friends. One of the highest rated VR games for the Vive and Rift is officially one of the best reasons to own a PSVR, too.
This review based on a PlayStation 4 download of the game provided by the publisher.