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Arizona Sunshine 2 review – virtual zombie killer

Arizona Sunshine 2 review – virtual zombie killer
Arizona Sunshine 2 – VR zombies aren’t necessarily as scary as you’d think (Picture: Vertigo Games)

One of the most popular VR zombie shooters gets a sequel on PSVR 2 and Meta Quest, as one man and his dog brave the undead.

The zombie genre has a rich and often strange history, with the first film about shuffling hordes of the undead being White Zombie from way back in 1932. Since then, there have been all sorts of takes on it, from World War Z’s fast-paced zombie pandemic to Warm Bodies’ romantic comedy. Video games have just as broad a view of what it might be like to endure a zombie apocalypse, which also range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

While Resident Evil and The House Of The Dead take things reasonably seriously, the action is still regularly played for laughs. In the 90s, Zombies Ate My Neighbours was out to terrify nobody and more recently Dead Rising, and the less successful Stubbs the Zombie, have taken a more light-hearted approach. And so it was that VR title Arizona Sunshine joined the canon of games that think shooting zombies should be goofy fun rather than frightening.

In Arizona Sunshine 2, your nameless survivor wakes up in his trailer with a raging hangover. Superbly voiced by Sky Soleil, his ongoing solo commentary is how you’d imagine John C. Reilly’s character in Step Brothers might greet the end of the world. As in the first game, he calls all the zombies Fred and rather than any grand plans for survival or saving mankind, he just misses human company and sets out to find some.

This time he’s not undertaking the journey alone. In the opening scenes you come across Buddy the dog, who becomes your loyal companion for most of the rest of the game. Although he looks suitably hideous, Buddy is incredibly useful, acting as a remote control stealth zombie killer. He takes down Freds without alerting others nearby and can crawl under fences to drag corpses out of the way, so you can open gates that would otherwise have been blocked.

Buddy also acts as a soulmate to the survivor, giving him someone to talk to, his musings referencing everything from Weird Science to the Flying Spaghetti Monster as you traverse sewers, residential neighbourhoods, and failed quarantine zones. You’re doing all that in search of Patient Zero, the first infected, who you believe might lead you to some fellow humans.

Between you and your goal are endless crowds of zombies. They come in a few different flavours, the most common being standard shufflers, with others that jog towards you instead. Some have helmets, head mutations, or body armour, and some are morbidly obese, requiring several head shots to put them out of their misery. But you’ll see every enemy the game has to offer in the first hour.

Weaponry is a little more varied. Along with several denominations of axe and machete, each of which gradually wears away as you cleave undead skulls, their blades becoming increasingly damaged until they disintegrate, there’s also a decent range of guns. Although plain looking, they sound loud and dangerous, the overwhelming majority of zombies being dispatched with a single headshot from a pistol, supplying a pleasing sense of potency.





You’ll also find shotguns of various configurations, revolvers, assault rifles, submachine guns, and, in a couple of memorable sequences, miniguns – although unfortunately you can’t take those with you. As in practically all VR games, though, reloading is the gameplay element that causes the most problems.

Vertigo Games clearly understands that, making a button on the controller both eject spent magazines and rack the slide on pistols or the firing pin on rifles, removing two of the most problematic parts of VR gun reloading. That still leaves you to grab magazines from your chest and insert them into your gun, a procedure that works well enough when you’re picking off stragglers but proves wildly inconsistent when you’re being assailed from all sides by the horde.

At normal difficulty, a few hits from the undead are all it takes for the screen to go red and the game’s unhurried loading screen to appear, sending you back to the last checkpoint. Unfortunately, when that happens at the end of a lengthy siege sequence, forcing you to go through the whole sorry process again, it can be monumentally frustrating.

It doesn’t help that the entire game is effectively one long, linear corridor. Although you take in all sorts of scenery, from an airport departure lounge to a battle on a moving train, the uniformity of its challenge remains uninspiring. Walk forward, pop some zombie skulls, continue forward, repeat. There is a primitive crafting system that lets you build mines, grenades, and Molotov cocktails, but it feels tacked on solely to give purpose to your looting beyond finding yet more ammo.

Arizona Sunshine 2 – at least the dog is cute (Picture: Vertigo Games)

There were four occasions during the single-player campaign when the game crashed to the PlayStation’s home screen, forcing a reload. And even when it wasn’t crashing, climbing sections proved tricky for the game engine, the screen regularly going black as your head accidentally merges with a piece of scenery, sending you back to the beginning of the wall, pipe network, or upended train carriage you were attempting to traverse.

Progress is often unnecessarily laborious, through a combination of frustratingly placed checkpoints and a lack of precision in the game’s controls. Having to a repeat a section because you made a mistake you can correct next time is one of the joys of playing video games. Repeating a laborious engagement with a zombie horde because a magazine wouldn’t slot into your gun is just annoying. Doing it a third time does little to assuage the homicidal rage.

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As well as the campaign there’s also Horde mode, that you can take on with up to three friends. This offers cross-play amongst VR platforms, but we were unable to test that pre-launch. It’s fair to say that even popular VR games can suffer from insufficient player numbers, causing problems with multiplayer matchmaking, although it remains to be seen whether that will be the case here.

The saving grace of Arizona Sunshine 2 is the script and voice acting, which deliver enjoyably dumb comedy throughout. Sadly, the rest of the game is too clumsy and one note to do it justice. It’s a shame, because there are good ideas at work, they’re just not well enough executed to make them enjoyable. The best VR games offer experiences far more thrilling and involving than just seeing the action play out on TV. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them.




Arizona Sunshine 2 review summary In Short: A genuinely amusing zombie shooting sequel, that’s let down by clunky controls, too many bugs, and too little variety in its challenge.
Pros: Witty script, consistently excellent voice-acting, and some of its more destructive weapons are very cathartic.
Cons: Reloading is erratic under pressure. The game’s idea of challenge is blandly throwing legions of animated corpses at you and it suffers from too many bugs for its price point.
Score: 5/10



Formats: PlayStation VR 2 (reviewed), Meta Quest, and Steam VR Price: £39.99 Developer: Vertigo Games Publisher: Vertigo Games Release Date: 5th December 2023 Age Rating: 18





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