Developer / Publisher – Vertigo Games
Price – US $49.99 / CA $65.99 / EU €49.99 / UK £39.99
Release Date – December 7th, 2023
Control Method – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Room Scale
Reviewed on – PSVR 2
Store Links – Meta, Steam, PlayStation
The first Arizona Sunshine game holds a special place in my heart for a variety of reasons, but as I didn’t play the game until it’s PSVR release, it’s not because it’s a great game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad game, it’s just a very formulaic shooter that took little risk but delivered a satisfying campaign thanks to it’s use of comedy and solid gunplay. Fast forward 7 years and the studio behind that, Vertigo Games, has become a big name in both VR publishing and development so expectations are high when they release a new title, especially when it’s their 1st sequel.
When we last saw our smarmy protagonist, he was taking off in a helicopter, evading the zombie horde and finally finding another survivor. While I won’t spoil what happened after those events, but he has once gain found himself alone in the apocalypse. The opening events establish that there is someone else out there and so begins your quest to find anyone to share the end of days with, but thankfully this time, you aren’t surviving solo.
Along for the ride is your new rescued dog, Buddy, who might just be the best trained dog ever. You still have all the skills (and weapons) needed to survive on your own and can store single handed weapons at your waist, one per side, as well as 1 2-handed weapon over your right shoulder. All your ammo is stored on your chest and grabbing at it will grab whatever ammo you need for the gun in hand. Weapons behave in realistic fashion having to eject clips or magazines, open up barrels or remove fuel containers and replace and reload them…the fuel cartridges are needed for the flame thrower in case you were wondering. I honestly love the gunplay here as I found the aiming to be near perfect with any weapon and aiming down my sights almost always shot a zombie exactly where I intended, which was the head like 99% of the time. Each one also feels somewhat weighty which I appreciated, especially the larger assault rifles which pack a punch, but go through ammo surprisingly fast. That dog adds to the equation by not only being a very efficient killing machine but can also store additional smaller weapons on his vest. You can command him to attack individual zombies or retrieve items out of reach making him one of my favourite companions in any game and don’t’ worry, you can feed him, play fetch, make him sit and even take him to the vet, which is a fairly traumatizing experience.
Outside all that zombie killing and pet care is a more in-depth game than the original, but some choices here really take away from the way I want to enjoy the game. For starters, you can only carry 3 guns and even if you wanted to just hold a 4th one, nope, as the moment you pick up any weapon, it will automatically replace whichever weapon is in hand or your larger weapon. It’s quite irritating as it felt like I was constantly giving up weapons I wanted in favour of untested weapons that I didn’t like as much. I stumbled across an array of armaments, but the fact that I can carry so few and never knew when I’d be able to find a weapon I liked again had me very hesitant to just grab a new weapon as some can be less effective than others. One notable omission is the lack of scoped rifles, which were in the 1st game and when I was given a rifle without a scope, I never bothered to use it as my other weapons were just as effective, if not more. Supplementing your guns are explosives which can be created at portable stations throughout the campaign. You can make grenades, mines, molotov cocktails or sticky bombs with each being a very effective way of dispatching foes…it’s just too bad you can only carry 2 of them at the most.
The game really wants you to explore each stage, opening every drawer, car door, trunk or whatever in the search of ammo and ingredients for your explosives. The thing is, you only have 2 storage slots (1 on each wrist) and with a melee weapon being somewhat of a necessity, that leaves only 1 slot for explosives making all that scavenging somewhat pointless. Of course, you’ll need ammo, but as for all those ingredients, it ended up for me being a useless game mechanic that I rarely used. I threw a grenade every now and then, but beyond that, crafting and carrying a mine or sticky grenade seemed like a waste as placing these explosives was a guessing game anyways depending upon how a horde may have been approaching me. It’s just odd that the game would promote all this crafting and not let me carry more than 2 of the crafted items, while giving me plenty more resources than I could ever use.
This wasn’t a game breaker or anything, I just ended up not relying on any explosive to get me through an encounter, instead learning to use my guns and blades efficiently as well as Buddy’s relentless attacks. Once I started to ignore the mechanics that annoyed me did I truly enjoy the game, and there is a lot too enjoy despite my misgivings. From the beginning to very end of the game you’ll be dispatching the undead horde with relative ease as while they come in a variety of forms, most can be dispatched with a single head shot. The 1st game played with that a bit, but this sequel ups the challenge with many zombies having headgear or growths that require a few shots to dislodge or “bigger boned” zombies which can absorb a lot more damage. I was expecting this sequel to expand upon that with more challenging foes and while 1 or 2 did mix things up, you almost always face “normal” zombies. Not a bad thing, but for those that may be expecting gameplay change ups, outside of the melee and the dog, there really isn’t any with almost every encounter being overcome buy unleashing as many rounds as possible.
The melee is a very welcome addition as you can now lop off limbs and heads with near reckless abandon thanks to the various bladed weapons you’ll find scattered throughout each stage. These come in many forms from butcher knives, spades, machete’s, pick axes and a host more with each delivering satisfyingly visceral results. Every melee weapon will degrade quite quickly so while these can be one of the most efficient ways to dispatch many foes, be careful as once they break, they are useless. There are also a few sections in the game when you need to outrun the horde and, in these sections, I’m assuming because of the number of zombies on display, your melee weapons will not register on the zombies chasing you which is nothing short of immersion breaking, though I learned quite quickly not to bother with attacking when the game asked me to run. On similar note, you can’t push or grab zombies so if they get close, you’re probably in trouble.
Outside of the combat are some climbing sections, some that are fairly harrowing, a little exploration if you want to find all the collectible masks and loot as well as some mini-fetch quests to find buttons, switches or keys. This leads me to the co-op portion of this review and the game is better when playing with a pal though very little changes outside of the fact that the game is easier with 2 guns instead of 1. The 1 to 4-player horde mode only has 1 map at release, Canyon, which to my recollection is the same map from the first game and isn’t really anything to exciting. You are confined to a relatively small area and must defend against waves of the undead and as you advance, you’ll receive loot that can be spent on creating those explosives but there aren’t any melee weapons to be found. It’s fine enough but I got bored fairly quick playing alone and outside of just having friends to talk too, the mode doesn’t scale or anything leaving us with a fairly bare bones affair.
That leads me to the presentation which is pretty damned good. Arizona feels fully realized with levels changing up quite often as you navigate neighborhoods, sewers, a mall, train stations and host more locales that look great thanks to a high attention to detail. Dynamic lighting effects are beautiful and a testament to just how much realism they can add to any game with darker sections automatically turning on a flashlight on your chest to help you see. Those darker areas can be quite unsettling thanks to how hidden zombies can be as their silhouettes blend into the background with a few moments even having the horde banging on foggy windows from the outside, seemingly mere moments from breaking in. It’s impressive to see dozens of zombies on screen with those horde sections really putting the pressure on when they showed up. Explosions looks ‘dynamite’ (get it?) and depending on where they go off they can have some effects on your surrounding like blowing out glass or swaying nearby trees. The gore factor has been increased as well with some zombies looking quite disgusting but it’s when you start dismembering them that things get gruesome. Headshots cause all manor of ichor to go flying with chunks of the zombies being scattered around should you decide to lop of limbs or blow them to bits and thankfully, all that carnage doesn’t disappear so whenever I fought back against a horde, it was always nice to take in the disgusting aftermath. This really is a good-looking game so it’s a little unfortunate at just how much pop-in is present and while smaller areas suffer much less from this, there are enough larger zones in here that showcase those disappearing and reappearing assets and textures. This also happened to zombies and items closer to me, enough to distract me for a second or 2 before moving on. I know this sort of thing happens in games all the time, but in VR, it’s a lot more noticeable. Outside of that is a very clean looking game and despite how repetitious this can look and feel at times, I still enjoyed taking in all the post apocalyptic sights and settings.
Accompanying that solid presentation is an equally solid audio package that continues the exact same tones from the 1st. Most of the time you’ll be wandering each stage in silence save your footsteps, Buddy, the roaming undead and your own less then internal dialogue. The protagonist loves to talk to himself and essentially narrates the campaign though this time he does direct much more of his quips towards the dog. His comedy is hit and miss and while I found his chatting to be more amusing then cringe, I think some may get sick of his shenanigans. Spatial audio is fantastic and used to great effect with weapons and really every other effect sounding like they should.
I’ll quickly touch on the PSVR 2 haptics in here which I think work just fine with each gun feeling a little different in hand as you fire them and should you take any damage, your headset will give a little rumble.
Ultimately, Arizona Sunshine 2 is a bigger and better sequel in ALMOST every way, delivering essentially exactly what I expected from this 2nd chapter. Like the first game though, this doesn’t really take any risks and I can’t help but feel like more could’ve been done here to make things a little more engaging. The action from the beginning of the game to the end is largely consistent with most encounters not offering much in the way of challenge unless the zombie’s came in excessive numbers. With the campaign clocking in at roughly 7 hours or so, there’s a decent amount of game here and the co-op option is a welcome addition I just don’t know if I’m full behind the asking price here as it does seem a tad high for what is still a fairly generic zombie shooter.
Vertigo Games provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!