Zombies. More bloody zombies. This time it’s a little different as the zombies aren’t just things on a screen waiting to become mush. No, this time around they’re right in front of you, clawing at your face like it’s the last meal they’ll ever eat. And it’s terrifying.
Arizona Sunshine is a zombie shooter for the PSVR. You’ll need a PSVR headset to play, naturally, but you do get a bit of leeway when it comes to how you want to control the game – one of the highlights of Vertigo Games/Jaywalkers’ horror shooter.
I suppose it’s best to start with the controls, because without a decent way to play the game, there’s not really much point in calling it a game. Thankfully Arizona Sunshine has options galore for VR gamers. You can use the DualShock 4 controller if you wish, though this was my least preferred method of play, if only because it’s just so normal.
PSVR Aim controller support is what most people will want to dive straight into. Jaywalkers has put a great deal of effort into making sure that the game is fully playable with the PSVR Aim peripheral, so much so that the studio has added two-handed guns and a completely revamped control scheme for Aim players. You can move around using the Aim’s analogue sticks, much like in Farpoint, and you can use the various buttons for different actions. For example, you’ll use one of the L triggers on the front of the Aim controller to interact with the world and pick up ammo, grenades, and the like.
My first foray into Arizona Sunshine was with the PSVR controller… and it wasn’t exactly mind-blowing. Yes, the controls work fine enough, but picking up ammo and opening doors and other interactions was clumsy as I moved my big arse gun around in lieu of having virtual hands. That’s not the worst of it, unfortunately. Within a couple of minutes I’d entered into my first encounter with the undead (who the playable character refers to as ‘Fred’) and readied myself for some sweet head-shot action. I had my rifle in hand, I had a zombie in front of me, plus a few more milling around elsewhere. I lifted my hands up and prepared to aim down the iron sights and… wibble wobble wibble. The aiming is unsteady, and that’s not down to my hands. I’ve played the hell out of Farpoint on PSVR with very few instances of wobble, but Arizona Sunshine’s use of the Aim controller doesn’t match up. It’s a shame, really, as I’d hoped for a comparable experience, but it wasn’t to be.
My preferred control scheme for Arizona Sunshine is, surprisingly, with the two PS Move controllers and teleportation controls. Yeah, weird, right? I did experiment with the Move’s free-movement controls, but I found them to be a little cumbersome and hard to remember when surrounded by Freds. In this case, teleportation actually worked really well. Who’d have thought?! It actually makes the game a little easier, too, as you can quickly zip away from the flesh-eaters and give yourself a bit of breathing room in a difficult situation. Conversely, you can teleport straight up to a lone skin muncher and pop a cap in his skull before he knows what’s happening. Plus, using the moves I had the ability to pick things up naturally, reload my guns, dual-wield pistols like John Wick, and basically feel a lot more bad arse than I actually am.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if this game was presented to me as a regular PS4 game that wasn’t in VR, I’d have laughed it off after 10 minutes. It’s very basic, it’s not a great looking game (at least not in VR) and the gameplay just wouldn’t have the same effect on a 2D screen. In fact, my fair lady remarked that it looked like crap when she was watching the TV screen.
None of that matters though because it is a VR game. It’s the sense of danger that you just can’t get from a traditional set up. It’s being able to have a pistol in each hand, five biters in stumbling towards you, and lining up headshots and then lobbing a grenade to the group you didn’t realise were creeping up on your left. It’s immersive, people, which brings me on to my next point.
I’m not a sissy. I’m a manly man, as I’ve mentioned countless times before, not that I’m overcompensating… I drink whiskey straight and I purposefully walk over my kid’s LEGO bricks barefoot. I’m a man’s man. No chinos, no poncy little top bun on my head. Just a straight up geezer.
Yet I still squeeled like a little bitch.
No jokes, I actually screamed and reached out for the Lady of Harding House when I was being attacked from all sides in a dark and dingy underground tunnel. Zombies were, quite literally, coming out of the walls and I’d spent most of my ammo pissing around. With only a grenade and two bullets left, I was buggered. They were everywhere. I was scared. Don’t you dare sit on the other side of the internet and judge me until you’ve been in my position. You weren’t there, man. You didn’t see what I saw. YOU DON’T KNO – alright, you get my point.
Despite the game starting off quite light-hearted with daft narration from our hero as he wanders around, popping zombies in the mouth, the game is still pretty horrific in the best sense possible. I’m not a fan of being overly scared, especially in VR games, but Arizona Sunshine manages to strike a balance between letting me feel like I’m living out my own 5-hour episode of The Walking Dead, and being walking meal basket.
As I sneakily snuck in above, Arizona Sunshine will give you around five hours of single-player action, but that may be more, or less, depending on how you play, the difficulty you play on, and what you choose to do in the game. Personally, I like to piss around. I spent ages perfecting my aim so that I’d be able to shoot zombies in the legs and crawl up to me for an easy execution-style headshot.
There’s not much exploring to do in Arizona Sunshine. It’s a fairly linear game with areas having only a couple of little places you can go and have a mooch around in. Most of the time these are necessary, either due to a task needing to be done to progress, or to scrounge a few bullets and a burger patty to replenish health. Other than that, it’s pretty straightforward. Unfortunately the story isn’t much of a draw, but in this case I wasn’t too bothered. What story do I need? The way I saw it was that there were zombies that needed shooting, and I had the means to do it. I don’t care about plots and subplots and narratives and character arcs when I’m thinking “shit, no bullets. Suicide it is, then.”
Once you’re done screaming yourself silly in the single-player campaign, there’s Horde mode to get stuck into. And boy did I get stuck into this one, sometimes literally.
Horde mode is exactly what it says on the tin: Hordes of brain lovers will come from all sides while you try to fend them off. There are a few catches, mind, as you’ll only have limited resources. New items and/or ammo spawns after each wave of zombies, but you really do need to be careful about how you use your guns, lest you find yourself unarmed and without any way to defend yourself.
The map itself isn’t very large, so keeping track of what’s coming from where isn’t an easy task if you play alone, but if you can get online with a buddy or a stranger then you’ll have a better chance of lasting more than five minutes – my personal solo best. It’s a fun little distraction, for sure, but it’s a little shallow and lacks the variety. I’m hoping that future updates will add some new areas and perhaps fix a few issues with the existing one. I had a few occasions where I’d be stuck on something and not be able to move. Not the best position to be in when there’s zombies all around, is it?
On a technical level, Arizona Sunshine isn’t that much of a looker, or at least not on the PS4 Slim, though the developers have noted that there are improvements for PS4 Pro owners.
The game runs as well as you’d need a VR game to, but it’s not without a few problems. For one, zombies seem – and I’m no frame-picking nerd – to run at a lower frame-rate when there are a few on the screen. Either that or the animation is just janky. What I noticed is that the undead will sometimes appear juttery as they approach. It’s a minor thing, really, as I was usually too busy shooting like a mad man to care.
Graphically, the game works. By that I mean it’s functional, but it’s not a pretty sight. It’s clean enough and the basics are there, but like with so many other VR games, it looks a generation or two behind the traditional 2D games. Textures are blurry and the geometery is a little basic in places, but at least the guns look pretty darn good and the zombie heads explode with just enough force and realism to reassure me that I’d never want to shoot anyone in the head. Ever. It looks absolutely gross. And messy.
Arizona Sunshine PS4/PSVR Review
Arizona Sunshine is a little rough around the edges, that much is obvious, but it's still a fun, albeit frightening experience. If you're looking for something a little meatier than some of the crap that finds its way on the PSVR, Arizona Sunshine is a worth a peek.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.