When Arizona Sunshine originally came out on the Vive and Oculus at the end of 2016, it was regarded as one of the best virtual reality games at the time. Only problem was there was no sign of a PlayStation VR version. Luckily shortly thereafter, Vertigo Games announced it was bringing the undead killing game over to PS VR. While this is great news on its own with the variety of control options you have at your fingertips, the inability to provide a satisfying control scheme across the two peripherals I experienced was extremely disappointing.
When thinking about the title “Arizona Sunshine,” you can’t help but think of the intense heat, jutting red rocks, unsettling isolation, and beautiful blue skies of being in the scorched desert, exploring the Wild West frontier. This is a stark contrast from the oppressive darkness of being in a zombie apocalypse, surrounded by thousands of unruly undead. Choosing to employ the Canyon State as a backdrop for a survivor trying to live out his final days in peace, is a great change of pace to the overly saturated drab environments in most zombie video games.
You play as an unnamed protagonist who just so happens to be awakened to the sound of a large “clang” — a steel trap has severed the head of one of the undead as it rolls towards you. This works as a tutorial where you learn to pick up items and participate in a bit of target practice. From then on, you make your way out the secluded refuge and across the sun-soaked terrain of Arizona with the hope of finding life beyond your scant surroundings.
Arizona Sunshine’s environment, while nice to look at as a snapshot, is pretty bland with quite a bit of fog and nothing really interesting to look at during gameplay. There are many unnecessary objects you can interact with; from throwing tennis balls (which earns a trophy) to eating pieces of food for health. This is fun to experiment with at first, but becomes boring fast. This doesn’t seem like a lived-in world and, while that’s expected largely in the desert, it would have been nice to see the stories of the people who use to live here.
For the most part, the pursuing zombies are simple to predict and do not provide much of a challenge with most of them just shambling towards you unimpeded. Your goal is to pretty much get from point A to point B populated by the horde of undead. When alerted, the zombies will start to walk, or in some cases run, towards your position.
Unlike the Dead Island series, you will have no melee weapons to choose from but rather an assortment of firearms and grenades to maim the undead. It’s satisfying when you are able to line up a perfect gunshot. Shots are location specific, meaning if you want to slow down a zombie coming towards you, shoot its legs to force it to crawl; if a zombie is reaching out for you, shoot the arm and the force of the gunshot will blow it completely off.
As you set out upon your predictably linear path, you gather a large array of weapons mainly from searching in cabinets, car trunks and anything else you can open in the environment. At your disposal are pistols, six-shooters, machine pistols, machine guns, rifles, shotguns, grenades, and many other weapons to continuously put pressure on the undead horde.
Actual skill is involved to pull off head shots and. rather than using the satisfying head track aiming found in Resident Evil 7, they prefer that you actually “MOVE” your controller to aim with precision. This would be fine if the aiming actually worked as intended, but instead shots tend to land above the iron-sights. Even then your hands swim around or drift away in weird motions if you hold the MOVE controllers too close to your face.
As mentioned above, the primary way I think the developers want you to play is with the MOVE controllers, as this is the only control option which allows dual-wielding like its PC counterpart. However, using the MOVE controllers will sacrifice your maneuverability as they lack analogue sticks.
The best way to play using the wands is probably the teleporting method, otherwise you will be stuck moving in awkward motions due to having to use ‘X’ to move forward and ‘Square’/‘Triangle’ to turn left/right respectively. It’s acceptable to use when facing off against a few of the undead, but when the stakes are raised and a mob of flesh eating zombies are hurtling towards you, this control method absolutely falls apart.
The other control method I used was with the actual DualShock 4 controller and this is probably the best way to experience Arizona Sunshine. All the major control mapping options are included, such as enabling/disabling free movement and choosing between smooth turning versus incremental turning. It’s always good to see VR games give you a wide variety of control preferences, even if you have to back out to the main menu to change the different types.
Aiming with the DualShock 4 is the most unsatisfying way to line up shots, but it was surprisingly more accurate than using the MOVE controllers. This was a shame as I figured it would be more fun to use actual weapon like peripherals, however the movement options were just too imprecise and clunky.
I unfortunately do not own a PlayStation VR Aim Controller so that option was off the table, but from what I hear it has its fair share of positives and negatives, much like the other peripherals. The Aim Controller is probably the most authentic way to experience Arizona Sunshine, but even still you are unable to dual-wield.
You can play the entire campaign in online co-op and also included is a horde-like mode for up to four other players, although my small time with the horde mode was mediocre to good at best with confined environments and the same mindless zombies coming towards you. With a 5-6 hour campaign the $40 asking price may be too expensive, but at least the developers included other modes to round out the package.
Arizona Sunshine has an intriguing premise and enough customizations with the control scheme to warrant a play through if you have a PS VR. Just be aware, this has not been optimized very well from the PC versions, being held back by the restrictions from the inferior tech of PS VR. That being said, I still had fun shooting zombies and there still is much to like with the vibrant visuals and added multiplayer content, even if calibration issues and inconsistent aiming take you out of the experience far too often.