Killing the undead in Arizona Sunshine just feels so darn good. There are no melee weapons to be found in Arizona Sunshine, just a murders armoury of firearms; all of which prove grandly satisfying to handle. With PlayStation Move controllers or the PSVR Aim Controller in particular, there’s a palpable sense of realism that reveals itself in earnest, as aiming, directing and clutching each gun feels how you would expect it to as you aim down the iron sights of your chosen bullet-dispenser and squeeze the trigger.
The end result too, is also embellished by the additional immersion that PSVR brings, with the impact of every successfully placed shot represented by satisfying visual aplomb as the walking dead keel and stumble over; showing off large, gaping crimson holes were organs and limbs used to be. In short, if all you could think about when you heard about the possibilities of PSVR is what it could bring to zombie shooters, then Arizona Sunshine is absolutely your huckleberry.
Brutally satisfying gun on zombie action
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that range of weapons that you can use to maim the undead from afar are so wonderfully varied either. Pistols, machine pistols, six-shooters, submachine guns, shotguns, grenades and more are available to you and each of them, with the possible exception of the shotgun, require a fair amount of skill and discipline in order for you to pull off those all-important cranium shots against the shambling dead.
Ostensibly, in the opening minutes of Arizona Sunshine, pulling off head shots can be difficult. As you look down the iron-sights of your chosen firearm, it takes a little while for you to realise that a perfect headshot only comes from a steady hand and an even more patient mind. When it happens though, that feeling of critical hit; one which blows crater in the skull of flesh eating monstrosity in front of you, easily proves to be one of PSVR’s most satisfying experiences to date.
It’s not just the act of shooting holes in dead folks that Arizona Sunshine manages to nail so convincingly; other, more mundane actions are also handled with intuitive aplomb too. Changing weapons is accomplished by reaching down towards an imaginary weapons belt and clicking a button; the second weapon immediately popping into your hand (you can have a pair of switchable guns for each hand), while reloading is accomplished by a click of the button and then a downward thrust to simulate the ammo cartridge being inserted into the firearm. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but when coupled with the superlative blasting, it helps to make Arizona Sunshine feel much more immersive than it might have done had a more pedestrian solution been used otherwise.
Additionally, a pair of Move Controllers can be employed to simulate a dual-wielding setup, with Arizona Sunshine allowing any combination of firearms to be used at once. Beyond going guns akimbo,the Vertigo Games developed title also takes full advantage of Sony’s PSVR Aim Controller, by not only providing a PS4 exclusive selection of wonderfully satisfying double-handed firearms to use, but also a special PSVR only campaign to use them in as well. Without a doubt, the effort that developer Vertigo Games has put into supporting the PSVR Aim Controller is remarkable and going forward, hopefully many other developers will deign to follow their lead. As an aside, DualShock 4 controller support is also a thing, but really, though not broken by any means, it’s clear that the immersive riches of Arizona Sunshine are best unearthed with either a pair of PlayStation Move controllers, or, the PSVR Aim Controller.
When you’re not shooting at the legions of the dead, you’ll be traversing around Arizona Sunshine’s open environments. A free-roaming shooter rather than an on-rails affair, movement is accommodated in a number of ways, such as teleportation, by degree increments (you can tweak the degree of movement) and totally smooth movement. For the sake of keeping your dinner in your belly however (at least as far as my own experiences went, anyhow), I’d wholly recommend teleportation and the ‘by degree’ movement style in order for your Arizona Sunshine experience to remain motion sickness free.
As a result, PlayStation Move controllers tend to work best in Arizona Sunshine’s more sedate moments, where you can take your time to line up your aim and don’t need to concern yourself with swift, reactive movements. When you’re being swarmed though, and such reactive movements become commonplace, Sony’s motion controller rods fare far less well, as you can sometimes find yourself fumbling your weapons and walking/turning into walls as the undead horde tear meaty chunks out of you – something that is far from ideal.
Into the main campaign itself, which can be tackled solo or with a fellow zombie blasting friend online, Arizona Sunshine has players working their way through the winding valleys and canyons of Arizona state, putting holes in the undead, scavenging ammo and eating burgers to top up your health. There are a few puzzles along the way, but in truth, they never amount to anything more than finding a particular key or object in order to progress. A somewhat unexpected surprise however, is the main protagonist. A wise-cracking redneck who sounds like he’s drunkenly stumbled out of a Texas bar and into an episode of Archer, when our hero isn’t trying to make his way to safety from the zombie horde, he’s tossing insults at them and generally making fun of the whole situation, thus helping to keep Arizona Sunshine feeling lighter and more relaxed than it might otherwise feel.
Visually, Arizona Sunshine looks great, even on the standard PS4, as a wide gamut of colours caress the retinas and vibrant texture and lighting work ensure that the game looks far removed from the dull, lifeless template that a VR zombie shooter would likely have ended up being in less talented hands. Meanwhile, PS4 Pro owners are in for a treat as Arizona Sunshine boasts a wide range of optimisations, such as improved anti-aliasing, draw distance and other special effects without ever the buttery smooth framerate ever taking a hit.
It’s not all sunshine and zombies, however (well, it is, but you get what I’m leading to), as occasionally awkwardly clumsy and punishing design can sometimes prove frustrating. A mid-game scenario sees you trapped in mine, which after collecting a particular object which is needed to reach another area elsewhere, causes waves upon waves of the undead to rush out and attack you. The issue here is that you are effectively cornered, since the undead can attack from all sides and worse still, you can’t escape to a distant remove and pick them off one by one because an invisible wall prevents you from doing so. Annoyingly this is a situation that is replicated a few times throughout Arizona Sunshine’s duration and when coupled with some seldom frustrating checkpointing, it ultimately feels far too much like misjudged game design to be brushed off as merely incidental.
So soon after the release of Farpoint, it seemed unlikely, if not downright greedy, that we would get another worthwhile effort for Sony’s PSVR Aim Controller; yet that’s exactly what Arizona Sunshine brings to the table.
Though somewhat fiddly at times and occasionally let down by some unfairly punishing game design, Arizona Sunshine’s blissfully immersive gunplay nonetheless helps to cement its place as the next essential shooter for not just the PSVR Aim Controller, but PSVR as a whole.
NB: Arizona Sunshine can currently be bought at a 10% discount on the PlayStation Store for one week only.