VR shooter Arizona Sunshine 2 presents a bit of an unorthodox setting as far as zombie apocalypses go. While many of the best zombie games occur during some ungodly hour of the night, Vertigo Games’ take on the subgenre is as its title suggests. You’re not blasting the undead under a full moon. No, you’re doing so under the unrelenting midday sunshine of southwest America.
Ultimately, this setting works, too, for a variety of reasons. It helps that Arizona Sunshine 2 is a VR game, launching for Meta Quest headsets and PSVR 2 sometime in the remainder of 2023, as it can place you squarely at ground level of its fascinatingly bright setting. The vibrant setting also thrives thanks to a quip-happy protagonist paired with an adorable, zombie-slaying dog. It’s not all lighthearted though, as Arizona Sunshine 2 still successfully creates a bleakly lonely atmosphere, akin to that in films like I Am Legend.
Where the game really shines, though, is in its moment-to-moment shooting. And those moments come thick and fast. Its opening hour, which I got to demo at Vertigo Games’ studio in Rotterdam, had so much variety in its encounters with the undead. There was a lot packed into that first hour, too, and Arizona Sunshine 2 felt like it was practically giddy to thrust me from one zombie-laden scrap to another.
Fred's dead, baby
There’s surprisingly little downtime in Arizona Sunshine 2 because it holds such an emphasis on placing you in the situations you signed up for. That is, blasting zombies back to the grave in spectacularly gory fashion. There’s still much player agency here, though, and if you’re familiar with some of the best VR games’ focus on interactivity with the environment, you’ll find that here, too.
Be that picking up and throwing random objects around or searching vehicles and abandoned shacks for supplies, you’ll be using your hands (each independently manipulated by your VR controllers) for much more than just pulling triggers. Opening doors and cupboards, as well as turning keys in locks, are all performed manually with accurate hand and wrist gestures.
Yet, at least in its opening act, Arizona Sunshine 2 doesn’t give you much opportunity to smell the roses and relax. This is to its benefit, as the game boasts some of the most satisfying gunplay I’ve experienced in a single-player VR game. Undead limbs scatter and break apart as you violently pummel them with bullets, and their heads pop like ripe watermelons. In both cases, your accuracy is rewarded with viscerally gratifying animations.
The game seems to revel in this; there was rarely a corner turned without running into an oblivious zombie isolated from its pack, giving me an excellent way to keep my barrel warm in between the larger set-pieces. It’s during those encounters with bigger swarms that Arizona Sunshine 2 feels especially spontaneous, playful, and challenging.
Light 'em up
From infested highways to undead pool parties, Arizona Sunshine 2 wasn’t lacking in providing conveniently-placed congregations of zombies to mow down with a variety of fun weapons. Handguns, for example, are precise and impactful, so it’s always worth keeping one close by. Elsewhere, the AK-47 balanced its sheer power with some pretty severe recoil. But this is a zombie game, so naturally, the shotgun stole the show with extreme stopping power and a surprisingly long range.
As I was erasing undead brains in clinical fashion, then, I couldn’t help but be reminded of classic light gun shooters like The House of the Dead series, which Arizona Sunshine 2 feels delightfully similar to thanks to its unserious tone and wicked dismemberment. Planting myself a distance away from the hordes and taking careful potshots, before reloading manually by reaching for new magazines in my belt, was an immersive VR process that left me wanting more.
Upping the ante, the game also introduced more interesting enemy types than just slow-moving shamblers that added some welcome variety. One particularly zombie-ridden valley had me constantly on the move, ducking and weaving between faster, more aggressive monsters and keeping my distance from bloated corpses that would acidically explode on contact. The tension and panic involved were suddenly palpable, and I frequently found myself forgetting to reload, accidentally dropping fresh mags on the floor, and tossing grenades without even pulling the pin.
By the end of my session, Arizona Sunshine 2 left me pretty worn out, and I mean that as a compliment. It lured me into a false sense of security with rounds of tamer mobs, before cranking up the intensity with scores of undead and more powerful weaponry. If Arizona Sunshine 2 can manage that kind of thrilling pacing for its entire run time, then we could well be looking at an awesome addition to the PSVR 2 game library.
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Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.