Publisher Vertigo Games
Developer Vertigo Studios
Release date 7 December
Systems PSVR 2, Meta Quest 2 & 3, Steam VR, Pico
Arizona Sunshine 2 is a VR game that revels in the details and the kind of game design that lesser games may massage away for fear of over-burdening players. The premise is simple: escape the zombie horde, reach the safe zone and listen to your competing internal voices, one that demands you ‘run away’ while the other insists on one more limb shot.
This is a sequel to the original Arizona Sunshine and one of PSVR’s best games, but here everything is developed, improved upon and added to, with the result being one of the best games I’ve played on PSVR 2. It’s polished within an inch of its blood-soaked life, looks beautiful and features in all manner of modes, from a two-player co-op campaign to four-player horde survival.
It’s the solo campaign I’ve focused on for this Arizona Sunshine 2 review; I'm playing on PSVR 2 but it's also available for Meta Quest 2 and Quest 3, as well as Steam VR and Pico. (Don't have a VR headset? Read our guide to the best VR headsets.)
Arizona Sunshine 2 review: let's get physical
Arizona Sunshine 2 is a lean shooter but includes enough ideas to ensure you feel a need to constantly experiment and have fun with the controls; these are so accurate you can pop off a zombie’s leg or arm to slow the horde.
This is a very physical VR game that makes the act of loading a gun a slow and manual process, and in other VR games this would be a crime. Sure, I’ve done this before in VR games, like the excellent Synapse, but in Arizona Sunshine 2 it’s done to heighten the atmosphere and drive home the anxiety I would imagine trying to survive a zombie apocalypse brings to the surface.
Initially you just have access to pistols that are loaded in stages, first eject the clip, then grab and ram the bullet clip into the weapon, before pulling back the chamber slider to load the first bullet. It’s a lot to do, and at first I found it frustrating and cumbersome, but that’s the point.
As I’m fumbling to load my gun the zombies are getting closer and my anxiety is going through the roof. Now I’m trying to load a shotgun one cartridge at a time, slowly. There’s a rhythm to the game, one slid and chambered cartridge for every lumbering zombie’s footstep - it’s actually quite brilliant.
Arizona Sunshine 2 review: controls make Sense
This VR shooter is not all about the guns either, as you have a needy dog called Buddy to partner with; simple commands on the PSVR 2’s Sense Controllers enable me to send my dog into battle, chewing on zombies to either take them out or slow them down. I can also command Buddy to squeeze under fences to fetch ammo and items. It works really nicely and becomes a great way to conserve ammunition, by guaranteeing one-kill headshots for zombies pulled to the floor.
Ah yes, ammo conservation. Despite the initial House of the Dead vibes that encourage you to go on a zombie-shooting rampage, if you give in to you baser video game instincts to shoot everything (so much fun in VR), you will run out of ammo and be left flailing at the army of the undead with a knife, bottle or even a severed limb. Ammo isn’t too hard to find but it does become scarce, so there’s a neat balance at play between understanding accurate shooting is best for survival and just having fun.
The dev clearly knows how to tailor its experience too, as often after a period of tense ammo curbing will be met with a set piece where your arcade skills can let rip and just have fun blasting zombies.
Along with the mix of guns to be found are jars of junk and scraps to collect and turn into throwables. The crafting system is basic and as with most of Arizona Sunshine 2 it is incredibly intuitive - simply add scraps to a case along with a ‘menu’ and smash the ingredients together to cook up a grenade or Molotov cocktail.
Arizona Sunshine 2 review: vibrant design
You may have also noticed Arizona Sunshine 2 doesn’t look like your average zombie game. The art style drops the usual horror fog and dark dross, crumbling houses of the dead, for a bright and vibrant world design. You’re battling the horde under the glare of bright sunshine and dusty abandoned airports and motel pools; it’s refreshing and quite brilliant.
That’s not to say Vertigo Games don’t know when to draw things back and turn the lights off, there are moments when you need to explore hazy and dark rooms and sewers by torchlight. Being a physical VR shooter makes these moments even more visceral too, as you need to manually turn keys in locks and pull open doors, with a blood-thirsty enemy likely lurking behind that far toilet cubicle. Yeah, I’m not opening it either.
Arizona Sunshine 2 review: good ideas, well realised
I don’t even mind the running commentary from my in-game hero, who jokingly refers to zombies as 'Freds' and rarely stops to take a breath. It could have become jarring if it weren’t for the addition of my companion. The inclusion of a pup sidekick brings with it new character and immersion, a recognition we love to project emotions to animals to create more drama than the disembodied Fred-focused narration.
Arizona Sunshine 2 is, to date, the best shooter I’ve played for PSVR 2. It looks lively and crisp and has incredibly accurate shooting that never dulls. The best part of this VR zombie shooter comes from how the act of existing in this world is built on a design choice to eke tension from the simplest acts; reloading weapons has a stress few games come close too and it's a note of genius that strikes through much of Arizona Sunshine 2.