Seven years after its predecessor Arizona Sunshine 2 is back to bring you more head-popping fun, and thanks to its co-op capability and wide release on all major VR platforms you’ll be able to have a friend join you for this particular vision of the zombie apocalypse.
Arizona Sunshine 2 Details:
There’s no shortage of zombie games in VR, and to that end, Arizona Sunshine 2 doesn’t do much to upend the ‘zombie game’ formula, but it does the basics quite well. You’ll find the classic dumb and slow zombies all over the campaign which individually aren’t much of a threat but can overwhelm you if you aren’t careful.
While the game has an unfortunate lack of enemy variety, I at least found that popping heads (with a gun or melee weapon) was mostly fun up until the end of the game.
That probably wouldn’t have been the case if the game didn’t manage to deliver a solid combination of visuals, sound effects, and enough weapon complexity to make it a joy to hit headshots every time.
The game could certainly be better paced. The middle third feels like essentially the same encounters over and over, and your strategy rarely needs to change. Encounter design gets better in the last third, with some more fun and memorable moments, but it would have been nice to have those more evenly scattered throughout the game.
Similar to not mixing up the zombie formula, Arizona Sunshine 2 also doesn’t do anything particularly novel with its weapons, but they got the details right. Manual reloads, including bullet chambering, are the norm for every gun, along with some really satisfying pump-action shotguns. I quite appreciated the feel of reloading the pump-action shotguns, which felt easy but also satisfying. And I liked the detail that some of the game’s SMGs had an open-bolt design compared to the closed-bolt of the rest of the pistols.
While the weapon details were solid, I didn’t feel there was enough functional difference between them (likely because the enemies are almost entirely identical). All pistols felt like they had the same head-shotting power and accuracy, which means the one with the biggest magazine is always be the best.
And because of the effectiveness of headsets, automatic firing weapons felt like an invitation to waste your ammo—especially because of their poor iron sights. I played the game at its default difficulty, so it’s possible that weapons better differentiate themselves at higher difficulties.
There’s a handful of more unique weapons like a grenade launcher, gatling gun, and flamethrower which helped to spice things up later in the game.
The one place where Arizona Sunshine 2 is really doing something novel is with your dog companion, Buddy. As clunky as his animations can be at times, it’s fun to have a capable NPC companion with you in VR (and a clever narrative excuse to make sense of the main character talking to themselves). You can pet Buddy, tell him to sit, fetch, and attack zombies, which he manages to do well enough to be consistently helpful.
Speaking of narrative, the game offers a straightforward zombie apocalypse story that’s light on character development, but interesting enough to want to know where things are headed. The character that you play has a crass sense of humor and just enough memorable quips and one-liners to give him a bit of charm and personality.
At one point the game really seemed like it was setting up the player to have to answer an interesting moral quandary, but then just… didn’t. I can’t quite tell if this was an unintentional red herring, or if the idea had to be scrapped for some reason during the development process. For me personally, I like when games ask players to make real choices, and this would have been a very memorable one—especially because of VR’s added immersion. Unfortunately it will go down merely as a missed opportunity.
So, Arizona Sunshine 2 has fun-to-kill zombies, solid weapon details (even if they lack differentiation), and a unique and generally well-executed companion pupper. It’s a solid game.
But what pushes it over the edge from ‘good’ to ‘great’ for me is co-op. Being able to bring a friend along for this apocalyptic journey makes for memorable moments and laughs that just wouldn’t happen if you were alone. In particular, having a friend with you often converts janky moments to funny moments. The game also does a good job of scattering interactive objects and a handful of playful scenes which encourage goofing around between players.
And it’s worth noting that while Arizona Sunshine 2 is definitely a zombie game, it’s definitely not a horror game; I don’t recall any ‘horror’ moments or jump scares. And while I personally would have enjoyed that as an additional element, players who don’t like horror can play the game with confidence that it’s more of a fun romp than a spooky shooter.
As for game length, it took me around 7 hours to play through Arizona Sunshine 2, and I must have been fairly thorough because my ammo counts were consistently maxed out and I seemed to have enough materials to make more explosives at the game’s minimal crafting stations than I could carry.
As a nice co-op bonus, there’s also a ‘Horde’ mode which supports up to four players. It’s a fairly standard wave-based holdout situation, but reasonably well put together and worth a few sessions with friends.
Arizona Sunshine 2 does a good job of filling the game with a variety of physics-props and making most things that appear obviously interactive, in fact, interactive.
Cabinets and drawers with handles will pull open. Glass breaks. Some objects have destroyed states when you shoot them. Basketballs bounce. Lighters work, and you can even put a cigar in your mouth and light it up. It’s clear that attention was paid to interactive details.
We’re not talking Half-Life: Alyx levels of detail, but it definitely exceeds what we see in the average VR game.
And again, this is all amplified with co-op. Interactive ‘set-pieces’—like a beer pong table—invite friends to take a breather from the apocalypse and just play around with what the game puts in front of them. Like the various hats and masks scattered throughout the game which serve no purpose other than giving players something fun to find, wear, and laugh about.
While the interactive details in Arizona Sunshine 2 are solid, I found the game’s holster system was cumbersome and detracted from my immersion.
The worst offender was definitely the ammo pouch which essentially sits in your chest. That’s where you stash ammo when picked up and where it’s pulled from when you need a mag. But it frequently was in my way when trying to put a mag into my gun. Often I would pull out a mag and move to put it into my gun, but it would get sucked back into my inventory because it came too close to my chest.
Weapons are also ‘bound’ to you automatically. If you grab a gun with your left hand, it is now associated with (and will automatically return to) your left holster. If you grab another gun with your left hand, it is forcibly swapped with the one that was previously bound to you. This also means you can’t hand or toss a gun to your friend, which is a big bummer for a co-op game.
It’s also easy to drop items because many can only be grabbed or targeted at specific points; sometimes slight deviations would cause the force-grab targeting to flicker and miss. And the cherry on top is that every time you drop something it’s a pain in the ass to reach down and pick up. A more functional force-grab system like that of Half-Life: Alyx would have been a welcomed addition.
These holster and targeting issues also made it annoying to try to hand objects from one person to another. Just go watch any footage from this game where two people try to exchange objects and I guarantee you will see them drop the object to the ground at least 50% of the time.
For a studio that has been around for so long, it’s strange that these issues are so apparent when there’s so many better examples to work from at this point.
Another immersion issue (which seems to be much less of an issue on non-Quest headsets) is that the game’s physics system appears to run at half framerate (or maybe even lower). Not only does this make moving or thrown physics objects less convincing as they stutter through the air, but it also leads to your hands frequently clipping through things.
This often led me to the dreaded ‘hand clipped through the door’ issue that’s always a nuisance because trying to remove your hand from the other side of the door almost always means pulling it directly back into your face.
The physics issue also significantly blunts the interactions between fast moving objects. If you try to swat something off of a table, there’s a good chance that your arm passes directly through the object and never interacts with it. Or maybe it just barely grazes it, making your slap feel like nothing more than a gust of wind.
Those physics issues might have been a necessary conceit for other goals the studio wanted to achieve; I was impressed with how many zombies and ragdoll bodies the game could display at once.
At one point I was practically wading through a pile of dead zombie bodies, and Quest 3 managed to keep up.
Graphically, the game definitely appears built for tethered headsets first—and certainly looks best on them—but Vertigo Games did a serviceable job crunching the game onto Quest. And the experience appears to be one-to-one (in terms of physics objects and enemy count) even when one player is on standalone and one is on a tethered VR headset.
Arizona Sunshine 2 supports a fairly standard set of comfort options and is generally good about designing levels around comfort. There are a few sequences where the player is on a moving platform which was fine for me but could be a trigger for more sensitive folks.
While I’d say this could be circumvented by turning on the game’s peripheral blinders, the blinder implementation seems problematic. I play most VR games with some blinders enabled, but the ones in Arizona Sunshine 2 actually make me feel less comfortable.
I think the issue is that the implementation shrinks each eye’s view from all sides, resulting in a ‘binoculars’ view that hinders your stereo overlap, instead of simply appearing in your left and right periphery. This might even just be a bug, but in any case I hope it’s fixed soon for players who rely on blinders.
Arizona Sunshine 2′ Comfort Settings – December 7, 2023
|Swappable movement hand
|English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish
|Two hands required
|Real crouch required
|Adjustable player height
Summary: Arizona Sunshine 2 is a decent zombie romp with all the usual elements, plus your dog friend, Buddy. Though sometimes clunkily animated, having an NPC companion that generally feels helpful and interactive adds a new flavor rarely seen in VR. While weapon handling and feel is above average, the clunkiness of the holster and inventory system is unfortunate considering there are many better examples to draw from. The game’s pacing is fairly slow but gets more interesting in the last third. With a pleasing number of interactive items and details, Arizona Sunshine 2 gets a big boost to fun thanks to its cross-platform co-op which lets friends enjoy the zombie apocalypse together.
Gameplay: 8 | Immersion: 7.5 | Comfort: 8
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