Shooting buggy zombies in a virtual world can be entertaining, but it's not an encouraging example for the platform.
Earlier this year Sony launched the Aim Controller for PSVR, together with a launch title for the gun-shaped hardware called Farpoint. With a successful release and the level of interest on the rise, there's now a lineup of titles hoping to ride the Aim bandwagon, the latest of which is zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine. Let's put our VR goggles on, then, to see if it can set the bar even higher.
In the game you play as an anonymous survivor walking around Arizona looking for clues and other people, perhaps hoping to find a bit more of a life for yourself than just killing the undead all on your lonesome. Obviously, this isn't the most original setup for a game, and the thin storyline fails to impress, reminding us of many zombie games/films we've seen in the past.
In fact, the game struggles to find any original angles to its theme. A lot of clichés get recycled, for instance, and the writing makes you want to wince at times, while the action alternates between corridor-esque zombie shootouts and uninspired puzzles like "find X to open door Y". Once in a while, our anonymous hero cracks a joke, and he also seems to be the sole person laughing at them, but there's a sense the game really wants to be "cool", something you could argue that it tries too hard to achieve.
As for movement controls, you can choose either free movement or "teleportation", which means you won't be moving the character by yourself. Instead, the character will stay put at a location while you focus on aiming and moving objects, before then jumping to the next scene. The game recommends the latter option, and it works well without turning your stomach upside down.
Shooting zombies without aim assist takes some skill, and that makes the Aim Controller a joy to use. Some of the best moments had with the game are the rushes when there are multiple undead creeping towards you and you struggle to reload your gun and find a steady shot under the pressure. That's when the game reaches a genuine sense of time pressure and tension, something that works to its advantage.
Otherwise, there's not much atmosphere, and this isn't helped by the fact that you can't use melee combat during moments of panic. The physics aren't great in regards to the weapons either, as your hands and weapon will simply clip with any objects that might come close enough.
Technically Arizona Sunshine is clearly less ambitious than we would have hoped, evident in the low-poly models and animations, not to mention blurry textures and bare bones lighting. There's decent variety with the zombies, though, but the game does little to place them in their logical contexts. For example, entering a military camp, we came across teenage skater-type zombies instead of soldiers, which was a little bizarre.
There are hints of more interesting interactivity with features like shooting limbs off of the zombies or opening certain car doors in search of items, but then you come across other vehicles that simply won't do anything. All these little things make Arizona Sunshine feel like an unfinished product; sometimes zombies run through obstacles, their animations don't flow naturally, and thrown items clip through walls or disappear entirely.
And there's more. Masks that almost scream "collectable" can only be picked up without any reward for the find. Certain special weapons can't be removed from their confined areas either, even though you can wield them, and we didn't even find an obvious way to pause the game, let alone change settings, despite the game's menu saying it should happen through the in-game wrist watch. The only thing the watch would do instead was highlight the hit points currently left and give us the option to end the game.
After the enjoyable Farpoint, which is similarly Aim-enabled, Arizona Sunshine comes across as a disappointment (though we should add that you can play it without and on PC). This half-hearted zombie shooter feels bland and unpolished, and the only highlight is that the shooting mechanics work well, offering few thrilling moments in what's an otherwise sub par production. While we wouldn't say that Arizona Sunshine is just a VR demo or a tech experiment, it's not far from it, and as it stands now it's a far cry from being the full-blown high-quality virtual reality game we're hoping to see more of on the platform.
5 / 10
Shooting is accurate and can be fun, The tension and pressure is great, Lots of different weapons.
Visually rough and buggy, Cheap and clichéd gameplay, Poor writing.