I’m kind of in love with VR at the moment. It feels as though the medium is starting to find its feet, giving us full-on games rather than experiences, and Arizona Sunshine 2 does just that. It may be a touch glitchy and basic at times, but it works so well in virtual reality that sometimes, all you need is a wealth of weapons and tons of
zombies Freds to blow their heads off. I don’t know what it is about surviving the apocalypse and cocky, quippy protagonists, but I enjoyed what Vertigo Games has done with the sequel to its 2016 predecessor.
There’s not a ton of story here, but there doesn’t need to be. We’ve got games like Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, Days Gone, and Undying for that. Arizona Sunshine 2 is more like Dead Rising, especially when it comes to the protagonist. He’s constantly talking as you shoot down waves of zombies, and more often that not, he’s a genuinely funny and likeable guy. With references from everything like Weird Science and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was always funny hearing him say something crude or inappropriate.
Saying he “gives good head” as he shoots through craniums, and a one-way conversation about where dog’s balls go once they’ve been whipped off at the vets were just a few of the things he says, which gives you the kind of tone of Arizona Sunshine 2’s humour. However, as you spend more time with your new companion, he starts to get more reflective about things, and a lot more protective. Buddy is a dog you find right at the start. An Alsatian who likes to play fetch and rip out the hearts of Freds. He’s a great addition to the sequel, and can help you in a whole manner of ways.
You can direct him to attack, send him through gaps you can’t get through to remove obstacles (normally in the form of corpses), and generally be your aid throughout thick and thin. While travelling across Arizona, whether through shopping malls, sewers, or neighbourhoods, he’s an extension of your abilities, and the more you play, the more protective you are of him. If at any point you start to fear for the poor fella’s safety, you can give him a stroke and check if he’s OK. Buddy is a big help, but he’s not going to take down every zombie you find, so it’s lucky you’ve got a ton of different weapons that do the job just fine.
You can find a range of weapons everywhere, and it’s worth searching in every place you can reach in case you miss one of the cooler weapons. Handguns, sawn-off shotguns, and revolvers can all be used, with two being stored on you and two on Buddy at any given time. There are also two-handed weapons you can strap to your back, like the rifle and tommy gun. Each weapon has a different way to reload, much like they do in real life. Pulling down the barrel of the shotgun to insert bullets, then snapping it back takes a few extra seconds, but its power is well-worth the preparation.
Crafting is also something you can do along the way, with metal, glue, and alcohol the key components. At certain locations, you can craft grenades, mines, molotovs, and more, with one allowed to be stored at any one time. These all have different ways to use, like pulling the pin out a grenade or mine, and yanking the plug on a sticky grenade before throwing. Guns and explosives are a great part of your offensive, but there’re also a neat selection of melee weapons to use when up close, like machetes and axes, each with a satisfying crunch as they cut into your enemies. I’ll never grow tired of lodging an axe into a Fred’s forehead, then yanking it back out.
Some of the set pieces in Arizona Sunshine 2 revolve around big explosions and running away from hordes, and it can be incredibly tense. As you explore a gas station only to see hundreds of zombies banging on the glass outside can be a nerve-wracking feeling, and when they burst through you better keep an eye on Buddy as he’ll lead you to safety. There are other moments where you have to stand and fight, with one of my favourite moments coming after shooting a chunkier zombie off a diving board before attracting the attention of about twenty more. You’re always fighting – always surviving – and it never grows tiresome.
Despite some satisfying action, there are some light puzzle elements, such as finding keys to open doors or powering up generators and electrical panels. The controls are reactive and smooth, and you’ll easily open doors, use weapons, climb up and down ladders, and shimmy across horizontal pipes with ease. There’s not a ton on offer outside the occasional traversal conundrums and waves of zombies, but it didn’t make Arizona Sunshine 2 any less enjoyable. It’s a fully-fledged game in VR, and a more than capable one at that.
I did encounter a few bugs when playing, such as zombies disappearing through walls (and even walking through them), and zombies hanging in the air after a well-placed shotgun shell to the gut. A lot of zombies look similar, too. I lost count of the times I saw a woman with the same grey hair or that dude wearing the sailor hat, but it did little to hold me back from keeping on trucking. If you do find travelling alone to be a touch repetitive, then the option to jump in with someone else in co-op allows for you to appreciate the humour of the protagonist and the excitement of its gunplay with a friend.
Arizona Sunshine 2 also offers Horde Mode, where you fight off waves of zombies that gradually grow in numbers. It’s decent enough, but did little to make me keep playing. I had much more fun with the campaign, and it feels a little tagged on for the sake of it. You can play it in co-op, though, and modes like this are always more fun when you have a friend around. It tracks the amount of zombies you kill along with your accuracy, which can then be compared with players around the world.
While it doesn’t reinvent the genre, Arizona Sunshine 2 is wonderful in VR. The responsiveness of weapons and the amount on offer give you variety throughout, and as vulgar and silly as the writing can be, I loved every second. It can also be sensitive at times, which always caught me off guard, yet felt honest and never forced. The visuals are pretty good, and after you get out of the claustrophobic areas near the beginning, it opens up to give you some detailed and impressive locations with plenty of opportunities to reacquaint you with your best friend, Fred.
Plenty of weapons
Responsive and authentic controls
Buddy is the best boy!
Doesn't reinvent the genre
Horde mode feels tagged on
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