There’s no denying that the industry has a sickening infatuation with zombies. Franchises such as Resident Evil, Dead Rising, and Dead Space have covered the gamut in terms of their unique gameplay and settings, but Vertigo Games’ new virtual reality zombie shooter, Arizona Rising, manages to etch out its own uniqueness amongst the other horde of zombie games out there.
Available for both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Arizona Sunshine has nearly everything that makes surviving in the zombie apocalypse more fun than other titles. While there’s a multi-player aspect with the game, we’re mainly going to focus on the single player campaign using the HTC Vive. Given the prestigious zombie franchises it’s competing against, does it stand any chance of being a top consideration?
The story goes much like today’s vast zombie apocalypse titles, and probably relatable to AMC’s The Walking Dead, since our protagonist here has already survived whatever has happened to the world that led to this zombie infested world, and is now just living on his own. He’s a lovable character for the most part, due to some of his smart-ass, witty remarks about his predicament. In fact, he kind of reminds us of Duke Nukem, but somewhat more tame with his antics and choice of words – he’s funny to say the least, offering up some good chuckles in the process.
Due to the fact that he’s essentially one of the few remaining survivors in this world, which mostly takes place in this sprawling desert town, eventually leading us to “Arizona Sunshine,” our character isn’t fighting off just the dead, but his sanity as well. Referring to the dead as “Franks,” we slowly witness our character’s descent into madness and desperation as the game progresses – partly because of the numerous times he’s handed disappointment about finding other survivors.
And that’s essentially the game’s story. We live and survive through this zombie infested world seeing it through the eyes of our character. He’s lonely, that’s for sure, so it’s a battle against time finding others – for the sake of his sanity.
Honestly, there’s nothing worth writing home about when it comes to the graphics in Arizona Sunshine. For the most part they suffice, but they’re hardly pushing the boundaries. Through the HTC Vive’s headset, there’s some noticeable pixelation and jaggedness with the graphics – while textures are flatter in comparison to what we’d expect to find in some other polished games. Like we said, it suffices enough since Arizona Sunshine is more of an action-oriented zombie shooter, as opposed to an eerie and ambient sound thriller.
The zombies, for example, are plentiful and diverse, but they’re not necessarily instilling fear with their somewhat blocky looking graphics. Luckily, even when we’re being overrun with hordes coming at us, the game manages to retain a decent frame rate performance – something that we appreciate given it’s VR we’re dealing with here. The desert locations of the game are filled with enough abandoned homes and cars for us to scavenge ammo and food (for our health), but it’s only broken up during stages when we’re underground in caves, which is when the game is at its scariest.
Obviously, it’s pitch black in these caves, so the only light source comes from a flashlight wielded by one of our hands. Again, the graphics here aren’t spectacular, but the mood and ambiance are surely elevated with these situations.
Being a first person shooter, we interact and see the world through the perspective of our protagonist. One of the nice things about Arizona Sunshine is its easy pick up and play kind of mechanics, especially for those who have a knack for first person shooters in the first place. Using the Vive’s motion controllers, they become our disembodied hands in the game – where we’re able to use them to grasp objects, interact with the environment, and wield our weapons.
Picking up objects is done by pressing on the Vive controller’s side-mounted gripping buttons, which isn’t the most practical implementation, but it’s nonetheless something we get better at doing with practice. This is also used to mount or take out a weapon from our side holsters, which can be a finicky process to accomplish when you’re attempting to dispose of a wave of zombies.
Often at times, hand coordination is key to fending off theses waves, seeing that we can easily become confused with the whole reloading or weapon switching processes. Naturally, firing a weapon is done by pulling on the triggers of either controller, while reloading is done by pressing the trackpad down, which empties the clip from our weapon, and then we’re required to draw the weapon close to our holster to finish the reload process. In a standard game, the reloading process is rarely a trivial one, but here in VR, it’s a pressing matter that’s the difference between living and dying.
Navigation is done in two ways here with Arizona Sunshine. On one hand, we can physically walk to some extent to interact with stuff in the game, such as opening up car doors and inspecting drawers within our standing area, but when it comes to traveling long distances, it’s done via the teleportation process by pressing on the Vive controller’s menu button.
Unlike other zombie games, Arizona Sunshine lacks depth and diversity with its gamepley. Generally speaking, we didn’t find trouble disposing isolated zombies in our way, as a good aim to the head usually does the trick and preserves ammo, but this becomes rather repetitive. Indeed, the gameplay is broken up with these defend the yourself scenarios when hordes of zombies come after us, however, we can quickly finish them off by finding a narrow area, where zombies are clustered into a small space and we proceed to mow them down.
On few occasions, too, we’re able to man a sniper rifle to pick off zombies from afar, or completely decimate hordes using a heavy machine gun. They’re fun and change up the pacing of the gameplay, but for the most part, the exploration and defending style of the game is repetitive – up until the bitter end as well!
Given the game’s frenetic action at times, often requiring us to execute the reloading process flawlessly to survive relenting attacks, we have to admit the VR aspect is pretty spot on. From interacting with the many objects in the environment, to dual-wielding weapons, you really get a sense of living through this apocalypse. Even as we’re running away from zombies coming after us, to finding a spot to defend ourselves, we never got sick once playing through the game.
That’s great news, especially when hand-eye coordination is vital in surviving attacks. Sure, there are moments during the game when we get overwhelmed by the weapon swapping and reloading processes, but it’s the kind of VR game that requires trial-and-error to defeat these zombies. Its navigation implementation makes perfect sense, as the teleportation process is able to mitigate motion sickness – while the smooth performance and frame rate of the game aids in the experience as well.
The extent of VR interaction is mainly isolated to grabbing/interacting with objects, such a drawers, levers, and handles, as well as wielding our weapons. We just wish, though, that there were some sort of melee weapon attack in our arsenal, which would be useful for close encounters. Beyond that, the VR experience is what you’d expect from a game that aims to be an easy pick-up-and-play title – requiring little introduction to the mechanics to get players acquainted.
Fun, fast, and action packed, those three words best describes what you’ll find playing through Arizona Sunshine. Despite finishing the single player campaign with just a little over 4 hours of investment on our part, the $39.99 cost of the game is still something we feel as being agreeable – more so when there’s a multi-player aspect to it. In fact, you can play through the campaign mode cooperatively with a friend, in addition to an apocalyptic mode where endless waves of zombies come after you.
While there could’ve been a bit more variety with the VR aspect of the game, its simple and fun premise enables anyone who’s played a first person shooter to quickly get into the thick of things. Trust us, you’ll have fun mowing down zombies in virtual reality, especially with the witty commentary from our protagonist. If you’re looking for an escape, an itch for heavy zombie action, then you’ll absolutely find it with Arizona Sunshine’s run and gun, action filled gameplay. Mowing down zombies has never been this fun!