Arizona Sunshine 2 Review (PSVR 2) – Buddy Knows Best

Arizona Sunshine 2

Zombies and virtual reality go together like peanut butter and jelly, or in this case, like bullets and headshots. It’s a combo that makes sense, but it has been done plenty of times across all VR headsets. These days, if you’re a zombie shooter, you’ll need to do something different to stand out.

The original Arizona Sunshine was one of the first zombie titles to make a splash on the VR scene. Still, it was followed by other heavy hitters like Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, so does Arizona Sunshine 2 once again take the undead crown on PSVR 2? Let’s find out.

Injecting Life into the Undead

It’s been a while since I played the original Arizona Sunshine, but there’s no need to stress if you haven’t experienced the original. You can jump into the new game and understand what’s happening. It has a refreshingly simple but surprisingly heartwarming story penned by Rob Yescombe, who also wrote The Invisible Hours and Rime, to name a few other titles in his resume.

One thing that Arizona Sunshine 2 brings to the table to stand out is the irreverent tone of its story. The protagonist is a wise-cracking guy who doesn’t take things too seriously and refers to all zombies collectively as “Fred,” which I particularly enjoyed.

This time around, though, our hero is not alone. Very shortly into the first chapter, you’re introduced to a German Shepherd dog named Buddy (or at least, that’s what the protagonist names him), who will be with you for the entirety of the game.

Having a companion with you immediately makes Arizona Sunshine 2 feel fresh and interesting. It’s also impossible not to get attached to Buddy from the get-go. He doesn’t need any help during firefights with hordes of the undead, but he’s happy to lend a helping hand (paw?) and will tear apart zombies on your behalf.

Issuing commands to Buddy is as simple as holding a button on the left controller and pointing to zombies for him to bite or as part of environmental puzzles where he can lend a hand. He’ll also act of his own accord during fights, with surprisingly capable AI that helped me survive more than a few scraps.

Most importantly, you can pet him. Excellent interactivity lets you rub his face and ears with your hands and have them react realistically. You can also put any hat you find on him and yourself, which is a nice touch.

Buddy’s character immediately gives the story emotional weight, and it’s clear through the dialogue that the bond between him and the main character deepens as they navigate through various environments and set pieces in search of Patient Zero, who may hold the key to a cure for the zombie virus.

It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Still, the combination of humor, genuine heartfelt moments (like playing fetch with Buddy), and constant companionship helped me immerse myself in the world of Arizona Sunshine 2.

From a gameplay perspective, Arizona Sunshine 2 also steps up the game signficantly from the original title on the first PSVR headset. Thanks to the new PSVR 2 technology and the upgraded controllers, both the graphics and gameplay stand tall with some of the best VR experiences.

Arizona Sunshine 2 nails the fundamentals. Guns have realistic weight, tracking is incredibly responsive, headshots are superbly satisfying, and reloading is complex enough to add tension to every firefight.

Let’s break it down further because these things make up more than the sum of their parts. The game places your inventory on a tool belt at your waist to access two weapon holsters and your ammo immediately. A third heavy weapon (like a shotgun, rifle, etc.) can be stored on your right shoulder as well.

Weapon variety also translates to reloading variety, with great haptic feedback on the controllers and use of the adaptive triggers to excellent effect. Reloading a pistol, for example, requires you to eject the empty magazine, grab a new one from your belt, slide it in, and then pull back the chamber.

Something else like an Uzi is similar, but instead of pulling back the chamber, you have to grab a knob on the top of the gun and slide it back. Shotguns require you to pop them open and replace the shells or cock the gun between blasts. Assault rifles make you eject the clip, insert a new one, and then pull back a latch on the side as well.

Two-handed weapons also respond perfectly to using both hands to stabilize your shots. It’s incredible how accurate you can be looking down the sights of a gun in this game (though on easy mode, you will get a laser dot if you opt for the lower difficulty).

Health can also be found in the form of food, and while ammo is plentiful, so are the zombies. I was consistently shocked and impressed with how many zombies the game could fit on the screen at once, with no hitching or frame drops that I noticed.

Bullets tear into flesh and rip off limbs with satisfying lethality. Headshots also result in a spray of blood and gore that never, ever gets old. Melee weapons break after several uses, but the way zombies realistically react to vertical and horizontal slices of something like a machete is amazing. It all comes together to form some of the most satisfying gunplay and combat I’ve seen in VR this side of Half-Life Alyx.

Now, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (see what I did there?). Arizona Sunshine 2 does leave a bit to be desired regarding the crafting elements and the inventory system. Crafting items can be found everywhere and easily stored in your tool belt, but you only get a handful of options when you find a station.

Not only that, but you can only store one item in each of your hands (so two slots total). If you’re holding on to a machete in one slot, you can only bring one grenade or mine you’ve crafted. It’s not ideal because you find so much crafting material that the game makes you feel like you should be able to stock up more, but you can’t.

And while the gameplay is excellent, the lack of skill trees or progression means that repetition sets in eventually. The set pieces are great, but I can only handle so many zombie hordes before I get fatigued. Some variety or deeper mechanics here would have gone a long way to help across the 8-hour campaign.

Juicy Gore and Excellent Interactivity

Arizona Sunshine 2

Despite a few missed opportunities, Arizona Sunshine 2 nails the fundamentals of a great VR zombie game. It looks and plays great on PSVR 2, with superb implementation of haptic feedback and adaptive triggers.

Tracking never misses a beat, and the intensity is always cranked up with the number of zombies on screen that come out of the woodwork once you start firing. I preferred the outdoor areas to the indoor ones, mostly because visibility was tough when the game got dark, even with the automatic flashlight.

The hilarious and heartwarming story lands perfectly, thanks to the addition of Buddy, who, despite being a dog, adds a human element that makes the narrative feel impactful. While I do think the asking price of $50 USD is a little steep given the fact that it’s just the campaign and a single horde mode map right now, those who want a rock-solid VR title or something to play in co-op won’t be disappointed with the quality on display here.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 12/11/2023

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