‘Arizona Sunshine 2’ is, at the very least, a must-play VR game. The trailer for seemed too good to be true: a VR first-person shooter that almost promises too much. As it turns out, you should take it seriously–if you think it looks like your kind of game, it’s because it almost certainly will be.
Following , Vertigo Games has finally released the long-awaited follow-up to just in time for its predecessor’s seventh birthday–which happens to be today (December 6). The original was hampered by twitchy controls and wasn’t exactly the most groundbreaking first-person shooter, but it understandably developed a cult following. builds on these foundations with aplomb.
Despite its fair share of weird quirks, odd glitches, and an occasionally unintuitive UI, is an immersive, challenging, and unpretentious game that doesn’t rely on cheap scares or shoehorn overcomplicated innovations into the mix. It’s the refined arcade shooter that VR gamers are regularly promised but often don’t get: one that delivers on pledges, before going above and beyond to elevate the VR FPS experience. Surveying your surroundings plonks you into the shoes of a nihilistic, nameless protagonist as you wake up in your caravan following a night of heavy drinking.
After so long without human contact, you’ve hit rock bottom, eating rotten BBQ food straight off the grill while picking off zombies–Freds–in a makeshift shooting range. It’s hinted that you might turn the gun on yourself any time soon. Out of nowhere, a helicopter crashes onto a nearby building, bringing hope–and a new friend.
The pilot’s dead, but the chopper door slides open to reveal your new partner: a German Shepherd you call Buddy. Meanwhile, a radio message makes your mission clear: retrieving Patient Zero, with whom the military can find a cure–and you. Like the original back in 2016, isn’t pushing the boundaries of VR graphics, but its lightly cartoonish visuals are incredibly smooth on both Meta Quest 2 and 3, even in more expansive or Z-heavy scenes.
Sometimes, its desertified setting gives way to an all-too-hazy section or two, but for the most part, it remains colorful in more aspects than one. Sometimes, areas can be far from clear. isn’t going to freak you out like modern-day games; instead of making enemies gruesome and fearsome, Vertigo has kept its comedic roots and has spent the last seven years focusing more on the game’s story-building and mechanics, delivering a much longer tale than ’s four-hour debut.
It’s ironed out a lot of creases, though it’s also left a couple, while adding a handful of new ones along the way. A lot to learn–and guess As you scamper up to the chopper, a tutorial section takes you through the basics of shooting, melee combat, reloading, scavenging, and quite literally making you get to grips with climbing. Your holster holds two guns and ammo packs, while each wrist can hold either craftable throwables–mines, grenades, molotovs–or melee items.
You can also hold a long gun, such as an assault rifle or standard shotgun, on your back for those more serious encounters. Buddy also acts as a carrier, with two additional slots on a mini saddle–a great way to change your loadout as you see fit. However, they’re your partner in more ways than one, adding much-needed depth to the original experience.
Buddy warns you of nearby zombies, unlocks new paths, retrieves collectibles (and the occasional tennis ball or zombie arm), and most importantly, is a weapon that picks off individual zombies–perfect if you want to avoid attracting unwanted attention by firing your gun. WHAT A GOOD BOY As with any tactile game, things take some getting used to. Teleporting proves to be the best method of movement for those without an iron-clad stomach–something proved by the queasy yet fun climbing sections, which are optional via the settings.
Luckily, the gunplay is pretty much faultless. Iron sights are dependable over impressive distances, save for your shaky hands, and each weapon has a character of its own, as well as learnable (and often forgettable) clip sizes. Dropping empty clips can be a bit of a chore, but reloading from your belt is a breeze; racking the slide becomes second nature.
Refilling a revolver feels particularly special–the first time you execute a cheeky wrist flick to lock all six bullets into your hand cannon feels both natural and glorious. Still, getting the guns out of your holster, especially when sitting down, can be a nightmare. The number of times you’ll raise a gun to an encroaching zombie, only to come up empty-handed, happens too often.
You need to reach deep to guarantee they’re in your grasp. also doesn’t make certain offensive mechanics clear enough. I didn’t realize the long gun was on my back until it fell off me when I picked up another–something the game doesn’t explain very well.
The same can be said for throwables; I was carrying newly created grenades around with me before realizing they could go in my wrists (surely you’d have them higher on your chest?). The devs don’t make this as abundantly clear as they should–especially if they’re courting VR newcomers. Throwables can be crafted at stations, which are sadly less frequent than you’d hope.
Melee is fun and dependable but understated, mainly thanks to the game’s prioritization of Buddy’s attacks and the sheer ubiquity of ammo. In the spirit of Arizona’s rather free gun laws, basic weapons and ammo are everywhere. Nearly every car has bullets; suitcases in airports are hilariously and implausibly stuffed with them.
Picking things up, however, can be a test of its own. Anything above waist height is easy enough when the interaction reticle is visible. God forbid you drop something on the floor, especially if you’re playing the game seated–every time you try to latch onto the item, your weapon will fly out of the holster and into your hand.
It’s ironic, considering it sometimes doesn’t spring to your grasp when you want it to. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail Aside from the occasional surprise twist in the story–a horde, new miniboss-style enemy, or dumb decisions–you’ll mainly find that you die due to a lack of preparation. Nine times out of ten, you’ll run out of ammo, try to find space to reload, mess it up, frantically attempt to find another place to hide, find yourself surrounded, freak out, and then get pummelled to death.
You need to focus on your dominant hand, plan for each section, and ensure you know your guns are fully loaded; you’ll regularly empty a clip just to be sure, especially with so much spare ammo lying around. I opted for a long-clip pistol as my primary and a Desert Eagle as my secondary–trench gun on the back–but as the game goes on, mobility proves to be your best weapon. Some zombies are quick, but they’re outmanuverable, so long as you know your routes of escape.
Seriously, watch before you play–Columbus’s rules work. Things can be quiet. .
. until they’re not. Besides, it’s important not to get too impertinent.
Checkpoints can be very sparsely placed, meaning you can often lose 15 minutes of careful exploration, looting, or messing around if you fall victim to an unseen assailant or a scene-ending horde. Sure, you’ll often jump back in knowing how you can do things better, but sometimes, you’ll probably just take it as an opportunity for a break. Perfect pacing One thing that must be said about is that despite being surprisingly long, it never gets boring or rests on its laurels, regularly offering new mechanics and blockbuster moments.
I’m deadly serious when I say there were more memorable action sequences in ’s first 90 minutes than during the entirety of , and proved way more entertaining. Big or special weapons pop up relatively regularly, but never too often, making each one feel like an event. Escape sections appear out of nowhere and ratchet up the tension.
Zombies climb over previously “safe” areas to transform temporary serenity into flailing chaos. Sometimes, you find yourself just staring at a nicely curated scene of post-apocalyptic destruction–a huge horde of enemies from a rooftop, hastily buried class-A drugs, or a dangling school bus. Well, that doesn’t look too safe.
Even the smallest things in make their mark. You look for silly ways to mess with zombies, find time to play basketball, or take an unnecessary route knowing you’ll be likely rewarded with a line of dialogue. You find yourself making macabre games with packs of Freds, getting more brazen with combat until reminds you not to be too happy-go-lucky by bestowing a quick death upon you.
Buddy comedy is surprisingly deep. Your character’s internal monologue is given added weight by his evolving relationship with Buddy. Sure, Buddy doesn’t answer back with words, but they still allow for a dialogue that serves as a crucial springboard for the more thoughtful, meaningful inner feelings of your character, which nicely punctuates those expected bouts of humor.
Naturally, you form a surprisingly close bond with Buddy–in the moments when they go off and do their own thing, and you lose the ability to control them, you genuinely feel alone. It was a masterstroke to pair the two of you up so early because it makes you cherish your time together so much more, especially if things go south. Most memorably, there’s a section where you need to help Buddy recover.
Without giving too much away, they get very distressed if you use the most direct approach. However, I’m a dog owner, so I naturally felt the need to rub his head–there’s even an animation for running your hand over the ears. Helping Buddy while stroking them makes them calm throughout an already tense and emotional scene.
The fact rewarded my natural affectionate instincts with this moment is one of the most immersive and satisfying things I’ve experienced in a game for years. Bugging out ’s quest to do so much means it occasionally falls short when it matters. It’s prone to the occasional crash; items can disappear; motionless zombies can duplicate as they rise to their feet; going off the beaten track, or where the game doesn’t want you to go, can see you disappear out of the world completely; zombies can become trapped in doors or walls, though this occasionally helps you out if you’re pinned in a room with no other way to escape.
Zombies have a habit of blocking doors, but it has its benefits in a firefight. And sure, Buddy may be the best thing ever, but like other dogs, they sometimes refuse to do what they’re told–though in , this is a bug and not a feature. Getting them to retrieve items or kill zombies can be a mixed bag, especially when you command them to sic a Fred lying in wait on the floor.
Even when this does work, has limited takedown animations, meaning zombies often instantly rise to their feet before being slammed by your compadre. Navigation, too, can be very tricky. Instead of climbing stairs, you might clip through and behind them–not ideal when you’re trying to get onto a balcony to see zombies, only to find yourself immediately among them.
Must-try and best buy With such strong story-telling and worldbuilding, an impressive Horde Mode, and a surprisingly well-balanced difficulty selection, Vertigo has struck gold–the type of game you can’t help but come back to. Like most VR games, has its foibles, but its weaknesses often complement its strengths, albeit unwittingly–after all, would you be able to pick up a dropped clip under the pressure of six encroaching zombies? I know that I’ve framed this article with “killer app” in the title, and while it’s a bit of daft wordplay, it’s still true. If I knew was as good as it was–and, until now, I didn’t have a VR set–I’d buy one to play it, especially with such good deals on the Meta Quest 2 right now.
This is the type of goofy, fun, and immensely playable game you want from VR–ahead of the holiday season, it’s something you’ll excitedly share with friends, seeing how they react to situations, knowing that silly scare tactics won’t freak them out, while everything feels more or less like it should. Let’s not forget Buddy–arguably the best companion anyone could ever hope for. .