The VR landscape has shifted dramatically since mainstream consumer VR headsets first hit the market back in 2016. Back then, the novelty of VR carried a lot of games that probably wouldn’t be as well-received today. Very few games stood out as must-haves, and one game in particular rose above the rest as the premier VR zombie-slayer: Vertigo Games’ Arizona Sunshine. The sequel to the comedic carnage has finally arrived, but is a new canine companion enough to keep things fresh? While Arizona Sunshine 2 is still a gory good time, this next-gen sequel is anything but.
Arizona Sunshine 2 follows in its predecessor’s footsteps, sending players through a series of linear levels where the only thing that stands between them and potential salvation is a sea of Freds. The core gameplay is mostly the same, but there are a few improvements that VR fans have come to expect from their shooters like manual reloads and a skull-smashingly satisfying melee combat system. No matter what you think about Arizona Sunshine 2, you can’t say that Vertigo Games doesn’t understand what VR players want.
The game comes with all the control schemes and styles that you’d expect from a modern VR title, too, and there are plenty of options to fine-tune the experience like adjusting the height of your weapon holsters. There’s also a great amount of interactivity possible when exploring levels, which is a telltale sign of a VR studio that knows what it’s doing. Breaking bottles, putting on hats, and lighting up cigarettes go a long way to make the world feel more real, which helps a lot given the game’s linearity.
Arizona Sunshine 2 is sadly just as short as its predecessor, but the environments and setpieces that you’ll experience along the way are a ton of fun. When you’re not blowing the heads off hordes of Freds, Arizona Sunshine 2 feels like the kind of theme park attraction that always has long lines. An early game segment where you cross the tarmac of an airport lined with explosive barrels is a prime example of this. There are a bunch of moments where the game just lets you soak in the sights and take in the carnage like you’re riding the world’s bloodiest roller coaster. Vertigo Games really understands the power of linear VR.
Unfortunately, Arizona Sunshine 2’s linearity is a double-edged sword. While the setpieces are electrifying, the moment-to-moment gameplay suffers greatly because of it. The original Arizona Sunshine was an industry leader back in 2016, but that was nearly a decade ago. Arizona Sunshine 2 inherits a bit too much of that formula. Even the best of 2016’s VR titans were criticized for being little more than shooting galleries, and Arizona Sunshine 2 would fit right in with that crowd. The shooting mechanics are solid, but there’s really not much else that sets this sequel apart, especially with its premium price tag.
Still, being in the heat of the moment, struggling to slam a new magazine into your gun while Freds close in is a great time (which is why the game’s new horde mode is such a blast). Buddy, the game’s new canine companion, adds a new layer to combat as well. You can command Buddy to attack Freds and buy yourself some breathing room, and it’s incredibly satisfying to execute a Fred while Buddy has them pinned on the ground. Other than biting Freds and grabbing a key every now and then, Buddy doesn’t affect the game that much, but having him around is nice and allows for some cool moments.
Arizona Sunshine’s story has never been anything to write home about, and that continues with the sequel. It relies on quippy dialogue from its unnamed protagonist to keep the narrative flow going, but the jokes fall flat more often than not. The game chases a style of humor that is very hard to get right, and its unending desire to be quirky backfires. The jokes are so cringy that it’s almost insulting to hear them coming from the character you’re controlling. Arizona Sunshine 2 tries so hard to make the humor a focal point of its identity, but almost none of it lands.
Ultimately, Arizona Sunshine 2 just feels like an extension of the first game, for better and for worse. There’s a really solid foundation here, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s good at what it does, but what it does isn’t particularly new or exciting. The game relies on the inherent satisfaction of nailing a headshot or slamming a crowbar into a zombie’s skull, and while that’s always a good time, it does tend to get old quite quickly without any major changes to the formula.
The VR gaming landscape has advanced so fast over the last few years and Arizona Sunshine 2 feels like it missed the memo. It’s a safe, serviceable sequel that touches up the original Arizona Sunshine formula with some modern quality-of-life features but doesn’t have much else to offer. The shooting is as solid as ever, but the level design and humor would be dated even during the first game’s release window. You’ll have a good enough time with Arizona Sunshine 2, but for the sequel to one of VR’s greatest, it’s hard to walk away without feeling like it could’ve been something more.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on December 8th, 2023