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Arizona Sunshine Review: ‘The Last of Us’ in VR? (Oculus Quest)

Vertigo Games and Jaywalkers Interactive bring zombie survival horror to virtual reality with Arizona Sunshine, but is it as good as The Last of Us? When you compare the games together, Arizona Sunshine on Oculus Quest trumps The Last of Us in a lot of ways.

Arizona Sunshine Review: 'The Last of Us' in VR? (Oculus Quest)

I’ve been obsessed with the zombie apocalypse subgenre for a very long time now. I’ve longed to find a game that really immerses you in the apocalypse scenario and shows the power of the genre as a storytelling medium. To this date, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is the best zombie game I’ve ever played. It has one of the best stories ever told in a game and survival gameplay mechanics that help immerse you in the apocalypse setting. Luckily, the VR now has a zombie game poster child of its own with Arizona Sunshine via Oculus Quest.

In Arizona Sunshine, you play the role of a lone survivor living in a cave in Arizona. One day, he hears a radio broadcast about a potential military safe zone. Throughout the game, you push forward through various locations trying to find the source of the broadcast, killing every zombie you see along the way.  

When you compare the games together, Arizona Sunshine trumps The Last of Us in a lot of ways. However, in terms of storytelling and character development, The Last of Us is far superior. In this Arizona Sunshine review for the Oculus Quest, we will go over the best things about the game and areas for improvement by comparing it to Naughty Dog’s zombie masterpiece. 

Gameplay

Arizona sunshine gameplay on Oculus Quest

Arizona Sunshine Zombies in a Dark Cavern

In a previous article, we talked about how Arizona Sunshine is a great VR game for those who are prone to motion sickness. The game’s use of teleportation locomotion makes it a comfortable game to play for everyone. Within the game, you can point the controller and teleport, but you can also move around in the real world.

Multiplayer and Horde Mode
The multiplayer campaign and Horde Mode add a lot of replay value to the game. You can play with up to 4 players in Horde Mode, adding countless hours of gameplay time and new experiences to enjoy. 

Shooting Mechanics
The Last of Us did well to mix stealth, combat, and foraging, to create enjoyable gameplay mechanics. However, no zombie game played on a PS4 controller can beat the immersion of Arizona Sunshine in VR. The feeling of aiming down the sights of a pistol and pulling the trigger with your own hand, hearing the blast of the gun in binaural audio, and feeling the kick of the pistol via controller vibration is the most immersive a zombie game can get with today’s hardware. The shooting mechanics are very accurate and I’ve never had trouble with the controller tracking.

Arizona sunshine story

The desert is hot and full of zombies

NOTE: If you have YUR Fitness app installed, it can cause controller tracking issues with every game, including Arizona Sunshine

Stealth
There is also the option in some areas to use the terrain to your advantage. Instead of shooting every zombie you see, you can run around obstacles to get past them. 

Other finer details such as opening doors and picking up ammo are smooth and feel realistic as well. The only issue with the Arizona Sunshine gameplay is that it is too linear. However, that problem is more of a symptom caused by the story of the game.

Story

Arizona sunshine concept art

The Lone Survivor in Arizona Sunshine

While Arizona Sunshine has a lot going for it, the story is the weakest aspect of the game. Unfortunately, it is not even comparable to the epic story of Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. However, there is definitely potential in the desert apocalypse that Vertigo Games and Jaywalkers Interactive have created.

Arizona Sunshine follows an unnamed male protagonist as he pushes through the Arizona desert, dark underground mines, and abandoned settlements, all in hope of finding rescue. One day, the man hears a broadcast on the radio claiming there is solace to be found in one of the last-standing military safe zones. 

Arizona sunshine concept art

Arizona sunshine concept art

Surely, that sounds like your run-of-the-mill zombie story scenario. However, Arizona Sunshine suffers from the same thing that Fallout 76 suffered from early on: lack of NPCs. Of course an apocalyptic world will have less people in it. But whether it be The Road, World War Z, or 28 Days Later, the greatest apocalypse stories are about people, relationships, and human struggle. 

Arizona Sunshine would benefit greatly from a few non-zombie NPCs thrown into the story. While it is hard to make story-driven games work in VR, games like Star Wars: Vader Story or even Time Stall have proven that NPC interaction is definitely possible in VR. 

Graphics and Audio

Another area of the game that needs work is the graphics. Don’t get me wrong, I think the image quality is quite good for a game that is running on mobile hardware. However, the quality you get in Arizona Sunshine on Oculus Quest is night and day when compared to the Oculus Rift or other systems.

The image quality plays a very strong role in play sessions lasting over an hour. I found myself having to take breaks due to eye strain, rather than motion sickness. However, there is a little bit of hope in this regard. Thanks to a breakthrough in artificial intelligence, we could see a 67% increase in Oculus Quest rendering power. Researchers at Facebook AI may have discovered an AI algorithm that could improve game resolution by predicting what the image would look like at a higher resolution. 

If there is no Arizona Sunshine graphics update for the Oculus Quest on the horizon, hopefully this AI breakthrough could solve this issue.

Soundtrack and Audio

There is no matching the genius of Gustavo Santaolalla’s soundtrack for The Last of Us. However, Arizona Sunshine does a great job in using background music to set the tone throughout the game. 

Arizona sunshine dark caves

The night is dark and full of zombies in Arizona Sunshine

When zombie hordes run toward you, the music will change to highlight the impending danger. When you are in a pitch-black underground mine, eerie suspenseful tones will make you feel afraid to take another step. At times in the game, I honestly felt like I was living through scenes of AMC’s The Walking Dead

Voice Acting
While there are no non-zombie NPCs in the game, the sole voice actor, Sky Soleil, did an amazing job bringing the protagonist to life. Not only did he manage to show a little character development using only his voice, he also helped set the tone for the game and illustrate the gravity of the situation and feelings of hopelessness in the story. 

Summary
Arizona Sunshine is a must-play VR game on the Oculus Quest for zombie lovers, apocalypse fans, or those who like first-person shooters. While the graphics and story have a lot of room for improvement, the gameplay and shooting mechanics alone make Arizona Sunshine one of the best games on the Oculus Quest. While it is also one of the most expensive games on the Quest, I’d say it is worth every penny. Arizona Sunshine is definitely not The Last of Us in VR, but it is definitely one of the best zombie games available in VR today. 
Good
  • Unlimited replay value with Horde Mode
  • Incredibly realistic shooting mechanics
  • Great soundtrack and voice acting
  • 3D audio and controller vibration add to immersion
Bad
  • Simple and bland story leads to overly linear gameplay
  • Lower graphical quality due to Quest hardware
8
Great

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