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