Alone in a zombie-filled landscape, Arizona Sunshine 2’s unnamed protagonist uses crude humor and a lack of seriousness to ‘survive’ the isolation of the undead apocalypse. This time, however, you stumble across a dog in the wreckage of a military helicopter crash. After naming him Buddy, the two of you begin traversing the sandy, dry lands of Arizona, shooting ‘Freds’ (Arizona’s parlance for zombies) and trying to make contact with a nearby military presence in the faint hope of finally seeing another human face.
The VR sequel plays almost identically to the original game. The weapon collection, horde rushes with different zombie types, and wrist-based storage all remain. Doing all that while progressing through the story remains the meat of the game and what developer Vertigo is best at. I enjoyed going from level to level, checking abandoned cars for extra ammo, finding different weapons to take out hordes of Freddies, and following the excellent narrative.
Like any good sequel, it comes with new mechanics that attempt to freshen up the gameplay loop. Unfortunately, most changes fail to do so, instead being easier to ignore than anything.
Crafting is the most egregious new system that I failed to gel with. Throughout the game, I found random pieces of scrap in the form of metal, adhesive, or alcohol. At designated locations, I could combine them into land mines, grenades, Molotovs, or stick grenades; so I could choose from three explosives and one basically-an-explosive.
With my limited inventory already taken up by healing items or melee weapons, crafting boiled down to me making a single grenade that I held onto until a group of zombies came into view, where it was used immediately. Scrap is so prominent in the environment that I was never short of any materials, eliminating the need to contemplate if I should craft something or not. If you replaced every crafting station with a single grenade, it would have the same exact impact. The sparse inventory space and abundance of crafting materials are directly at odds with each other.
Outside of scripted moments where I had to command Buddy to fetch items out of my reach, his only mechanical purpose is to take down a single zombie at a time. While that was helpful, it wasn’t so helpful as to feel any more meaningful than an extra bullet in the barrel.
One direct upgrade in the sequel I do appreciate is the variation of weapon reloading. Each gun has its own specific motions for reloading, ranging from manually pulling the nose down on a double-barrel shotgun to holding a revolver vertically to clear the cylinder. Some guns were more complicated or inconvenient than others, creating a greater level of consideration when deciding which weapons to keep on me and how much time would be needed to reload in the middle of a firefight. This is a mechanic that can only be achieved in VR and makes great use of the medium’s strengths.
Arizona Sunshine 2’s narrative is where it really shines. Much of the game is centered around the protagonist making light-hearted and often crass jokes about zombies, genitals, or his own lack of self-care. But every so often, the weight of his history seeps through.
We glimpse small moments where the protagonist grows quiet, remarking on how expensive his sister’s cancer medication was or oddly stern warnings to Buddy about the dangers of gambling. As the clown-colored face paint began to crack, I saw the aching of a man poisoned by loneliness, slowly dying from it. When the possibility of being free from that poison showed itself, I saw a man desperate, willing to claw his way through hell to reach it. All while having to deal with the trials and tribulations of a never-ending apocalypse.
Buddy acts as a powerful catalyst throughout the narrative. He’s the friend our protagonist needs and the key to reaching other living humans for the first time in years. Paramount to all that happens to the point that I was terrified of the all-too-easy trope of killing the dog. Fortunately, and without giving anything away, I was quite happy with what twists the story took instead.
Arizona Sunshine 2 does everything the original game does well. It’s a visually stunning experience with well-designed levels, an engaging narrative, and enjoyable gunplay. While the new features like explosive crafting and buddy commands fall short of being meaningful additions, they don’t hinder the overall package. If you loved the first game or are looking for a good story-driven shooter, then I recommend giving it a try.
Arizona Sunshine 2
Played On Meta Quest 3
- Engaging Story
- Enjoyable Gunplay
- Beautiful Environments
- New mechanics don’t add to the experience
Score: 3.5/5 – A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review
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