Arizona Sunshine 2

Arizona Sunshine 2

A head-popping good time.

A head-popping good time.

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07/12/2023 toolmxh.com

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Review game Arizona Sunshine 2, A head-popping good time.

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Watching a mobile mosh pit full of undead targets lurch toward you as if they were real does something to your blood pressure. This is why zombie games are so successful in virtual reality: initially, there’s the conceit that this isn’t a huge deal. You have guns, and they’re slow! However, as you begin to thin out the crowd, the situation becomes considerably less ideal because you have significantly less ammunition and they are much closer. With ghouls staring you in the face, panic sets in, and mistakes are made as you scramble to reload your weapons. Arizona Sunshine 2 effectively places you in that scenario and simulates your struggle for survival. And while it doesn’t do much more than that, which gets a little monotonous, it does a decent job of transforming the nameless, one-liner machine protagonist of the first game into a complex character with a little assistance from his buddy.

The story campaign, which can be played in solo or two-player cooperative mode, is a simple, linear shooter that alternates between roughly 25% slower-but-still-tense exploration and puzzle solving where you’re gathering weapon after weapon to more effectively puree zombies on your next encounter and approximately 75% all-out action where you joyfully reduce throngs of zombies to extremely chunky soup before they do the same to you. Although it’s well-paced, there’s only so much that can be said for a campaign that lasts longer than fifteen hours. [Edit: Upon reflection, this figure represents my overall play time, which encompassed multiple Horde mode runs. Most likely, the campaign accounted for closer to 12 hours. Though, on the other hand, if killing zombies never got old, they wouldn’t be making zombie games anymore. Can I really say it stays fresh when it never adds new enemies that aren’t some variation of zombie that moves faster and/or is wearing a hat and is vulnerable to something other than headshots?

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Even though the surprises eventually run out, headshot kills this satisfying mean that it never truly gets boring. It’s really a gory explosion of epic proportions, complete with some of the most bizarre sound effects ever heard, and frequently ends with a cartoonish zombie taking off. At that point, their propensity for hilarious glitches and incredible cartwheels is compensated for by the exaggerated rag-doll physics. It always feels good to hit five or six head shots without having to reload when I have perfect aim.

You are counting your shots if you know what you’re doing.

Aside from the anticipated significant visual enhancement compared to the original Arizona Sunshine after seven years, the most notable alteration that caught my attention right away was the intricacy of reloading. In Arizona Sunshine 2, you have to eject the magazine, grab a new one with the other hand, jam it in, and chamber a round before you can start firing. In the past, you could get away with reloading one-handed by ejecting a spent magazine and then bonking a gun against your chest to pop a new one in. If you know what you’re doing and are counting your shots, then by all means leave one round in the chamber and switch magazines without having to take that final, admittedly stylish step that can cost you a valuable second when every shot counts.

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It’s fun to have so many options, and you can carry three guns with you. The six-shot revolver, which can dispatch any typical zombie with two shots to the center mass, eventually won my favor. Initially, I preferred the 9mm pea shooters and took my time to line up headshot after headshot. Additionally, there are uzis, combat shotguns, light machine guns, and everything in between, each with a special way to reload. Some weapons do behave differently; at one point I was rocking both a minigun and a flame thrower (with a surprisingly shoddy flame effect). The downside of that is that I had to discard a grenade launcher and a few shotguns because I was unable to figure out how to reload them, and there didn’t appear to be a pop-up tutorial for those.

It’s a treat to have so many options for guns.

However, Arizona Sunshine 2 still doesn’t exactly aim for realism at the expense of enjoyment. If you have two pistols and one runs out of ammunition, you can easily let go of the other, use that hand to reload, and then draw your second pistol again because dropping a gun from your hand teleports it to your holster. (This also holds true for a two-handed, back-slung weapon.) This is extremely convenient, and I can only assume that strong magnets are used to accomplish this.

Undoubtedly, though, it’s incredibly simple to make mistakes and grasp the wrong object when attempting to grasp objects that aren’t actually there in virtual reality games. It also always feels horrible to die because, as happened to me once, I mistakenly grabbed a sausage instead of a magazine and frantically tried to jam it into my gun. That’s not a deal-breaker, though, besides the excessive amount of time we have to spend watching the zombies that killed us stand around doing nothing before returning to try it again. And I do like that you can grab objects a few feet away, eliminating the need to stoop down all the time (sort of like in Half-Life: Alyx, but with a shorter range). That’s incredible, given the apparent abundance of ammunition in the world; therefore, a massive rabbit must be decomposing it.

Given the abundance of ammunition in the world, it is implausible that a gigantic rabbit dumps it.

Additionally, melee weapons such as cleavers, machetes, different axes, and a crowbar (yes, it makes a reference to Half-Life) are available. It’s entertaining to splatter some blood on zombie faces with these weapons up close and personal. However, weapons break after splitting a few skulls, so if you’re close enough to use them against enemies who know you exist, you’re probably going to get gnawed on a little bit in the process. Arizona Sunshine 2 is primarily about the guns. Craftable grenades, molotovs, and mines are your last line of defense, but you can only have one in your inventory at a time, so you’ll mostly use them as a treat rather than as a weapon in battle. (Crafting is a little confusing at first and isn’t explained very well, but it makes sense once you figure out how to make things by slamming parts together.)

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The dog Buddy is now here, which is another significant change. You should and can pet him, of course! He is a very good boy, as our character constantly reminds us every time he commands the death of a zombie or retrieves an object that is out of reach in order to solve a straightforward puzzle or clear a way. He also changes the game in two other ways. Firstly, you can command him to eliminate any common zombie or to temporarily contain a large one. Sometimes he’ll tackle one as you are setting up your shot, so you don’t even need to ask. Even when Buddy is tearing their throats out over the course of about 10 seconds before you can sic him on the next one, zombies don’t seem to notice at all, so that’s really helpful when ammo is running low or if you want to thin the herd without activating their allies.

Climbing is the primary activity when you’re not shooting or looting, which is kind of silly because you can grab onto handholds and move around so freely that it feels almost weightless. It’s absurd to watch a cooperative partner do it; all they are using to climb is their arms, and their legs just hang there. Even better, you can launch yourself by swiftly drawing up with one hand, leaving the other free to carry an additional explosive or melee weapon. Again, though, it’s good to have something different to do to take your mind off the shooting, and it can result in some enjoyable experiences like scaling the outside of a moving train. Notably, though, even if you use the smooth movement option (which I did exclusively), there is no mechanism for jumping off ledges or climbing down ladders; instead, it just teleports you.

Speaking of locales, there are a fair number of them in addition to the desert landscape of Arizona, which is, it turns out, considerably different when there is less sunlight and you have to battle at night. There’s a fair amount of variety thanks to the presence of sewers, shops, an airport, a trainyard, apartment buildings, and more. While Arizona Sunshine 2 is a unique experience, I wouldn’t say anything in Left 4 Dead is quite as memorable as shooting zombies in a carnival. Though there are many places that are extremely dark, I do wish I could manually control my flashlight because the device that determines when it turns on automatically makes strange decisions.

In addition to the campaign, which took me about 17 hours [Edit: This time, the figure included some Horde time, so it was actually a few hours less than that], you can test your endurance with up to three friends on a single Horde mode map (which is probably going to be expanded upon based on the previous game) to see how long you can withstand unending waves without being able to retreat or call for help from a dog. It’s easy to learn but difficult to master, and it has the typical flaw of requiring seasoned teams to begin at a very slow wave 1 and work their way up to the onslaught. In addition, it’s a little strange in that it confines you to a tiny base area in the center with invisible walls. In addition, I observed a little bit more hitching in this mode than in other places where it was present but sporadic.

Conclusion

Arizona Sunshine 2 skillfully increases the pressure of approaching zombie hordes time and time again, rewarding you with amazing gore when your bullets and hatchets strike rotten faces. You constantly have to be alert and consider how many bullets are left in your guns as you blast through a long, sometimes moving story about a man and his new four-legged best friend, thanks to its VR shooting and somewhat complicated reloading system. For a game that lasts more than 15 hours, the variety of enemy types is fairly small, but there’s enough climbing and light puzzle solving to keep things interesting, and the physics errors are just as funny as the one-liners and cooperative antics.

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