House of the Dead was an awesome experience at “ye olde” coin-op arcades. Holding a gun and shooting the brains out of zombies and all sorts of nasties was totally different to the button-mashing fodder surrounding it.
And that shooter was the first that sprung to mind when I donned the HTC Vive and took a blast at the first 10 levels of Arizona Sunshine – a full VR experience.
The story has the depth of a puddle. It’s the apocalypse (again) and zombies are out to gnaw your bones. The graphics are pretty but nothing to write home about. I’ve seen it all a hundred times before, but I didn’t care a jot once the blasting started.
Arizona Sunshine is one of the easiest pick-up-and-play experiences there is. The Vive’s controllers act as your hands. They float around you in disembodied form, as tends to be the way with most VR games. While this slightly removes you from the experience all is forgiven once weapons enter the equation.
Pick up a conveniently located firearm at the tutorial level and you can aim with precision at three beer bottles a few metres away. A laser pointer gives you an indication of whether you’re on target and shooting feels just right using the controller’s triggers.
The gameplay is dead simple. Aim by moving your arms, shoot with the trigger, reload by clicking the trackpad and move position and field of view by turning body and head.Short levels throw waves of the undead for you to scythe down. Some lumber towards you giving you ample time to aim for the perfect headshot, while other sprint forcing you to use your reflexes to get the job done. Get too close and things get hairy. I found myself physically cringing from zombies about to get a mouthful of me.And that’s the crux of it. Standing, crouching behind cover and waving your arms around bring a physicality to gaming I’ve not experienced since the Wii. The way your world and key senses are taken over makes it infinitely more immersive than Nintendo’s console, though.
Arizona Sunshine is a simple game, but the Vive brings a new dimension that lifts it, not least because you’re standing and moving around. I'm not sure the experience will translate nearly as well if you're sat down.
It was like I was the star of a John Woo and George Romero collaboration. I held a submachine gun, arm straight, in my right hand to slaughter zombies running across the bridge, while a sawn-off-shotgun in my left hand took the legs off a cheeky chomper trying to outflank me. The only thing missing was a flock of undead doves.
And with one quick shift my comfort zone was breached. I felt all-powerful with the sun blazing above me, the sand underneath my feet and a firearm in each hand, but when the lights went out in an abandoned mine beads of sweat started to form.
I quickly dropped the shotgun and picked up a torch, waving it this way and that to cover the three foreboding tunnels around me. Sure enough zombies started pouring from all angles and I was firing and reloading, firing and reloading. And then the torch began to flicker and die…
That’s where the demo ended. I took the Vive off, took a deep breath and came back to the real world. But all I really wanted to do was have another go.
Arizona Sunshine looks to be a great introduction to the world of VR gaming. It’s simple, yet precise. Scary, but not too unnerving. We’re just at the very beginning of games built for virtual reality and I only played the game for a short while, but Arizona Sunshine feels like it has the balance just right for a first generation title in an entirely new medium.
Related: HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift
Arizona Sunshine will be released on PC via Steam VR for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. A release date has not yet been announced but it will be available some time in 2016. The price for Arizona Sunshine is still unknown.