Did PSVR gamers expect Vertigo Games to pull off a miracle with Arizona Sunshine?
One thing that really stood out to me about our recent Most Wanted PSVR rankings update, was just how high Arizona Sunshine shot up the charts. The game catapulted to No.5 overall, from it's previously modest ranking. It moved ahead of games like Moss, Bravo Team, The Persistence and Theseus. Upon first seeing the results, I started thinking to myself, "I wonder if these PSVR gamers know what they're in for with this version?" Could it be possible, that PlayStation VR owners expected they were going to get about 90 percent of the experience that was drawing rave reviews on PC VR platforms? Arizona Sunshine is indeed one of the most respected early VR games on the PC side of things, but we have to remember that Vertigo Games was going to have to squeeze this experience onto the OG PlayStation 4. The game has to run at 60 fps to each eye (before being reprojected at 120fps).
I own the HTC Vive version of this game, and I can certify that this title is a bit more demanding that the average Vive release. If you have a weak sauce gaming PC, you're going to notice some problems. If you have a super high-end gaming rig, then you'll be dancing in the streets, because the game is drop dead gorgeous and a testament to the power of what VR can bring to the experience.
I still remember the first time I heard that Arizona Sunshine was heading to PlayStation VR. The thought that immediately popped into my head was, "How the heck will they get that game to run on a regular PS4?"
All things considered, Vertigo Games did an amazing job just getting the thing to remotely resemble it's PC cousin. Unfortunately, PSVR gamers were hoping for more than a watered down representation. We've seen a few PC to PSVR ports that didn't lose a ton of luster in the process. Job Simulator and EVE: Valkyrie are two games that don't seem as watered down as you would have probably expected. When Battlezone came to PC VR, it wasn't a night and day difference in the visual department. So why couldn't Vertigo Games pull off a similar miracle here? The difference with Arizona Sunshine though, is that the world that Vertigo Games created is quite detailed and has a lot of things going on simultaneously. To get the game running halfway decently on an OG PS4, corners would need to be cut. Resolution was going to be reduced. Geometry of the physical locations would have to be scaled back. A police car that looked relatively impressive on an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, was now going to look more like a police car from a cartoon. The numbers of zombies approaching you at any given time was going to be cut significantly.
I really believe that the backlash that is currently swirling around this game, is a direct result of unrealistic expectations from the PSVR community. I love my PlayStation VR just as much as the next guy, but I try to have realistic expectations about what the hardware is capable of. I might have a PS4 Pro driving my experience, but I know that all PSVR games need to run decently on a stock PS4. This is going to hold some of the more ambitious games back. You also have to be aware of the fact, that a game that was originally designed for dramatically different platforms, could have some serious trouble in the translation process. Still, despite all of this, I think both Sony and Vertigo Games deserve a bit of blame as well. Both companies were probably well aware of the hype factor behind this game coming to PSVR, and maybe they could have done a better job of setting realistic expectations. A short demo on PSN would have done the trick. Everybody would have downloaded it immediately, and then expectations would have been set appropriately. Of course, this would have also resulted in far less overall sales.
Arizona Sunshine on PSVR is only available digitally, and Sony doesn't have any set refund policy. If you buy a digital game from Sony, and you don't like it, it's pretty much "tough titty" as far as Sony is concerned. There is no recourse. Steam currently offers refunds, and Oculus is experimenting with refunds in Great Britain. I honestly feel that a refund option for digital games should be mandatory for all gaming platforms. I know some gamers will abuse return policies, and turn it into a rental program, but what if Sony only allowed you to have a half hour with a game before making a decision about a refund? You pass that half hour mark, the game is yours permanently. There has to be a decent solution here that will work for all parties involved. Right now, Vertigo has some nice sales, but they've also got a ton of disgruntled gamers that will think twice about buying their next game.