I wasn’t sure what to expect when Firewall: Zero Hour was offered to me for review. I’ve seen both good and bad when it comes to PSVR games, and the thought of a tactical 4v4 FPS could either be really good, or really, really bad. So imagine my surprise when after a short tutorial to teach me the basics, I was thrust into a game world so well designed and executed that the comparison to Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six franchise is not only mandatory, but completely earned.
Firewall: Zero Hour is predicated on the simple concept of attackers and defenders, in short, yet fully realized five minute games. The attackers must breach one of nine maps to locate and disable a firewall, then find a laptop and hack into it to secure the win. Defenders are tasked with hiding the firewalls, barricading rooms, setting traps, and then defending both the firewall and the laptop for the full five minutes. And while this is all going on, both teams are shooting the hell out of each other. It is intense and insane and incredibly fun.
The VR environment works exceptionally well, and using the DualShock 4 or the PSVR Aim Controller is (actually) very intuitive. I was shocked at how responsive aiming down the sights was. In my living room, I’m a fat dude wearing a clunky headset wired to a game console with a controller in my hand. But in-game, I’m a well trained mercenary-for-hire, and it was so easy to get fully immersed in the action. It’s even better when you have a team working together, calling out enemies, covering corners, and healing/reviving downed allies.
Thankfully, I found myself on a couple of seasoned teams, and I truly felt like my actions mattered in-game. When I shot an enemy who was preying my teammate with a shotgun and my mate thanked me as he ran off to continue hunting, I felt like I had accomplished a major feat. Like my presence in the game was a difference, and it helps that it feels like I’m truly standing in that villa compound, or business office, or warehouse. Firewall: Zero Hour is proof that VR is the future of gaming, and that future is, well, now.
Each game awards players with cash and XP — whether or not you won — to upgrade weapons and gear. There are 12 avatars to choose from, each representing a different country. Unlocking better weapons and attachments buffs up and ranks each character. But that’s not the real draw here. Working together and communicating, completing the objective, and looking out for each other is the bread and butter of what makes Firewall: Zero Hour work.
That being said, the game isn’t without a few issues. The VR environments look great, and how you hold your weapons in-game looks and feels oddly realistic. Still, since movement is mapped to the same controller, things start to break down. Sprinting doesn’t render to the headset’s display as you might expect, and it still doesn’t feel like you are moving fast. Turning side-to-side with the controller is an interesting experience; instead of a smooth turn, the screen shifts in 45 degree increments, and while my brain did get used to it eventually, in the beginning, I was motion sick for most of the games. It’s actually a good thing that the matches are presented in five minute chunks, because any longer and I might have lost my lunch.
Matchmaking is also an adventure, as it can take a long while to find a team. To add insult to injury, if the host drops out, whether by choice or lost connection, the game immediately ends and you’re booted back to the lobby to start the process all over. Matches are designed for five minutes, but they are usually over well before then. So, you’re looking at a 8-12 minute wait for a 3-4 minute gaming experience. That reads way worse than it feels in-game; I just felt compelled to mention it.
Firewall: Zero Hour is proof that FPS games can work in a VR environment. While it’s not perfect, it’s incredibly fun and immersive, and if you luck into a team of seasoned players, you’re in for an amazing experience. Communicating and utilizing actual tactics is the path to success, and the thrill of not knowing who or what might be around a corner gets the heart racing. Developer First Contact Entertainment has laid the foundation of what could very well be the future of the first person shooter. Battle royale games are already starting to wear thin, and the next evolution of the genre is here with Firewall: Zero Hour.
This review is based on the PlayStation VR version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Sony.
Firewall: Zero Hour for the PSVR is an immersive, engaging - and incredibly fun - tactical shooter that succeeds in so many ways, and represents the future of the FPS genre.