Firewall Zero Hour
Developer: First Contact Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99 ($39.99)
Nausea: VR Experience Dependent
Controllers: DS4 or Aim Controller
Game Length: Online Multiplayer (Userbase/Server Dependent)
Firewall: Zero Hour promises realism, strategic online multiplayer gameplay with precise and intuitive controls. Is the PSVR’s “killer app” finally here?
Firewall pits two teams of four players against each other – alternating between attacking and defending a firewalled laptop – over a series of nine superbly designed maps. The focus here is slow-paced cooperative multiplayer; gameplay leans towards methodical forethought and teamwork rather than all-guns-blazing, every-man-for-himself heroics. When matched with the right players (or friends), Firewall makes for some of the most intense, rewarding and memorable gaming moments of the FPS genre.
The bulk of the game is geared towards PvP but also offers a short and concise tutorial, solo versus A.I. and online coop versus A.I. modes. Those combined with a level cap of fifty, and the sheer amount of unlockable skills, weapons and customisation options is evidence enough that this is not your bare-bones one-hour VR title. That being said this is an online multiplayer and although solo options are available they’re more for training purposes than anything else. Experience points can still be gained from solo modes but at a reduced rate.
There is currently only one online PvP mode: Contracts. The developers, First Contact Entertainment, have stated that the only reason for this is so as not to fracture what is likely to be a relatively small user base – at least at launch. Early sales figures seem to suggest they’ve done well, which is great for PSVR and early Firewall fans. First Contact have stated they’ll introduce a Team Deathmatch mode – amongst others – if the install base remains, or even better, grows. This is a completely understandable compromise for the current VR climate.
The matches can be short; often lasting fewer than five minutes. Though brief they are ridden with tension and a constant foreboding. Where are the enemy? Of course, tension is nothing new to video games but the immersion factor of virtual reality is unparalleled. You can physically peek around corners; using your actual head no less. No longer do you need to press triangle to ‘peer’. You peer with your own face. Gameplay is slow and methodical; room-to-room; checking every nook and cranny. When the first shots are fired it’s not long before the last follows. Matches are lengthier when both teams communicate and revive as many downed teammates as possible. Gameplay veers more towards Rainbow Six Seige’s intense, close-quarter combat rather than Battlefield 4’s open-mapped freneticism.
The immersion factor is here extremely high. You’re finally inside a first-person shooter. This changes FPS gameplay is some key ways. Most notably is the ability to aim your weapon independently of where you’re looking. You can keep a steady aim on an open door while swiftly scanning the rest of the room for potential ambushes. You’ve never been able to do that before; virtual reality adds an extra layer of realism not previously seen in the genre. Being able to extend your weapon away from your body and around corners and take out an enemy whilst remaining perfectly safe is incredibly satisfying. As the gameplay is so exceptionally immersive, with such a high-quality roster of maps, you’ll often forget you’re replaying the same mode over and over.
The sound design is also top-notch. Throw on a pair of headphones and you’ll be able to hear exactly where shots are fired, mines are tripped and where the scuffle of enemy footsteps fall. You’ll be able to hear your teammates too, though stray too far from them and their voices will dwindle to a whisper. This feature is a great way of keeping teams together and promoting communication – and works for the majority of the time. Communication is key in Firewall.
You are given a choice of eight contractors from the get-go with four unlockable as you progress through the game. A combination of men, women and varying ethnicities – all possessing different perks. For instance, one contractor may start with extra ammo and another may receive less explosive damage. This allows players to personalise their experience.
There is a generous level cap of fifty and you’ll find plenty of unlockable weapons, cosmetics and skills to keep the dopamine flowing for many, many hours. You’re restricted to three classes and loadouts at the start but more unlock as you level up. You can optimise teams and loadouts and experiment to your heart’s content.
The main weapons available are assault rifles, shotguns and sub-machine guns with a great variety of each on offer as unlockables. There’s plenty of skins obtainable too which would normally be met with a mild shrug from myself but in VR weapon skins are genuinely appreciated. It’s significantly more personal being able to customise your weapons and then actually look at them as if they’re right in front of you; not just in an extra game mode or loading screen where you can view a 360° render of the gun – it’s the whole time you’re playing.
Firewall is promoted as having, “precision tracking” with the Aim Controller and to cut to the chase they’re spot on. The tracking is flawless; the bullets go exactly where you aim them. There are also options for left-handed players which will swap the sticks on the Aim and also move the position of the gun in-game. Grenades are propelled from the barrel of your gun and are easy to land with the Aim Controller. Sidearms are easily accessible and work just as well as your main firearms.
The DS4 controls work fine; you aim with the controller itself rather than the head-aiming. There have been some complaints of drifting though I did not encounter this during my brief test. With the precision accuracy and added immersion, the Aim Controller is the definitive way to play.
As for comfort options the game offers both snap and smooth turning and a vignette for sprinting to reduce nausea. If you’re new to VR and choose to jump straight into Firewall I’d recommend keeping the comfort settings on default with snap turning on. You may feel nauseated when playing VR for the first few times but this will fade as you become accustomed to virtual environments. I felt incredibly sick with some games at launch but am very rarely affected now.
There are, of course, possible downsides to having a game based solely around online play: player-base. For the most part, I was able to find games quickly but matches are short and you’re thrown back to the lobby after each one – regardless of whether anyone has left or not. Perhaps a ‘best of three’ would help balance the time spent in the lobby and actually playing. Around 2am BST I found it difficult finding enough players. I’m not sure if I was bound to a European server and everyone was asleep or whether I was the only one in the world trying to play. I expect the former as I’ve had no issues during the day. So far, the players I’ve met online have been extremely friendly and helpful. We’re all new to this type of experience and it’s been refreshing to have a toxic-free environment to ask asinine questions.
Firewall: Zero Hour has launched with a slender selection of online game modes. However, the unparalleled immersion, intuitive Aim controls and the promise of future content mean there are more than enough reasons to make Firewall your next PSVR purchase. Many have asked, “when will the PSVR get a proper game – its killer app?” If you’re a fan of the FPS genre: it’s just arrived.
VERDICT 9/10 – FIREWALL: ZERO HOUR IS A MUST-HAVE TITLE FOR ANY FPS FAN. IF YOU HAVEN’T YET MADE THE LEAP TO VR; THE TIME IS NOW.