Flashbangs are a lot more effective when you’re in VR. In a normal first person shooter, flashbangs are a minor nuisance. Your screen goes white for a bit, you hear a ringing noise, and that’s that. You can usually see pretty clearly while the whiteness wears off, too. But in Firewall Zero Hour, flashbangs are disorienting. You feel them. And that’s what’s so great about it.
Firewall Zero Hour is a 4v4 first person shooter exclusive to PlayStation VR. The defending team is tasked with protecting a laptop containing valuable information while the attacking team is tasked with finding and hacking said laptop. If a player dies, they don’t respawn. This makes for incredibly tense firefights and even tenser quiet moments, similar to games like Rainbow Six Siege. However, each player is not just using a controller, but holding their weapon in their own hands and physically peeking around corners.
Firewall’s gunplay is tight and responsive. VR makes things complex, but in a good way. Things that were simple button presses like aiming down sights require physical action in Firewall, and something like holding an angle is a hundred times more stressful than in a regular shooter. The freedom of VR is what separates Firewall from other shooters. You can blindfire over or around cover, you can lean to look around corners, you can get creative with your hip firing, the possibilities are endless and have led to moments that I won’t soon forget. In one match I heard an enemy coming down a hallway toward me (thanks to the game’s fantastic sound design) and I blindfired my shotgun around the corner and killed him. In another match I saw what looked like movement through a door hole, so I fired my SMG through it and downed the player on the other side. Strategies like these feel oh so rewarding and are made possible due to the PlayStation VR Aim Controller (the game is playable with a Dualshock 4 but for the true experience, you want the Aim) and the limitless freedom of VR.
Because of the tense situations and freedom of gameplay, Firewall is incredibly immersive. There’s an ever-present sense of danger, and you’ll feel it looming over you as your eyes dart from left to right, top to bottom, searching dark corners and balconies for enemies. Luckily, you’re not alone. Your team is your lifeline in Firewall, and they feel like real people. Mostly everyone talks (thanks to the headset’s built-in microphone), and being thrown into tense situation like these quickly transforms your group from strangers to allies. Camaraderie is one of Firewall’s strongest aspects. You and the other players actually feel like a team, and there’s no better team-building exercise than getting rushed by the enemy team.
As far as VR settings go, Firewall doesn’t disappoint. There are comfort vignettes for turning and moving, and you can turn on smooth rotation in place of snap turning if you wish. The tracking is spot-on for the most part, but I did encounter some occasional drift. The game also places your in-game weapon higher than your Aim controller. This is done to prevent the Aim light from interfering with the headset tracking lights, and you really don’t notice it in-game, but some may find it irritating or immersion-breaking.
A lot of VR games have fun, immersive gameplay and interesting multiplayer, but what sets Firewall apart from those is its depth. Firewall has a complex class creation system where you can pick and choose your weapon of choice along with gadgets like frag grenades or signal jammers. On top of that, the game also makes players choose a contractor, a character with a unique skill like Overwatch’s heroes or Rainbow Six’s operators. There are so many possibilities and new strategies to be developed and played around with. There were so many times when my squad and I would be in the lobby excitedly chatting about a new gadget we were about to unlock and the kind of fun things we could do with it.
Firewall isn’t all fun all the time, though. It suffers from network issues which are far too frequent to ignore. The game uses a peer-to-peer matchmaking system but has no host migration functionality. That means if the host of a game leaves, the entire session is disbanded, and everyone is sent back to the main menu. This happens so often it’s irritating. All too often someone will rage quit and turn out to have been the host, or someone will just leave and they were the host, so everyone gets booted.
Firewall is extremely fun and full of potential. Every time I’m about to log off, I tell myself “just one more round”, and then it’s 4 in the morning. This is the game VR fans have been waiting for. While the network issues hold it back from being something truly special, Firewall Zero Hour is still a fantastic experience and a must play for all PSVR owners.