Several shooters have proven their worth on PlayStation VR, but outside of the abysmal Bravo Team gamers have been eagerly awaiting a proper tactical shooter to fill the gap in the PSVR’s software lineup. Just as we were starting to lose faith, Firewall: Zero Hour kicks down the door, guns blazing. Seriously, if you’ve been waiting for an excuse to dust off your headset and its accompanying tangle of cables, this is it.
The set-up is remarkably simple. There are no giant mechs to pilot or extravagant, overly complex game modes to get your head around. Zero Hour is centred around extremely tense and tactical skirmishes that last no more than a few minutes. Two teams of four go head-to-head, working to either attack or defend a laptop chock full of priceless intel.
As the defenders hunker down, placing gadgets, and covering entry points, their opponents will begin to scout the map. In this initial phase of the match, the attackers will need to locate and destroy one of two firewalls, thereby revealing the location of the laptop. In order to win, they’ll need to initiate a hack and hold down that position, even if they’ve already eliminated the enemy team.
What really works here is the tense and tactile shooting. Players have a full range of movement that closely mimics using a gamepad in Call of Duty, Battlefield, and other celebrated FPS series. The obvious difference, however, is being able to aim freely using motion controls, whether packing a VR Aim controllers or your standard DualShock 4. Physically around corners feels so natural, as does blind-firing from behind cover – Zero Hour is far and away the most immersive shooter you’ll ever experience.
Unsurprisingly, there have been plenty of comparisons with Rainbow Six, and Vegas and Vegas 2 in particular. These are completely valid of course, owing to the extreme tactical nature of the game, with SOCOM being another apt point of reference. Once you’ve got a good feel for the basics, you’ll start to experiment with different weapons, attachments, and gadgets, optimising classes for a variety of gameplay scenarios.
However, it’s only when you start communicating with your team through voice chat that Zero Hour really comes into its own. Developer First Contact Entertainment has ingrained this into the game’s design, and given how every PlayStation VR unit has a built-in mic you have no excuse not to talk tactics with your squadmates.
This will definitely sound like a turn-off for some of you and I get that; I make a point to never chat with randoms when playing online in other games, the same way I never chat with complete strangers in public. Overcoming that hurdle in Firewall was easy though, leading to some of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had. Flawlessly executed raids and desperate, often hilarious, last ditch attempts to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat were only possible through communicating. Even when KIA, you can still relay info to your team using CCTV cameras.
Since launch, I’ve made friends. Regular squaddies of various skill levels, exchanging tactics and generally having an awesome time, regardless of which team comes out on top. There’s an excellent community currently playing the game and hopefully First Contact will keep them engaged with new updates, content, and live events.
Firewall also packs in a PvE mode, though it doesn’t get as much mileage. Instead of fighting against four human players, you can practice your marksmanship skills against waves of AI mercenaries. It’s a fun diversion though serves as more of a shooting range and training ground, allowing players to test new loadouts before taking their next contract.
While some gamers love the slow build of a battle royale, Zero Hour is an antidote to this with its short match times that force you into action. While intense and captivating, dipping in for just few minutes at a time will make you hungry for more as you build momentum from game to game.
It has a fair amount of longevity too, with plenty to unlock. While loadout options seem initially sparse, you’ll gradually earn enough points to purchase new weapons, perk-like skills, cosmetics, and other add-ons. Working towards new gear and items gives players something to chase in between matches though the rate at which these become available is very slow to say the least.
Player comfort is something I always look to address whenever reviewing a VR title. Normally, in games that are action-heavy and allow unrestricted movement, motion sickness and a gradual sense of nausea quickly become an issue for me, but even when plugged in for multiple, one-hour sessions, I wasn’t phased at all by Firewall: Zero Hour. That’s somewhat of marvel for a game that’s so polished, not to mention one that places a lot of tension on its players.
As with any online game, Firewall’s ongoing success will hinge on the growth of its player base. That player support could very well dissolve in a matter of months as we’ve seen happen all too before. Only time will tell, but Zero Hour has made such a solid impression. It deserves a vibrant, active community and hopefully one First Contact will cater to as the game garners more attention.
Firewall: Zero Hour is essential for PlayStation VR owners. Despite this being First Contact’s debut game, it flawlessly executes on what the studio set out to do: to create PSVR’s first must-have multiplayer shooter. It may even sway some of those yet to purchase one of Sony’s high-tech headsets.