Firewall: Zero Hour Review

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.

What’s Good:

  • Incredibly immersive, intuitive gameplay
  • Tense and tactical, yet player friendly
  • Plenty of depth via loadouts and unlocks
  • Highly polish and comfortable to play VR

What’s Bad:

  • Harsh grind for those wanting to fully customise their contractors

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.

Score: 9/10

Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualShock at this point.

18 Comments

  1. The grind isn’t that bad. Yes, it takes a while to level up and unlock new equipment, and then a while to earn the money to buy it. But you don’t want everyone running around with overpowered stuff when they don’t know how to play the game yet.

    And the matchmaking seems to be very good at getting evenly matched teams. So many games come down to whoever makes the first mistake.

    Or who makes the last mistake…

    https://youtu.be/0_6Xu6swVzI

    (Might want to turn your volume down before clicking that. My team got a little bit excited)

    And “one-hour sessions”? Is that possible? Most people seem to spend that long saying “this is my last game” before finally going to bed.

    It’s definitely essential for anyone with a fancy hat. And if you haven’t got one, it’s another good excuse to get one. But if you’re not going to talk to random people, you really shouldn’t bother. That’s one thing that ruins it for everyone else. As does talking too much during the actual game. Can’t hear where the enemy footsteps are coming from if someone’s shouting over them.

    • That’s a good point about grinding. Obviously, I’m a bit impatient – there’s a ideal loadout I have in mind but will need to wait ages before I hit the level/currency requirements.

      • It doesn’t help when you’ve almost got enough for whatever thing you want next and your money suddenly disappears due to a weird bug.

        And then you have to play another game or 5 before it all magically comes back. (It seems to keep track of everything, just sometimes lies to you about how much money you’ve got or what level you are. Which stops you buying things. Or switching to certain contractors you should have unlocked)

        What’s the loadout you’re aiming for? Does it involve pissing everyone off with signal jammers?

      • Yeah, would ideally like to get my hands on some jammers and mines. Seems like an essential defender combo.

      • There’s apparently an even more annoying combination involving jammers, something else and teamwork that makes it impossible for the attacking team to win.

        I won’t give any more details than that, because it’s basically cheating.

  2. I really want this but with Spider-man coming out this week I saved enough for that, Red Dead 2 next month and had a bit of cash spare so I ended up buying Catch and Release VR which is excellent by the way.
    This will have to be another one I save up for next all the videos on Reddit and YouTube I have seen make me want it more and more and my aim controller also needs something to play (something I will try and convince the wife of).
    Great review.

    • Catch & Release is surprisingly fun. Nice and relaxing. Until the tracking goes wrong and you can’t pick something up.

      • I know what you mean I have had it a couple of times. And trying to put the fish in the box for it to go haywire and fall in the lake.
        But other then that its such a relaxing game really enjoying it.

  3. So Jim writes about not being dizzy from playing the game. Have any of you commenters experienced any challenges in that regard and do you normally have any problems?

    • It’s something the vast majority of people seem to get over very quickly (but which Sony seem excessively paranoid about).

      Once you get your “VR legs”, you can still sort of tell which games might be uncomfortable for some people. I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem for many people in this case. Movement speed isn’t the fastest, which probably helps. You can choose between smooth or step turning (smooth probably helps there too). And you can turn off “blinders” (horrible disorienting restricting the field of view things) for both turning and moving.

      Of course, they turned all those things on by default rather than asking if you’re likely to throw up or not. Probably down to Sony’s testing people who seem to spend all day throwing up all over the place and then assuming that’s the case for everyone else.

      Most people have said that they have no issues with Firewall at all.

    • And if you still feel that way I have read a lot of articles that say having something with ginger in it tea, biscuit ect beforehand can stop people that feel dizzy or get sick playing VR.
      I am one of the lucky ones that have never experienced any of these feelings. But a friend of mine I know get headaches from excessive play on his VR but he is new.
      As MrYd says about getting your “VR legs” I reccomend trying games which don’t involve a lot of walking\running for a few weeks, then you will be fine with faster movement games.

      • I suspect some of these ideas to stop you feeling dodgy in VR may just be a placebo effect. But if it works for you, that’s great. If it works just because you think it will, fine. Even knowing that’s the case won’t stop it working.

        Ginger seems to have all sorts of claims about combating nausea, but nothing scientifically conclusive.

        A fan pointing at your face may help too. Possibly because you’ve got something that gives you an idea of which way’s which and stops you getting disoriented?

        And there have even been claims that masturbation helps. Before playing, obviously. During would be weird, especially in a multiplayer game. That may just be the internet’s answer to everything though. But there’s no harm in rubbing one out beforehand, I guess. (Obviously, watch out for those lenses!)

        I’m not convinced you really need to stick to the more static games to start with though. If you want dive straight in to full movement games, or Wipeout or something, go for it. You might find your VR legs quicker. You might also feel unwell quicker to begin with. The most sensible advice seems to be go for whatever you fancy playing, but stop when things start to feel weird. Don’t try and push through whatever ill-effects it’s causing. Stop, have a break, come back later, and if it the symptoms come straight back, you know you probably should have waited longer.

      • I always advocate getting a bit of ginger in you.

    • DriveClub VR gave me horrific motion sickness and I am normally good with things like this. Best thing to do is persist and play up until you feel queezy. Take a break and then go back to it when you feel good again. Over time I managed to overcome it. It has been a while since I last played it though and it can be off putting when something you really want to enjoy ends up being difficult…

      The ginger thing cant help – any of those type remedies have got to be worth a shot as if they somehow end up working, placebo or not, at least you wont feel ill whilst gaming….

      • Haha not heard the masturbation one, wonder how people came across finding that out (no pun intended).
        As I said I’m lucky not to have experienced any symptoms so the ginger thing is just something I read about but never had to try.

      • It’s weird that some people have problems with DriveClub VR. Driving games tend to cause the least problems. Something about having something fixed around you (the actual car). It even stops Wipeout being as horrible as you might expect with the speed and all that up and down business.

        Free movement in a first person view is possibly the worst. Nothing fixed around you to help there. It’s the weird sliding around movement, which isn’t how things really work. Your view should be bobbing up and down as you walk. I’m guessing the reason nobody seems to have an issue with Firewall is possibly because you automatically add something similar to that camera bobbing yourself. You’re constantly looking around all over the place while walking. Checking every possible corner, whipping your head round to see if someone’s about to shoot you in the back and trying to keep an eye on where your teammates are.

        As for preventing it with a quick wank, I’m just assuming that alleged cure was down to Littlstar and some of the educational videos you can find on the internet. Someone must have been sat there thinking “Well, that was a little bit more effort than I’d have liked, thanks Sony, and it’s all a little bit creepy, but it got the job done and my sickness has gone now. I must go and tell Reddit. Oh, someone’s brought me a nice cup of tea too”

  4. Played my first session last night, really enjoyed it. Takes me back to those classic counter strike sessions where you’d play missions over and over again. I’m also not one for making friends with randoms online but it didn’t take more then 1 round to feel comfortable working as a team and within 2 rounds we had a real team spirit building. I felt bad when I had to leave.

    Question to others playing the game, do you play it standing up or sitting down? I played standing up since I thought I’d be able to move and look better but can’t imagine playing a whole evening like that.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how it develops with future updates. For now it’s a great start.

    • It works just as well standing or seated. And who wants to stand up for a whole evening?

      Just make sure you’re not going to fall off your chair while leaning around corners. Or if you stand, make sure the chair is actually there when you eventually decide to sit down.

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