Review – Firewall Zero Hour
I have spent almost every day in Firewall Zero Hour since its launch last week. That should be telling of any game for me, much less a VR game. I can easily suffer from VR fatigue and am only able to put in about an hour at a time before having to take the headset off and move around. But after multiple two hours sessions in Firewall Zero Hour, the only reason I ever feel compelled to come out of my experience is noticing that I must start my day in just a couple more hours.
Developed by First Contact Entertainment, Inc., from the ground up for PlayStation VR; what Firewall Zero Hour understands is that it doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. It just wants to bring that already established level of fun and immersion to a platform that could possibly take it to the next level. There is a reason games like Doom and Skyrim are on every possible platform, because people want to keep experiencing them in new ways, not replace them with new fads.
For the most part, First Contact Entertainment not only succeeds, but exceeds expectations. Firewall Zero Hour never truly showcases any one thing. It isn’t going to have the graphical presentation of a AAA title. Matchmaking needs some continued focus and refinement. Although it has a decent number of launch maps, it needs more playable modes. But what it does showcase is how little the bells and whistles matter when the core game is developed so well. From match start to match end, areas of improvement were never even a thought.
That core game is a 4v4 FPS experience calling back to Rainbow 6 and Counterstrike. There are a couple ways you can play Firewall Zero Hour. First is a tutorial. If only for its brevity, I would recommend jumping in. As expected, it is used only to teach you the base controls: moving, sprinting, crouching, shooting, and throwing grenades. The second is a training mode. You and/or a group of friends can enter a game against AI, teaming against waves of opponents. This allows you to test various contractors and loadouts. But it is the third that Firewall Zero Hour is all about: contracts.
Contracts mode is where you choose between one of twelve mercenaries in a group of either four attackers or four defenders and swapping between the two each new match as you face off against another group of four. Attackers need to find and disable a firewall before obtaining the location of the laptop with the desired intel. Defenders are tasked with either eliminating the attacking group or defending against them long enough to run the game’s 5-minute timer as far down as possible. I have won many a match with my entire team eliminated and even when eliminated, you are not out of the game. Taking control of a handful of stationary camera’s through the maps, you can still direct your team while having an overhead view of various map sections.
Each game and match rewards you with both experience and Crypto currency progression. Experience levels you up, which unlocks more contractors, more weapons, and more skins. Once these options are unlocked, you then use your Crypto to purchase them. You can stumble across more Crypto in game to add to your pocket after the match. The experience gained is roughly 100 points for playing a match and an extra 500 given to the winners. Additional XP is handed out for kills, revives, disabling firewalls, and hacking intel. Each contractor has his or her own abilities as well. One may be more resilient to gunfire, another my carry more ammo per clip. You pick and choose the loadout for your contractor in between each match as you switch back and forth from attacker to defender.
Firewall Zero Hour can be played with both the Dual Shock 4 and the PSVR AIM controller. However, I may have made a mistake by playing with the AIM controller first because when I played a handful of games with the Dual Shock 4, it felt like night and day. I can’t recommend ever playing with a DS4 if you have an AIM alternative. Movement, communication, attacking, and supporting are all so core and fluid and built into the complete immersion that removing that part really changes the game. You end up with a digital view of the environment, but an analog control of it.
Like I said earlier, Firewall Zero Hour is not without its flaws. The game is at its best when in a party of four, but currently, playing solo is faster and easier than playing with a single friend. While attempting ten games with a friend I was partied up with, we were on separate teams nine of those times. If not resolved already, I expect this to be an early resolution. Screen and sights drift are also very real. Screen drift is easy enough to correct by pressing and holding the options button, but gun sight drift is a little more problematic. A night would start with my AIM controller in perfect line, resting against my right shoulder. By the end of the night, it would drift left to where I am holding the AIM controller into my chest or even as far left as my left shoulder. The fact that it is not a direct 1:1 for lining your controller up to your eyes, but rather artificially raising the gun a bit more in-game as not to block the front sensors on the headset is something I have heard several people complain about, but I never really found it to be noticeable, much less distracting.
I would say the most glaring need in the game would be to have a boot option. The community is great, but every now and again you come across people that get in matches and then put their peripherals down, causing their contractor to be motionless the entire game yet they still collect 100 or 600 XP each match depending on the outcome. This gets frustrating when you finally make it into a game with a good group of people and then need to disband.
The truth is, as legitimate as any critique or suggestion could be to improve Firewall Zero Hour, none of it matters once that match starts. When you are giving commands to your team, suppressing gunfire, tossing grenades into an occupied room, trying to flank to catch them in a crossfire; when all this is happening, you are completely immersed in the game. Nothing is lacking, everything works. Firewall Zero Hour isn’t a game that gets everything perfect, but it is a game that just gets everything right.
Beautiful environments. Impressively detailed characters and movement.
There are obvious areas to improve, but when the gameplay starts, none of that matters.
Communication is constant, but so are the audio queues in-game.
Fun Factor: 10
Equal parts game and community: easily the most multiplayer fun I have experienced in VR, and possibly PSN.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Firewall Zero Hour is available now on PSVR.