After a full week of intense and immersive tactical FPS action within the addictive clutches of Firewall Zero Hour, our excitement meter for the progressive possibilities has us giddy. The potential here is through the roof as developer First Contact Entertainment has truly reinvigorated the genre with arguably some of the most intense tactical FPS standoffs the likes of only Rainbow Six: Siege has provided in recent years
The biggest difference, VR!
Firewall Zero Hour is an in your face VR showcase of pure FPS cunning, which forces you to engage its mature approach to gunplay with methodical precision. On the surface and at the moment Firewall Zero Hour offers a ‘Tutorial’ along with the meat of the experience founded on Training and Contracts modes.
From the outset PSVR user are introduced to a rather brief tutorial, consisting of quickly learning the basic controls just before being thrown right into the fire. While the tutorial does offers a firing range, this is not something players can frequent in an effort to try out their newly acquired weapons, which will cost quite a bit. Based on the effort needed to purchase new weapons it would have been great to be able to test drive these impressive tools of destruction, however we will revisit the weapons and cost associated later.
Playing it safe for my ego and pride, I initially jumped into Training mode, where I spent a considerable amount of time honing my skills against AI controlled enemies, alongside my fellow online multiplayer contractors, as they are recognized in the game. The contractors are the list of operatives which online users can choose from, all possessing their own unique skill attributes, according to your preferred play style. I also tackled the Training mode in solo, which was quite challenging. Again, all in the effort of tightening my trigger skills, as well as learning how to maneuver through all nine (9) of the games dramatically realized maps.
Training mode, the games multiplayer co-op PvE, while it doesn’t offer a difficulty setting is a wonderful compliment to the more intensified Contracts mode. One of the most glaring aspects of this FPS experience is how important it is to communicate, even in PvE, as AI enemies can be ruthless and aggressive, forcing players to carefully survey their surroundings while checking corners and choke points. This aspect of communication becomes an even more monumental necessity in Contracts mode.
Moving the experience forward the Training mode is seamlessly aligned with the Contracts mode, allowing players to earn XP, however the in-game currency can only be acquired while playing Contracts. Contracts is where your skills will ultimately be tested in remarkably satisfying competitive multiplayer PvP action. While privates matches are an option against AI bots in Training mode and against friends in Contracts, private matches do not offer XP or in-game currency.
Learning the maps for most multiplayer shooters is keenly associated with ones success and Firewall Zero Hour is no exception. However, regardless of your map understanding, in this VR universe if players are not communicating in Firewall which is the best possible approach to their teams success, or simply not talking or playing with no mics, they will most certainly always lose against a well-prepared and knowledgeable team who is constantly communicating the best possible outcomes. Of course, this has been my personal experience after more than fifty hours of playing.
Even in death, when players have been completely eliminated from the match, they are still of great use in over watch or spectator mode, where they now see the entire map of allies and enemies. Adding to this, deceased players remain in verbal communication with their remaining teammates, able to assist them from the afterlife. I have personally been the last man standing in several matches, facing off against four online enemies where I ultimately came out on top, solely based on my teammates constant verbal intel of my surroundings and positioning. However, if you have yet to play Firewall, please don’t think for a one second that these scenarios always give you the upper hand. They do not! Again, a tactical communicative team will always overcome a sole contractors best efforts and or help from above, as I have been on both sides of this intense barrel.
Gameplay scenarios are founded on one of two objectives as the ‘Attacker’ or ‘Defender’. As an ‘Attacker’ your teams job is to bypass the firewall (which explains the games title) access points, locate the laptop and initiate a hack to obtain critical data. As a ‘Defender’ your team is tasked with defending or protecting the laptop data at all costs. Impressively, the game does a satisfying job catering to both objectives through the games player progressive system. From XP to earning as much currency as possible, the more you progress the better prepared and equipped players and teams become at successfully reaching their objectives.
However, don’t think you will not have to grind to get somewhere. Despite Firewall Zero Hour being an absolute joy to play, you will not like losing and earning next to nothing in pursuit of purchasing that next shiny new rifle, which will cost you an arm and two legs to acquire. XP progress does open up new cool items, but only to then be bought at a price, once they are unlocked. No freebies here my friends! This approach is also consistent with the games customization system, allowing player to fully personalize their selected contractors from head-to-toe, as well as tailor their weapons with various optics, clips, muzzles, sights, grips, including resource and skill management.
Despite the cost of weapons and items of all sorts Firewall Zero Hour always manages to empower you with its addictive nature of accomplishment. Whether playing with the preferred PlayStation VR Aim controller or dualshock 4 the experience has a profound way of placing its hooks in you. Though your time with Firewall may have began at 6pm in the evening, before you know it the sun is rising and you are still promising yourself just one more game, and this is despite the games current list of slim content. The game is just that fun! I must add, yes the game can be played with the dualshock 4 controller, which I have much time with, however the indulgence level is richly increased as soon as you are looking down the sights of the fully-auto silenced SMG via the aim controller. For realism, there is simply nothing like it in games today. Get the aim controller!
The magic at play here is just how impressive developer First Contact has manifested the reality of FPS tactical gameplay in VR. You believe you are the character, the world or maps in which you play have been fully fleshed out with believable consistency to the real-world. For example, while playing in a hotel setting, rooms look functional, exit the rooms for the hallways and keycode entry points on doors or maid push carts with room service trays and spray bottles are super accurate. However this only scratches the surface of the highly designed presentation throughout each intricate map. While the variety of gunplay and cat and mouse scenarios shines in the forefront, all of these over looked elements play a vital role in the games alluring composition.
For all that Firewall Zero Hour offers, the game is not perfect. When I first began Contracts it took a while before I could find a game that did not boot me from the lobby. While this issue does seem to still happen from time to time, it has dramatically decreased. God forbid the host leaves the match, if so you’re getting booted. While matches are a blast sometimes they can end rather quickly, once again forcing players to wait in lobbies awhile before the next match is processed and begins. It would have been great if matches were founded on a best of three or five rounds which quickly prompted the next round after say twenty-five seconds or once each player from each team of four has readied-up for the next round. Also, after playing as the Attacker or Defender within the same basic plot scheme, only to be varied by nine cycling maps for say eight hours, it can become repetitive.
In addition, and at the moment there is little to no user control over matches. So, if we want to play on a particular map for the next match players cannot vote on it. You are forced to play the map randomly selected. If you want to change different loadouts on your weapons in between matches this is currently not possible. You would need to leave the lobby to do this and good luck trying to find the same lobby of players you were winning with, unless you friend up prior to and then join the match.
Even with these shortcomings and a few others the games vibrant community of players are extremely optimistic about its potential. While other FPS games would probably be strongly criticized by players and critics alike with Firewalls drawbacks, the games compelling boots on the ground VR experience is undeniable. More than being disappointed by what the game doesn’t already possess, Firewall Zero Hour is already so absorbing we are excited for all of the potential newness we are sure First Contact is hard at work trying implement.
Ultimately, Firewall Zero Hour is the most intense and realistic shooter this critic has ever played. While Firewall borrows heavily from Rainbow Six Siege as a more simplified version of Ubisoft’s e-sport phenomenon, the VR factor makes Firewall Zero Hour a serious game changer.