While VR gaming has grown and changed over the last few years, certain genres have struggled to take hold. Multiplayer focused experiences have the most issues, as they rely on a large audience of players to matchmake with. This has led to a dearth of tactical online shooters within the VR space, and for a somewhat good reason. The makers of Firewall: Zero Hour are a brave sort though, so they decided to give it a shot, and the results are pretty decent actually.
Firewall: Zero Hour doesn’t really tell a story or feature a single player campaign. It is a multiplayer-focused tactical shooter from top to bottom. You load the game up, play a decently informative tutorial, then are pretty much ready to play. There’s a co-op wave shooter option that is billed more as a training option than a mode of its own, otherwise you can dive right into online multiplayer and nothing else.
This means a few things. First is that those seeking a robust amount of content outside of multiplayer should stay far away. Second, the whole of Firewall: Zero Hour hinges on how well this multiplayer works. This also means that a community of players is required for steady matchmaking, something other VR-only titles have struggled with. Firewall handles it decently, with some slowness in finding matches, and you’ll often be reteamed with the same group if you try to leave. Considering the relatively sparse playerbase though, the game seems to be doing fairly well.
Unfortunately many will find the multiplayer mode itself lacking in some ways, which is pretty detrimental when that’s all you’re really offering. It’s very clear that Firewall: Zero Hour takes a lot of inspiration from Rainbow Six Siege. Teams are either inside a building, defending an objective from attacking soldiers, or vice versa. There’s no respawns, so if you die you sit out the rest of the match. This is what forces Firewall to be a tactical experience, but the final product doesn’t quite live up to its contemporaries.
This is a VR title though, and with that comes big benefits.
Movement is sluggish, and turning is annoying, especially with the lack of room-scale due to being PSVR exclusive. Shooting, at least while using the Aim Controller and not the Dual Shock 4, feels pretty great, though bullets often fly in odd directions compared to where I feel like they should. There’s nothing too detrimental to the gameplay experience, but there’s also not a lot that’s better than what other games have done.
This is a VR title though, and with that comes big benefits. It’s great being able to peak around corners and fire in all directions by just aiming that way. We’ve seen that in other VR shooters, but few had the courage to craft a full multiplayer experience around it. Map design also enhances the VR experience, with verticality mixed into a nice mix of small and large spaces.
For being VR’s first big multiplayer-only tactical shooter (as far as I can tell at least), Firewall: Zero Hour is a solid first effort. It takes the experience of non-VR games like Rainbow Six Siege and ports it over in its own way. Of course, the question remains, is VR enough to drag people away from those larger, more robust experiences?
So far the answer is a firm “no” for me. Firewall just sort of feels generic in a lot of ways that it shouldn’t, and the added elements of VR subtract just about as much as they add. For example, aiming should be quicker and easier, but your character moves and turns so slowly that making that shot can become frustrating when things heat up. Camping becomes a much more effective strategy than it should be, and matches usually devolve into killing fests, instead of the slow, tactical focus they should have.
There’s also issues with the game as a whole that hold things back. “It feels like Early Access” one fellow player remarked as he lamented the long wait times for matches, and odd feeling to some gameplay elements. I’m still not entirely clear which glass can and cannot be shot through, as I died after firing off too many shots into a solid window pane that stopped every single one from reaching my true target behind it.
If there’d been a full single player campaign to fall back on, some of this could have been mitigated. Raw Data showed how to craft a great shooter in VR while still delivering a good chunk of single player content. Firewall: Zero Hour hedged all of its bets on multiplayer which will likely burn them when the surge of new players slows after launch. If you are dying for a new tactical shooter in VR and you have some like-minded friends, then this could be a truly solid choice though.
Firewall: Zero Hour borrows from some of the greatest shooters around and tacks on some great VR support. However, the sum is not quite equal to its parts and the feeling one gets from playing the final game is that it’s somewhat incomplete and not worth investing much time in. If you get past the flaws of a small player community and the team gets some patches out then Firewall could be a true VR classic. For now it’s just another shooter that might be worth checking out by some, but most should avoid.
Firewall: Zero Hour
- Available On: PS4
- Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: First Contact Entertainment Inc.
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- US Release Date: August 28th, 2018
- Reviewed On: PS4
- Quote: "Firewall: Zero Hour borrows from some of the greatest shooters around and tacks on some great VR support. However, the sum is not quite equal to its parts and the feeling one gets from playing the final game is that it's somewhat incomplete and not worth investing much time in."