Hands-On – Firewall: Zero Hour Is The Tactical VR Shooter We’ve Been Waiting For

by David Jagneaux • May 23rd, 2018

During my most recent pre-release play session of Firewall: Zero Hour on PSVR, I had a revelation. I was playing the game in a low-light demo area for a pre-E3 Sony demo event in Santa Monica, but inside the headset I was in some sort of shipping warehouse full of cargo containers. I knew there were enemies about 30 yards ahead of me on the other side of the container I was hiding behind, so I reached around the corner with my arms holding the PS Aim controller and blind-fired at them.

While doing so, I physically turned my neck to check behind me to make sure I wasn’t getting flanked and spotted an enemy approaching from the side. Out of ammo in my rifle, I quickly switched to my pistol and spun around, in the real world, to quickly unload five or six shots into his chest, downing him as quickly as I spotted him.

Basically none of that interaction that I described just now could have happened in a non-VR game at all. The sense of presence afforded in a realistic shooter you play on a team with other people while holding a rifle peripheral is absolutely fantastic.

The previous time I played Firewall: Zero Hour at PSX last year it was shortly after the game had just been announced. I got to try a single map — a multi-story house in the middle of a large field — where attackers were tasked with hacking a laptop and defenders had to hold their position and wipe out attackers at all costs. My new demo was the same game mode (I’m told the game will ship with just this one single mode with multiple maps and operatives/gear loadouts to pick from) but on the new shipping warehouse map. There will be single-player and co-op options as well that fill in bots for the other slots, but it’s all the same game mode. There’s zero narrative content.

I also got to check out a peak at the character selection and customization screen. Previously, First Contact explained that Firewall would feature some light upgradeable elements, such as equipping different guns and other items. In the demo I saw that each operative has a different perk assigned (such as taking less explosive damage) and as you play and level them up, you unlock another additional perk on top of that.

Combining operatives with loadouts that match their perks will be a big part of the game’s strategy. I was able to play through three rounds during my demo and I came away hungry for more. The team at First Contact have really done a nice job of tapping into what makes tactical shooters like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon so satisfying and then transferring that inside of a VR headset.

I’d be lying if I didn’t point out that the limitations of the PSVR platform come across as a bit frustrating since I desperately want to twist and side step and duck and move around while playing this game, just like I do in Onward and Pavlov on Rift or Vive, but the PSVR can’t handle that. The single tracking camera means you really need to keep your feet planted and you can’t turn any farther than 90 degrees in either direction or else you risk occluding the PS Aim controller. It was an issue I found with Farpoint as well.

Although, if I had to pick between playing roomscale with Touch or Vive wands and playing standing still with the PS Aim, I think I’d pick the Aim. It feels so good in your hands and does a remarkable job of making it feel like you’re actually holding a rifle just like your character in the game. The trigger has a believable amount of resistance, turning on and off my laser sight is quick and easy with the d-pad, and the tracking held up surprisingly well throughout an entire match. Cradling the butt of the gun in my shoulder to actually aim down the sights felt extremely realistic.

I’m told Firewall will also support DualShock 4, but I haven’t tried it that way yet at any events. So far I’ve been really impressed with the PS Aim and how good it feels to aim, fire, and move around. All movement is full locomotion using the control sticks on the Aim, and I’d imagine it plays similarly on DS4. PS Move is not supported since there are no control sticks on the Move wands.

Also, it’s worth calling out specifically that this game is nothing like the poorly-received Bravo Team despite surface-level similarities. Supermassive’s modern military shooter is wave-based and doesn’t allow for any locomotion whatsoever other than picking when to move up on a level, whereas Firewall is a full-on shooter with all the bells and whistles you’d expect of something like this. It’s the game players wanted Bravo Team to be, more or less.

After the smash-hit success of WipEout VR, Firewall: Zero Hour and Dreams both represent huge moments for PSVR and, by extension, VR as a whole. These are the kinds of games that can really move the needle in terms of putting an industry on the map.

Are you excited for Firewall: Zero Hour? Let us know what you think so far down in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: A correction was made regarding d-pad toggles.

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