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Firewall Zero Hour

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: First Contact Entertainment
Release Date: Aug. 29, 2018

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PS4 VR Review - 'Firewall Zero Hour'

by Michael Keener on Sept. 27, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Firewall Zero Hour is a 4v4 team-based tactical multiplayer first-person shooter, built from the ground up for PlayStation VR.

Buy Firewall Zero Hour

Say what you will about the PlayStation VR, but it's an impressive piece of technology with a lot of potential. As more games are developed, the polish on the games also improves. Firewall Zero Hour is the latest and possibly the best shooter yet to be released for the hardware. It's a team-based tactical shooter with many similarities to genre paragon, Rainbow Six Siege. Many aspects of the game will either exceed or fall short of a player's expectations of virtual reality, but as a first effort from developer First Contact Entertainment, Firewall Zero Hour is a promising start. Players will find deep character selection and customization, a variety of levels, memorable interactions with other players via game chat, and gameplay that promises to be different every time.

Upon loading up the game, players have a few options. The first is to enter a tutorial to learn the gameplay basics, and the second choice is to participate in training to practice skills. The basics are simple since there's only one gameplay mode. There are two teams: one attacking team and one defending team. The attackers need to bring down one of the firewalls located around the map. Once the firewall is down, a laptop needs to be hacked for its juicy intel. Defenders need to defend the laptop. The matches are only one round long, after which players are returned to the lobby for a new start and potentially a new map and roles. A team wins the one-round match when all of the enemy players are eliminated or the computer is hacked. Even if the attackers kill all of the defenders, they need to rush to the laptop and hack it in order to win. It's a simple concept that remains consistent as you progress through the maps.

The maps include a large hotel, shipping containers on a large boat, a foreign marketplace, a SWAT training course, and more. Learning the maps in any shooting game is the key to success, and the philosophy is no different here. When playing in the hotel, it might be wise to run a shotgun or SMG, as there are many close-quarters firefights, but the shipping containers have long lines of sight and are more suited to assault rifles. Similar to Call of Duty titles, there are a dozen different loadout slots, and three of them are pre-built. One is an assault rifle with red dot sights, the second is a shotgun setup, and the third an SMG. The more you play, the more credits you earn, and credits can be spent on grips, sights, skins, stocks, weapons, and other equipment. Earning credits and leveling up in general takes quite a while. Winning nets players about five times as much experience and credits as losing, so there's a competitive reason to play hard.

Immersion is arguably the most important aspect of a virtual reality game, and the level of immersion in Firewall Zero Hour is downright insane. Depending on which assets you're looking at, the textures are just short of amazing. The maps are detailed and filled with a variety of objects to build up the appearance, and some of that can be used as cover. Anxiously holding angles nearby the laptop or cautiously creeping into an ambush are both equally nerve-wracking.  The tension is high regardless of which side you're on. Shooting the weapons feel responsive when the bullets connect with the target. Playing with the built-in PSVR headphones offered more than adequate spatial awareness and team communication, but I didn't experience the pinpoint accuracy that I have with my Turtle Beach Elite Pros.

In an effort to preserve my main gaming headsets, I managed with the built-in earbuds, but it seems that everyone else has also made the same decision, ultimately leading to all-around fair fights. As you look down the sight of the virtual reality gun that carries the physical presence of a real one (mostly for those using the Aim controller), you try to contain your anxiety long enough to put an enemy player in the sights and pull the trigger. From the moment guns are shot and rounds are exchanged, anything can happen, and this is the magic of small-team tactical shooters. The game offers a platform for ultra-realistic simulation, but naturally, it inspires interactions and gameplay from those who are playing it.

The matchmaking and loading time did not impress me. My first few lobby connections were ended as I was disconnected from the host. I played a dozen games afterward and only experienced one other disconnect issue. To make things a little worse, every time you exit a lobby, whether by choice or disconnected, the whole game essentially needs to relaunch, and you must navigate to matchmaking again. I believe the developers are working on various hosting issues, but as of a week after launch, it still has a couple of connection issues.

The other problem I had was being matched with people from other countries. I'm in North America, but I was only matched with people from Europe. I doubt this is caused by a lack of North American community. It made for a ton of laughs and great conversations, but I worry how much it impacted performance for half of the players in the match (depending on who was the host). One of my games was hosted by someone with a poor internet connection, and it showed because everyone was lagging around the map, and responsiveness to controls was lacking. It's annoying in any game but headache-inducing in virtual reality.  Dedicated servers would be nice, but that only brings up thoughts about the game's longevity.

Firewall Zero Hour needs more support from a pretty large community of PSVR owners. It's understandable that it may not be everyone's choice of gameplay. With dozens of small quirky titles and some fully fledged AAA games that don't rely on interpersonal competitiveness, some players may choose to pass on this shooter. It's way too early to tell if the game will take off and garner the praise and community that it arguably deserves. Firewall Zero Hour is a dream for any shooter fan. 

Score: 8.0/10

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