Owners of the original PlayStation VR may be familiar with the Firewall name, with Firewall Zero Hour offering one of the platform’s most enjoyable multiplayer shooting experiences. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but playing together with a full squad of players was always a blast. Firewall Ultra acts as a continuation of that, all whilst embracing the fancy bells and whistles of PlayStation VR 2, and for the most part, it succeeds at offering another thrilling shooting experience. However, with the game feeling a little slim on content at launch, I don’t think it’s essential playing JUST yet.
Check out some screenshots down below:
The core gameplay loop of Firewall Ultra revolves around first-person shooting action in virtual reality, with players working in squads to take each other down in PvP or alternatively working together to take down AI baddies in PvE. Whether working cooperatively or facing off against one another, multiplayer is very much the focus in Firewall Ultra, so those seeking a single player-focused experience may want to look elsewhere.
The shooting action of the game feels sublime, with a real thrill to be found as you strategically make your way across the map, locate your opponents, and gun them down. Each Contractor you play as in-game brings with them their own varied weaponry and gear that has their own advantages and disadvantages which makes it a lot of fun to experiment, whilst it NEVER stops feeling satisfying to pick off an opponent after carefully lining up a shot down the sights. This is something that’s very much the norm in your typical first-person shooter, but the buzz of experiencing it in virtual reality still feels unrivalled for me. And, of course, the added immersion offered by the Sense controllers means that you’ll feel the impact of every shot in the palms of your hands, which only makes each shootout with foes all the more enthralling.
That being said, there were some aspects of the gunplay that could feel a little weird. For one, reloading is done automatically, with players only having to press a button as opposed to manually loading up magazines. Again, this is the norm for a lot of first-person shooters, but those in virtual reality typically expect some extra form of interaction from the player – it feels unusually jarring seeing your character simply reload the gun themselves and take away control from the player. The same applies to performing melee attacks, with your character automatically attacking with their knife as opposed to having the player perform the action themselves. In many ways, it makes for a much more accessible experience (that might be appreciated given the quick-paced multiplayer nature of the game), but it does come at the cost of immersion.
“The shooting action of the game feels sublime, with a real thrill to be found as you strategically make your way across the map, locate your opponents, and gun them down.”
That same lack of interactivity applies to other aspects of the game, whether that’s when interacting with a door or objective, helping out a team-mate, or aiming down the sights – it’s all done with a button press as opposed to actually doing it yourself. It isn’t a massive issue that makes the game any less fun to play, but, again, it takes away that sense of immersion that stands out as one of virtual reality’s greatest strengths. First Contact Entertainment have announced that an ‘Ultra Mode’ is coming that introduces manual reloading, but we’ll have to see whether that applies to other aspects of the game too.
At launch, there are two game modes to play: Contracts (four-versus-four competitive action) and Exfil (four player cooperative action).
Contracts sees opposing teams acting as attackers or defenders as they work to either hack into a laptop or protect it from their rivals. It’s a strategic experience that demands a different approach depending on the role you’re playing, whilst good communication with your team can normally be the difference between success and failure – especially since the different Contractors that players can use bring with them varying gadgets that can change the tide in their favour.
Exfil is my favourite of the two, with the cooperative action more satisfying when playing with friends. This time, you have three different laptops to hack and also have to survive an onslaught from enemies to succeed, with the AI foes not necessarily having the smarts of real-life players but making up for it by being greater in number. It’s more frantic than playing Contracts, but matches play out longer and feel that bit more rewarding when you succeed.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Both game modes are great and offer hours of fun for players, but it’s hard not to be a little disappointed there isn’t a bit more variety to Firewall Ultra. Whilst there’s a decent selection of maps to play and varied Contractors to use, only having two game modes can be a little underwhelming given that the game is a multiplayer-focused experience. Progression through the game feels VERY slow too, with experience points and Crypto (the in-game currency) given out sparingly. It means it’ll take players a long time before they’ll get to use some of the fancier weapons and tools, which is a bit of a shame given that the game can already feel a little bare boned right now.
I’d be remiss not to mention the matchmaking too, which could be a little bit slow. In fairness, a patch has been released over the last couple of days which has improved upon this and reduced the lobby waiting time from a few minutes to thirty seconds, but it still isn’t perfect. Hopefully, this is something that’ll improve with time, especially when the Firewall Ultra community grows.
It might sound like I’m being a little harsh on the game, but despite its flaws, I’m having a REALLY good time playing. Simply playing through both match types is always thrilling, whilst the blend of all-out gunplay and strategic action between each match you play always feels intense. I haven’t even mentioned how pretty the game looks (it easily stands out as one of the best-looking titles on PlayStation VR 2), whilst the use of features such as eye-tracking in gameplay is VERY cool (you can even close your eyes to nullify the effect of a flashbang). It just needs a bit more content to make it feel like a more worthwhile package, especially since there’s a bit of a grind to actually earn unlockables right now – the roadmap promises new modes, contractors, and weapons, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we see them.
Firewall Ultra Review
Firewall Ultra is a thrilling multiplayer experience that just needs a little bit more content to stand out as a must-play PlayStation VR 2 title. The core gameplay itself is great, whilst the visuals are fantastic and the use of PlayStation VR 2’s more unique features is VERY cool – it’s just a shame that progression in-game is VERY slow and that there isn’t more variety offered with additional game modes.
It’s also worth noting that it’s a lot less immersive than similar titles in virtual reality, with a lot of the actions you perform automated by a button press. It isn’t a deal-breaker (and can actually make the game a lot more accessible), but it might feel a bit jarring for those who are more familiar with the genre in virtual reality.
Still, it won’t stop you from having a good time in the game, and believe me, there’s a lot of fun to be had playing Firewall Ultra. I just hope some new content comes sooner rather than later, whilst hopefully the developer might become a bit more generous with the in-game rewards to keep players invested for the long-term.
Developer: First Contact Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation VR 2 (Reviewed)