Things are never so simple as 'point and shoot' when you've spotted a hostile target in VR. You might have the bead on an unsuspecting enemy - but can you line up the perfect shot when there's no aiming reticle? Are you confident that your grip is steady and your sights are aligned precisely enough that you can nail that headshot before you're mowed down by return fire? These questions constantly come up in Firewall Zero Hour, a PlayStation VR-exclusive FPS that's out now on PS4. Firewall is a rarity in the budding VR genre: a high-quality multiplayer shooter, which focuses on asymmetrical 4v4 matchups between Attacking and Defending mercenaries. And after fighting as a soldier of fortune in a handful of rounds, Firewall Zero Hour feels like a solid crack at bringing the slower-paced structure of the stellar Rainbow Six Siege into VR.
Beyond the obvious attack/defend comparison, Firewall echoes Siege with its diverse selection of guns-for-hire: 12 unique Contractors (don't call them Operators) who come with special traits like faster reloading, quieter footsteps, or a heightened sense for enemy gadgets. Though the character models themselves look a bit bland - the whole aesthetic of Firewall goes for the kind of photorealism that VR just can't deliver at this stage - there's some great representation here. It's refreshing that you can play as a soldier with a prosthetic leg or an Afghan woman in a hijab, and every character has access to the same wide array of primary weaponry and secondary tools. In each match, your job is to either protect or compromise a laptop hidden in a randomly selected starting point on the sizable maps. The attackers must first hack one of two terminals located far away from their main objective if they want to find the exact location of the laptop.
Whether or not you've played plenty of VR games in the past, there's something distinctly different about playing a team shooter while wearing a PS VR headset. Firewall was really made to be played with a PS Aim Controller, as you hold the physical peripheral to your face while aiming down the sights, though it's also playable with the plain ol' DualShock 4. To prevent VR nausea, the default camera flick-turns to let you look in different directions - and this seemingly small change has a massive impact on your ability to react when danger's close.
Even if you've racked up wins in other shooters via speedy no-scope shots, rapid-fire multikills, and 180-degree turns to blast someone who's sneaking up on you, Firewall will break down skills you mastered long ago. If you find yourself getting flanked, panic may set in while you hurriedly flick your vision towards cover before sprinting for dear life. Spotting an enemy in your periphery is just the first step towards scoring a kill, as taking aim becomes a protracted process in VR. I found myself relying on SMGs with extended clips because I couldn't trust myself to properly line up accurate shots in a timely fashion. And even though I was struggling to hit my targets, the act of trying to is strangely satisfying. Given that VR is made possible by dual screens in the headset, it's very possible - advisable, even - to close one eye and line up your vision to the gun's sights as you would with a real firearm.
That's just one of the many ways Firewall turns seemingly ordinary FPS actions into surprising moments. Nothing makes you fear mines like physically looking down to see that your virtual feet have just stepped on a proximity-triggered explosive. Blindfire becomes an invaluable asset as you crane the Aim Controller out from behind cover; you could even ape the underappreciated LawBreakers by unloading a clip backwards over your shoulder. As I do with all VR hands-on demos, I had to try looking down the barrel of a realistic rifle and unloading bullets directly into my eye; Firewall delivered with a series of adrenaline-inducing muzzle flashes. And I felt like a mobster whenever I pumped lead into downed enemies while they limply crawled around on the ground in hopes of a revive, the Aim Controller rumbling away as I plugged entire clips into their bodies just to make absolutely sure they wouldn't be getting back up.
Though it's got all the makings of fun multiplayer, the biggest hurdle to Firewall's long-term success is the seeming rarity of four to eight friends who all own a PS VR headset and an Aim Controller for the most immersive, enjoyable experience. More likely, you'll have to pair up with other headset owners online, which could greatly impact your team's communications - an invaluable asset in a tactical shooter like Firewall. There's also the option for solo or co-op matches against hordes of AI goons, though like Siege's Terrorist Hunt mode, they can only entertain for so long before you start to crave the multiplayer matches the game was meant for. But if you've got the makings of a full squad, or want to test your aiming mettle, Firewall Zero Hour can bridge the gap between the FPS and VR experiences you're used to and make both feel fresh again.
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