Firewall Ultra PSVR2 review-in-progress — Needs to reload

When the original PlayStation VR launched, Firewall Zero Hour was one of its highlights. It wasn’t just that it was a good title; it also utilized the PSVR Aim Controller, one of the few peripherals that lifted your PSVR experience past the dated PS Move controllers. With Firewall Ultra releasing, First Contact Entertainment is looking to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time, but unfortunately it’s looking like that bottle might have a bit of a leak.

GamingTrend plays Firewall Ultra [PSVR2]

Everything begins with a tutorial, because you certainly can’t get your VR legs being thrown into battle. It’s set up like a warehouse training course, which is on par for a military shooter like Firewall Ultra. You’ll look at the lights, shoot at wooden targets, and learn how to toss grenades and such. It’s a really awesome area, because there are plenty of markers to head to in order to learn every function of the game. There’s even a time trial challenge in which you have to go through a shoot house, taking out the bad targets and ignoring the “good” ones.

Unfortunately, Firewall Ultra falls flat immediately after you leave the introduction.. There are only two modes available right now, with both divided into private and public lobbies. VR games aren’t always massive by any means, but it just feels like something is missing here. Even when both modes are pretty strong, this lack of variety just screams that this game is incomplete.

These two modes are the PVE Exfil, and the PVP Contracts mode. Both support up to four players (PVP has two teams of four players), and both require plenty of teamwork. In Exfil, you load into one of the eight maps (a huge plus, especially since they’re all pretty awesome) and look to hack three computers before heading to a randomly designated point to get the heck out of there. It wouldn’t be a challenge without opposition, and the enemy AI is no slouch. We were surprised at how tactically they would approach, and more than once we succumbed to the onslaught.

Firewall Ultra - Gameplay Trailer | PS VR2 Games

PVP is another thing entirely. When we could actually find a match (more than once, other players who joined referred to Firewall Ultra as “lobby simulator”), it reminded me a lot of Search and Destroy, a mode familiar to many who follow Call of Duty, Valorant, or Counter Strike. The objective is simple; if you’re on defense, keep the other team from hacking your laptop or killing all of you. On offense, you’ll have to make your way through several access points on the way to their laptop, all while surviving whatever the enemy throws at you. All of this culminates in a best of three format to give each team a shot at each side. Search and Destroy is already fantastic, but the spin First Contact has put on the overall idea is engaging and fun.

It’s also backed up by really solid gameplay. Movement is very smooth in Firewall Ultra, even without a teleportation option. The only issue here is that if you get motion sick very easily, this might not be a good game for you. Sprinting isn’t over the top, there’s no jump button, and crouch is tied to a button press. Everything is as it should be, and given the modes available, you aren’t going to need to slide cancel around the map.

The guns and equipment are also a lot of fun to use. Each weapon has a good feel to it, being crisp and without any ridiculous recoil, even if you’re hip firing. Aiming can be a little hit and miss at times, but overall not bad. All of the guns also make sense when you’re using them; the shotgun feels heavier to use, the assault rifles are pretty accurate, and SMGs are fast. I’m not the biggest fan of how sniper rifles are handled, however. Lifting it to your eye doesn’t block out your surroundings, and it never felt like I could ever get it close enough for an accurate shot, even using the proper button presses to get it as close as possible.

One of the things most shooters in VR fail at is grenade tossing. Usually you’ll grab a grenade with your trigger, then go to hurl it, releasing the trigger, but it instead falls at your feet, causing you to kill yourself. Instead, First Contact decided to use the tried and true “grenade path”, showing you the dotted line path you’re throwing and doing the work for you. In an FPS that has competitive implications, this is a better method.

VR is all about interactivity, so I’m surprised that reloading manually (the VR way) isn’t an option. Implementing reloads via a button press rather than having to reach down to your belt and slotting the magazine into your weapon is certainly a choice. For me, doing it the VR way is something that’s neat, but wears thin the more you do it. But, being able to pull in the next shell on your shotgun by cocking it, or loading the next magazine to your MP5 embraces the advantages of VR. Skipping this pulls back the curtain and makes Firewall Ultra feel like a flatscreen game that has been ported into a headset, but at the same time doesn’t get in the way of its competitive design. Ultimately, it’s going to be more about your preference (Editor-In-Chief Ron Burke likes the VR way, I like the button press).

I’d also be remiss to not mention the knives. These are just fun to run around with and being able to switch them into a downward stab position is great, along with pressing a button to stylishly flip them around. I’m not joking when I say I did this for minutes on end, and we stabbed each other constantly in the main hub while waiting for matches.

One of my favorite things in Firewall Ultra is how it handles flashbang grenades. You can avoid them by covering your eyes or even closing them (thank you eye-tracking). This also applies to flashlights, both in how you defend yourself or engage with them. It’s a small portion of the game, but being able to avoid a flashbang is something so many games just don’t do, and here I can turn away or close my eyes and be in the clear.

While there are certainly positives here, things you can build on, there are also negatives. First, we had a nearly impossible time getting into matches. I know the PSVR2 space isn’t large, but one would think two online matches in an hour is a bit unacceptable. Maybe implementing a form of bots would help to fill in online lobbies?

Next, the menu system. The hexagons are tough to follow. Each one has branches, and you have to hover over each one to know what it is, and that’s time consuming. I’ve dealt with plenty of menu systems, and this one is abysmal. Besides that, the eye-tracking you can use in it is very twitchy, flicking around too easily and causing me to miss what I’m trying to click on.

Then you have monetization. There’s an earnable currency for the shop, and the real world money currency. But, even to buy things in the Dealer shop (otherwise known as Black Road), I have to earn enough Rank to unlock that ability. I’m already confused enough in the menu, but when you add all of these, it’s just too much.

Maybe it’s because it’s in VR, but it feels like everything is so complicated when it comes to the loadout system. I don’t like the operator idea of tying certain perks to specific characters, especially when some are purchasable. You’re just creating a pay-to-win environment with those. At least you can still play to earn them, but the players with pockets will get all the benefits early.

Once you’ve gotten through that, the loadouts are somehow completely locked down, with you having to do Dealer challenges to up your Rank to buy weapons to use. Even once you finally unlock a gun or attachment to buy, you are literally purchasing one of them. You don’t get the item permanently to reuse, but a single item to apply to a loadout. That means if I love a particular weapon, I’m going to be grinding if I want more than one loadout with it installed in a slot.

This isn’t even the biggest issue. The Rank reward you get is decent for the challenges, but you only can tab three of those per day. To unlock the next tier and level up your Rank, you have to do quite a few challenges. It’s really tough to rank up enough to earn the ability to spend my hard earned currency on a gun when I’m already having trouble getting into matches that last a few minutes.

I mean, it’s 4v4 with everyone having one life and it’s a best of three rounds. At best, I ace (kill the enemy team by myself) two rounds and end with eight kills. The easiest challenge I see is eight pistol kills, and that is going to be rough in light of everything I’ve brought up. I play Call of Duty and think some of their weapon unlock practices are obtuse, but this is a new level. This is something that will disincentivize me to play your game.

Overall, Firewall Ultra has great gameplay elements working in its favor, but a lack of content and shameful grind and monetization systems make this a hard one to recommend at this point in time. Maybe after a few updates it’ll be ready to go, but for now it’s time for First Contact to grab another mag and get to work.

Lead Video Game Editor | [email protected]

David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

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