Published on October 15th, 2023 | by Gareth Newnham
Firewall Ultra Review (PSVR2)
Summary: Could be one of PSVR2s best shooters, but is held back by some baffling design decisions.
Firewall: Zero Hour was one of the best games on PSVR. Combined with the aim controller, it was one of the most immersive military shooters on the PS4, despite the PSVR’s limitations. Now, developer First Contact has returned with a semi-sequel in Firewall Ultra for the much more capable PSVR2. Though the basic gunplay is a lot of fun, the visuals are polished, and it makes clever use of Sony’s shiny new headset. Firewall Ultra suffers from a terminal case of live service syndrome, resulting in a barebones experience at launch with a myriad of systems put in place to make the game a grind by design.
It’s a shame, really, because, at its core, there’s a decent team-based military shooter screaming to get out on a platform that, though technically impressive, desperately needs more games.
The easiest way to describe Firewall is as a sitting somewhere between Rainbow Six and Counterstrike. Communication is key to success, and teams that work together successfully tend to succeed. So it’s a good thing the PSVR2 has a built-in Mic.
Play in the multiplayer-only shooter is split between Exfil (4-player PvE) and Contracts ( 4v4 PvP). Exfil sees your team hack terminals while holding off endless waves of AI-controlled bots. Sounds fun enough, and it would be if the AI wasn’t absolutely merciless and the game didn’t decide to randomly spawn the buggers right behind you just to ruin your day.
Meanwhile, Contracts is your basic team-death match where two squads of four fight it out, and the best of three wins. But if you don’t have three friends ready and raring to go, good luck finding a random squad to join.
There are also no bots to fill in any gaps in either game mode, so if your room isn’t full, you’re likely to have a bit of a wait on your hands. Thankfully, you can hang out in your safehouse while you wait; you can check your loadout or participate in a little target practice. However, even that wears thin after a while.
Firewall Ultra is a class-based affair, so before you jump into a game, you need to pick which of the game’s mercenaries best fits how you like to play. While several contractors return from the original PSVR game, there are a few nice new additions like Havoc, who can tank a few more shots than other characters and leaves a mine as a goodbye present for whoever manages to take him out. Then there’s Fang, who can reload faster, and Nala, who doesn’t trigger traps.
One of the better parts of the experience, though, is the controls; much like its predecessor, Firewall Ultra makes clever use of the unique capabilities of Sony’s VR hardware to fully immerse you in the action. Not only does the game look crisp and clear on those lush 4K OLED displays, but it makes fantastic use of the PSVR2’s eye-tracking features by allowing you to quickly and effectively use iron sights and scopes by closing an eye.
Likewise, being able to avoid the effects of a flashback by closing my eyes is incredibly cool and the kind of thing you can only experience, unless SWAT raids your house, in VR.
Since launch, Firewall Ultra has had a series of patches designed to iron out some of its biggest wrinkles. In particular, the countdown timer between matches has been dropped from a minute to 20 seconds. However, this only applies to groups that are ready or have just finished a match.
If you can find a group that’s ready and raring to go, stick with them for as long as you can because trying to find a game solo can be tricky at the best of times. This doesn’t help as most weapons and equipment are locked behind a progression system that only gives you XP if you play public matches, chuck in a tiny player bass, and long wait times, and it quickly becomes an exercise in tedium.
In an attempt to remedy this, players were given 100,000 crypto (the game’s currency) not long after launch. However, this was not enough cash to even unlock a new character, and many of the game’s weapons and mods are still locked behind assignments and the progression system; it remains a grind, regardless.
Firewall Ultra is a technically proficient VR shooter, hamstrung by a grindy progress systems and a steadily dwindling player base. A decent game caught in the live service trap that desperately needs either a single-player campaign, go free to play or to be added to PlayStation Plus.