Back in 2018, PlayStation VR players were treated to an unprecedented tactical shooter experience with Firewall Zero Hour. Developer First Contact Entertainment expertly crafted tense 4v4 matches that relied on coordination and cunning use of gadgets. It stood tall as a killer app for PSVR, receiving years of post-launch support.
Naturally, expectations were sky high when the studio announced a follow-up, Firewall Ultra, designed exclusively for PlayStation VR2. Sony’s latest virtual reality headset boasts cutting-edge upgrades like foveated rendering, eye tracking, 3D spatial audio and adaptive triggers. Firewall Ultra seemed poised to set a new bar for immersive multiplayer shooters.
Now that the sequel has arrived, does it live up to the pedigree of its predecessor and fully capitalize on next-gen VR technology? In this review, we’ll analyze where Firewall Ultra succeeds in bringing tactical combat to life, and where it falls short of expectations. From visual polish to progression systems, content depth to control schemes, we’ll provide a comprehensive evaluation of this PSVR2 exclusive. While the original Firewall was a revelation in its time, does Ultra move the needle for virtual reality shooters in 2023? Read on to find out.
Strategic Combat with Mixed Controls
One of the most controversial changes from Zero Hour is Firewall Ultra’s control scheme. The original supported DualShock controllers or the immersive Aim gun peripheral. Now on PSVR2, you’re restricted to the Sense controllers. This provides greater motion tracking but also some limitations.
Most actions like reloading or swapping weapons are now button presses rather than physical motions. While convenient, this diminishes immersion. The lack of manual reloading in particular feels like a step back for veterans. The developer promises a future “Ultra Mode” with enhanced controls, but for now interactions are simplified.
Aim-down-sights snaps to your gaze instantly when left trigger is pressed. This allows quick target acquisition but the unnatural motion may be jarring. Eye tracking helps lob explosives and flashbangs with precision, though having grenades launch from your eye-line is odd. Overall the controls are functional if inelegant. Streamlining helps accessibility but hardcore fans may want more simulation.
Despite control quibbles, Firewall Ultra’s two modes provide engaging tactical play. Contracts returns as the marquee 4v4 competitive mode, with teams alternating between hacking and protecting an objective. The new Exfil PvE mode has four players capturing points while battling AI foes.
Both require slow, coordinated gameplay akin to Rainbow Six. Charging ahead solo means a quick death. Teams must communicate to flank enemies and create chokepoints. Patience and gadget use trumps pure aggression. This creates palpable tension where every bullet matters.
Weapons feel weighty, with detailed recoil effects based on real-world firearms. Shotguns, pistols, SMGs and assault rifles each fill distinct combat roles. attachments like scopes and grips offer further customization. Flashbangs, mines and barricades provide invaluable tactical opportunities when used well.
Map design also facilitates strategy, with areas of light and darkness. Clever players manipulate these sightlines and shadows to ambush foes. Verticality and multiple access points give both teams flexibility in approach. Overall the action rewards smarts over reflexes, keeping players on edge.
Though control quirks exist, Firewall Ultra’s core gameplay delivers heart-pounding squad-based combat. Players must out-think opponents and work together to overcome the odds. When tactics align and team chemistry thrives, few multiplayer experiences are more rewarding.
Firewall Ultra leverages the PS5 and PSVR2 to deliver a significant graphical leap over Zero Hour’s PS4 origins. Environments are far more detailed, using high-quality textures and geometry. Weapon models showcase intricate parts and attachments up close. Characters still appear somewhat stiff, but overall assets are vastly improved.
This visual overhaul truly shines in the lighting department. Dark areas are pitch black, creating tension and encouraging flashlight and lamp use. Muzzle flashes and explosions cast dynamic light during hectic firefights. Fluorescent bulbs contrast vividly against shadowy corners. This nuanced lighting boosts realism exponentially.
Overall, Firewall Ultra is one of the best looking titles on PSVR2 so far. While not quite reaching Horizon Call of the Mountain’s visual splendor, it comes respectably close for a multiplayer shooter. The game runs smoothly with foveated rendering reducing overhead. This polish helps gameplay feel seamless and increases immersion.
Audio design completes the sensory experience, using PSVR2’s 3D spatial surround sound. Weapon firing, reloads and movements sound lifelike emanating from your virtual hands. Nearby footsteps and gunfire clearly telegraph enemy locations based on precise distance and direction. This grants keen tactical awareness and heightens tension dramatically.
Together, the visual polish and realistic audio make Firewall Ultra an incredibly immersive experience while in the heat of battle. Clever lighting keeps you on edge, while spatialized sound provides an acute combat edge. These technical achievements support the gameplay beautifully.
Some visual glitches do occur, particularly in lobby areas. These are annoying but rarely disrupt actual matches. Overall Firewall Ultra sets a new bar for VR shooters through audiovisual mastery. The PS5 hardware sings, delivering breakthrough levels of immersion. This technical prowess combined with strong art direction makes gameplay even more pulse-pounding.
On paper, Firewall Ultra has a solid progression system. Players earn XP to rank up, unlocking new weapons and equipment to purchase with currency. Completing daily assignments provides bonus progress. Unfortunately, progression feels excruciatingly slow at launch.
XP accrues at a glacial pace. Getting a few kills or completing objectives nets minimal rewards post-match. Reaching higher ranks where the best gear unlocks could take casual players weeks. This sluggish pace diminishes motivation and enjoyment.
Earning currency to actually buy new weapons and items also requires immense grinding. Payouts from matches and assignments are miniscule compared to item costs. Again, this means substantial playtime to gain access to desired gear.
Assignments should help by offering big XP bonuses for completing combat challenges. However, only one assignment unlocks per day at launch. This staggered rollout minimizes impact. Assignments feel more like routine chores than exciting progression avenues.
Microtransactions are coming which may allow paying to shortcut the grind. Hopefully these will stay cosmetic-only, rather than becoming “pay to win” elements. Regardless, the glacial earn rates feel designed to push spending.
Content also feels thin currently. Firewall Ultra only has the returning Contracts PvP mode and new Exfil PVE mode. A proper sequel after five years could have provided more variety like new competitive formats. Solo and co-op offerings are limited as well.
The developers promise robust post-launch support as a live service game. But players should not have to wait months after launch for fundamental progression improvements and new modes. Firewall Ultra feels barebones rather than fully-featured out of the gate.
Sluggish leveling, minimal content and heavy grinding seriously undermine the experience. Players need more modes, assignments and reasonable earn rates to stay engaged long-term. Firewall Ultra has solid foundations but lacks the content and progression depth expected from a premium PSVR2 release. These issues must be addressed quickly.
A major pitfall of many VR titles is motion sickness, but Firewall Ultra provides extensive options to maximize accessibility and comfort. Settings allow tweaking vignettes, blinders, turning speed and more. With the right settings, even those prone to simulation sickness can play comfortably.
In terms of general comfort, Firewall Ultra is one of the most enjoyable PSVR2 shooters yet. Movement speed stays at an easy walking pace rather than intense running and jumping. The tactical pace also avoids excessive high-speed motion. Sessions can last easily over an hour without fatigue setting in.
Of course personal tolerance varies, so mileage may differ. But Firewall Ultra’s focus on grounded movement and strategy over fast-paced action gives it surprisingly high accessibility. Both veterans and VR newcomers can ease into the experience.
Visually, some odd glitches do occur at times. Teammate models may contort into unnatural poses momentarily. Menu navigation can also be buggy. Thankfully these issues rarely impact actual matches. But the glitches undermine polish in lobby areas.
Overall Firewall Ultra deserves praise for its comfort and accessibility. A wide spectrum of players can seamlessly enjoy the tactical gameplay thanks to smart VR design choices. Options to tweak movement settings abound as well. And the moderate pacing avoids overtly inducing motion sickness. While visual bugs do pop up, they get overshadowed by the comfort-first approach.
For those seeking strategic VR action without sacrificing comfort, Firewall Ultra delivers. The experience remains tense yet playable for extended sessions compared to quicker shooters. This accessibility expands its audience while retaining depth. Striking this balance highlights the team’s VR development expertise.
Final Thoughts on Firewall Ultra
Firewall Ultra is a tricky game to pass final judgement on. At its best, the tactical gameplay provides heart-pounding VR combat. Coordinating with teammates to outwit opponents delivers immense satisfaction. The expanded toolset thanks to PlayStation VR2 features also improves immersion and tactics. However, a number of design missteps hold Firewall Ultra back from realizing its full potential.
On the positive side, utilizing PS VR2’s enhanced audiovisual capabilities was a huge boon for the experience. The team at First Contact Entertainment did an excellent job leveraging new tech like eye tracking and 3D audio for gameplay improvements rather than just novelty. Clever uses of shadows and lighting also ratchet up tension effectively. Add rock-solid performance and you have a visually impressive testament to the hardware’s power.
The strategic cat-and-mouse gameplay shines as well once you get in the groove with teammates. Outsmarting the opposing squad through coordinated ambushes and gear use provides a uniquely engaging multiplayer dynamic. Pulling off a well-executed victory against the odds is extremely rewarding. Firewall Ultra delivers moments of tactical brilliance other shooters cannot match.
However, the limited weapon selection, clunky controls, and lack of content at launch all undermine the experience. This sequel did not capitalize on years of advancement to provide the revolutionary VR combat experience players anticipated. It feels more like an iterative update rather than a dramatic leap.
Comparisons to Pavlov VR on PSVR2 highlight these shortcomings. Pavlov provides refined action and plenty of modes at launch. Firewall Ultra has polish issues and just two modes to choose from. The progression system is also far more frustrating and convoluted. Overall Pavlov VR simply offers a more complete and accessible package.
Firewall Ultra fails to fully realize its immense potential, but also provides satisfactions unavailable elsewhere. It sits in an awkward middle ground of being both solid and mediocre. Die-hard fans will likely stick around thanks to the strong core gameplay. But more casual players may lose patience with its glaring limitations. For now, it earns a cautious recommendation – let’s hope the developers address its weaknesses swiftly.
Firewall Ultra brings the tactical gameplay of its predecessor into a new generation. Clever use of PS VR2 capabilities enhances immersion, and coordinating with a skilled team provides intense satisfaction. However, clunky controls, a convoluted progression system, and a lack of content at launch keep it from fully delivering on its promise. Die-hard fans will enjoy the strong core gameplay, but the experience still feels undercooked. With time and support it could become a VR shooter masterpiece, but right now it lands as just a decent title that fails to fully capitalize on the capabilities of high-end virtual reality.
- Enhanced VR experience using PS VR2 features.
- Engaging tactical play requiring team coordination.
- Weapons feel realistic with distinct roles.
- Attachments offer customization options.
- Strategic map design facilitates ambushes and strategy.
- Limited content at launch.
- Control scheme changes diminish immersion.
- Manual reloading absence feels like a setback.
- Simplified interactions with the Sense controllers.
- Odd grenade launching mechanics.
- Visual glitches, especially in lobby areas.