Tuesday, August 28th. I’m online. I see an article about new video game releases and I don’t care, because tonight, I’m going to play Yakuza Kiwami 2. I’ve become enamored of Kiryu Kazuma and his honorable adventures through the seedy underworld of Japan. It’s been months since I finished Yakuza 6 and I’m eager for more.
Then I get a call from my local Gamestop informing me my copy of Firewall: Zero Hour is ready for pickup. Oh yeah. Some context: I purchased a game from Gamestop months ago when they were running a pre-order special. If you pre-order 3 games you get the $5 pre-order fee waived and $15 credit toward your purchase. So yeah, I took the free $15 and pre-ordered a bunch of games I didn’t plan on playing. Out of curiosity I looked online to see if anyone was talking about this Playstation VR game. I hadn’t dusted off my headset since my romp through Skyrim in VR. Was this going to be the game that brought me back?
My search for reviews and feedback on the game were light. A couple of sites I was unfamiliar with were singing its praises, but I wanted to hear from the real folks. The gamers. So I plugged my nose and jumped into a reddit thread and to my surprise…everyone there was similarly singing its praises. I read about unlockable guns, skins, attachments, perks and characters. There was mention of a leveling system, completely immersive shooting with a real sense of presence and very few digs. The ones that did exist were about VR tracking in general and relatively light content for a $40 game.
“Okay,” I said, “I’ll give it a shot.” And I traded in some old games to pick it up with the PSVR Aim Controller.
Holy shit. This game is something special.
I don’t stay up until 3am anymore playing competitive shooters. I haven’t enjoyed the genre since before Call of Duty Infinite Warfare. I jumped off online shooters somewhere after the release of Raven Software’s Original reboot of Wolfenstein. Not since the days of 8th grade, gathering four of my friends in a cramped, stinky room to play Goldeneye have I been this addicted to the thrill of an online shootout.
I don’t say this lightly and this is without hyperbole, but Firewall Zero Hour could completely transform the VR platform. Which is one of the reasons I’m writing about the game. I want more people to play it, because I want the developers to be rewarded for their hard work. I want more game modes, weapons, maps and updates, and I want them for years to come.
The only downfall I can point out about the game is player base. It can take a minute or five to get into a match because everyone is teaming up with their bros and broettes instead of playing public matchmaking. And because you can only earn the in-game currency of Crypto (sigh), needed to purchase new guns and attachments, through online matches, it’s a wait you have to endure to explore all the game has to offer.
What the developers of this game have managed to do is combine all the pros of VR with very few of the detractors. There is a bug with tracking on the Aim controller sometimes, with a noticeable “left drift” when aiming down the barrel, but a shake of the controller usually fixes this. If not, you can simply turn the controller off and on again (quickly! Because your whole team can be wiped out in seconds if you’re not paying attention). These issues pale in comparison to the best the game has to offer.
The sights are pretty, the sounds are loud and bombastic, the ability to see your teammates and know their movements are their actual movements, the ability to communicate with your team in 3D audio where if they’re across the map their voice comes in fainter, the thrill of slowly creeping down a hallway with a buddy covering your back and literally peeking around corners and into rooms before entering…it all combines in a beautiful and immersive experience that’s as addicting as it is basic. Some see the simplicity as a negative, but I see it as an incredible accomplishment. To have such a bare-bones experience cultivate such a reverence for the genre, the medium the concept of what an online shooter can be deserves commendation.
My hope is the PSVR adoption rate climbs, the developers support the game with regular content drops, events and DLC to keep people interested, and they’re able to generate a movement similar in scale to Fortnite. Because this game is a lovely skeleton of possibility. I just hope it lives long enough to grow some muscle.
If you’re at all even slightly curious about this game and are debating about buying it, don’t debate. Buy it. And use the Aim controller. It’s completely worth your time and money. Show it to your friends. Let them try it at your place. Convince them to buy PSVR and play with you. Do this, so I can enjoy this game for a long time. Thanks!
Some highlights from my first 20 hours:
- Rush mode — teaming up with random dudes Friday night and agreeing to rush the other team. Win or lose in 30 seconds or less. We won 5/8 rounds and laughed our asses off the entire time.
- In the last 30 seconds of a match, everyone on my team was dead (myself included), except for one. The rest of our team was guiding him to the end objective before time ran out. He downed two enemy players and had to reach a laptop. The reached the laptop with less than 3 seconds to spare, but you have to hold down the “X” button for 3 seconds to hack the laptop and win. He literally did it with .02 seconds left on the clock. And I hope he clipped it.
- “Zip it up!” – at the start of every online match, the screen goes black before the level loads into view. Before this happens, for some reason, the players hear a very loud zipping noise. The aforementioned group above made a point to yell “Zip it up!” every time and every time it made us laugh. You had to be there.
- I’ve Been PSN friends with a coworker for over a year and we finally played online together.
- Being last man standing on my team and taking down all four of the other team and unlocking one of the hardest trophies in the game on my first four-hour session.
- The clearly 12-year-old boy who made his avatar look like it was jerking off with the gun in his hands. Then adding his voice to make moaning noises. The classics are still in play.
- I may actually add the people I played with as PSN friends so I have people to play with.
- Finding out that my girlfriend can also use the TV while I have the PSVR headset on. This could help or destroy our relationship since I won’t have guilt for hogging the TV with my games.