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HomeReviewFirewall Ultra (PlayStation VR2) review: Infrequently fun yet persistently disappointing

Firewall Ultra (PlayStation VR2) review: Infrequently fun yet persistently disappointing

Firewall Ultra (PlayStation VR2) review: Infrequently fun yet persistently disappointing

When Firewall Zero Hour debuted on Sony’s PlayStation VR back in 2018, it carved a niche for itself as an immersive tactical shooter that set the gold standard for what a VR game in this genre could be. Jump forward to 2023, and First Contact Entertainment is back with Firewall Ultra for the PlayStation VR2, a sequel that aims to capitalise on its predecessor's promise while leveraging the technological advancements of Sony’s latest VR offering. But even as Firewall Ultra strives to stake its claim in a more crowded market, does it manage to distinguish itself, or does it end up being overshadowed by its competition?

The game's willingness to court newcomers is immediately apparent. A comprehensive tutorial introduces the various mechanics – from moving around and taking cover to reloading your weapon and deploying gadgets. While this eases the entry barrier, it also highlights the game’s baffling design decisions. Unlike its another VR shooter, Pavlov VR, Firewall Ultra takes a less immersive approach by only allowing weapon reloads via button press instead of utilising physical motion. This may be designed to make the game more accessible, but it's an unexpected step back in a genre that thrives on immersion. The absence of a toggle for reload styles stands out like a sore thumb, though the developers promise to address this in a future 'ultra' update.

Yet, Firewall Ultra does many things right in its tactical, firearms-based combat model. Weapon handling feels realistically grounded, offering the choice of one-handed or double-handed grips for better control. While the game allows players to engage aim-down-sights (ADS) with a button press, the feature feels less natural in the VR context and takes some getting used to. The PlayStation VR2’s Sense Controllers offer a tactile response that convincingly mimics the recoil of different firearms, adding an extra layer of immersion. Likewise, the game’s use of eye-tracking technology to support ADS and flashbang effects adds a level of nuance that enhances the gameplay.

However, where Firewall Ultra seems to lack is in its interactivity with the game world. The reliance on button-based actions to reload guns or open doors suggests a reticence to fully commit to the interactive capabilities that VR offers, a missed opportunity that feels incongruous with the game's ambitions.

Visual fidelity is another of Firewall Ultra’s strong suits, with impressive lighting, highly detailed environments, and the PSVR 2's foveated rendering making it one of the more aesthetically pleasing titles on the platform. The game leans more towards realistic, squad-based shooters like Rainbow Six: Siege rather than arcade-style shooters, evident in its PvP and PvE modes. However, the limited number of modes and absence of a solo play option restrict the game's reach, making it less of a pick-up-and-play title.

In terms of maps, Firewall Ultra doesn’t reinvent the wheel, mainly offering updated versions of its predecessor’s maps. They are thoughtfully designed to allow for diverse tactics, but the lack of fresh content is palpable. On the subject of content, the game's progression system is both a boon and a bane. While it provides incentive to level up and unlock new gear, the current rate of rewards feels stingy, though future updates promise to address this issue.

As it stands, Firewall Ultra has yet to fully realise its potential. It’s a well-crafted tactical shooter with beautiful visuals and a strong foundational gameplay loop, but it currently suffers from a dearth of content and some curious design choices. It doesn’t quite reach the high bar it sets for itself, largely due to its still-unrealised promises of future updates. With a more crowded field than its predecessor, particularly from standouts like Pavlov VR, Firewall Ultra has its work cut out for it. If First Contact Entertainment can deliver on its roadmap, it may yet rise to the occasion. But as of now, Firewall Ultra serves as a tantalising glimpse of what could be, rather than a fully realised vision of what should be.

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