My entire team is dead. I am the lone survivor, and nearly out of ammo. I'm walking to the target in the kitchen. I open the door and a guy pops out but thankfully his gun is down. Quick on the draw, I shoot him in the face with a revolver.
It turned out I fragged Damoun Shabestari, the game director in "Firewall Zero Hour." I mention this to him as we sit at the PlayStation officers in Foster City. I just got done playing what's essentially "Counter-Strike" in virtual reality, and the experience was fantastic. It was one of the better experience I've had on the medium.
Part of the reason is that Shabestari's team at First Contact Entertainment have a wealth of experience in the genre.
"We have a strong first-person shooter background," Shabestari said. "We have a slew of talented folks. Guys that worked at Blizzard and Treyarch."
In short, First Contact knows what they're doing and they understand the category, but they also understood that the core of VR experience isn't necessarily the gunplay or map design. It's a feature that's fundamental but often goes overlooked in games like "Call of Duty." The key to making "Firewall: Zero Hour" work is locomotion.
If movement is too fast, players will feel queasy and turn off the console. If turning around is too slow or uncomfortable, the game becomes unplayable. "Firewall: Zero Hour" works because the gameplay itself is slow and methodical. The walk speed is at a pace that feels right for the genre and also makes the game comfortable for players. Turning is done in a staccato manner so that players don't get sick. Mewanwhile, the sprinting lets players move slightly faster but also limits their peripheral vision.
In each match, teams of four try to kill each other in this online multiplayer project. The attackers are trying to access a laptop that's hidden in the level. The defenders try to protect the laptop and two firewall points that will let the attackers know where it is.
Because there are no respawns, player movement is often cautious and deliberate. In VR, that's given even more primacy because a players field of vision is limited and attacks could come from unusual places. The feeling of being there makes firefights intense. The ability to duck, shoot from odd angles and blindfire around corners makes combat more unpredictable.
To up the ante and create a good pace to matches, each round has a time limit of five minutes. Attackers have to get to the laptop within that time and defenders have to prevent the hack. From the matches we played, it seemed as though the defenders had the advantage perhaps because few were familiar with the map.
To create depth, players can customize their operator. Players have 12 to choose from and each have their own perks. Some may have faster reloading while others can absorb more bullet damage. Others can carry more grenades or ammo. In addition, players can change the look of these contractors and add a secondary skill once it's unlocked and purchased with in-game credit.
The progression system is tied to levels with a cap at 50. Reaching level unlocks certain weapons or perks that can be purchased with credits earned in-game.
On top of that, players can choose from several different types of firearms. At the moment, there are assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns and pistols. There is no sniper rifle mostly because of technical reasons. Adding a zoom lens puts stress on the system because of virtual reality. But even without these weapons, "Firewall Zero Hour" still plays well.
First Contact built the maps with close quarters in mind so sniper rifles wouldn't have too much of an advantage anyway. A player's loadout for a weapon will probably have more impact on play. They can change out iron sights, get a better magazine and buy add-on grenade launchers for a rifle.
The final piece of loadout customization are grenade types and tools. Players can choose from ordnance that bounces, sticks to walls or explodes on contact. There's even smoke and flash greandes. They can also pick up C4 or mines if they want to be sly and set up traps. Meanwhile, the tools aid in creating disruptive gameplay with noisemakers that can attract foes or jammers that prevent hacking on laptops.
Like any team-based shooter, coordination and communication is key. Players have to figure out what weapons and tools best complement each other for the situation. For example, a shotgun isn't the best for the wide open allies of the district but it does excel in the close quarters of the a warehouse. Lastly, players have a minimap on their left wrist. They can see enemy sounds and allies on there.
What's interesting about a "Counter-Strike"-type VR game is that it opens new avenues for play. "Firewall: Zero Hour" works remarkably well with the PlayStation VR Aim controller. The one-to-one feeling of holding a rifle and firing increases the immersion and also opens up new angles for attack. Players can blind fire around corners by moving the Aim controller away from the body and pulling the trigger. In some levels, there are doors with holes in them and players can crouch down and fire through that to kill an enemy in the room. If they have the right iron sight, they can look down the barrel game and aim for better accuracy.
The type of immersion extends to planting mines. Because it's virtual reality, players can put mines in ceilings or the door so they explode when an enemy opens it. When using a jammer, defenders can hide it in unexpected areas to buy their team time for victory.
"Firewall: Zero Hour" is one of the few VR games that I can play for an extended period of time. First Contact makes the game so comfortable that after a few hours, my eyes didn't feel tired even though I went through most of the nine maps spread across three areas: the U.K., the Middle East and Russia.
With its progression system and immersive gameplay, "Firewall: Zero Hour" could prove to be that addictive shooter that PSVR needs. The game just requires enough players to jump on board to get the experience going. With 3 million headsets sold, there's a pretty good chance the game can find audience.
This article is written by Gieson Cacho from East Bay Times and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.