Star Rating:

Firewall Ultra

Platforms: PS5, PS VR

VR PvP FPS is a game genre that is simultaneously the most difficult to implement while also being one of the most exciting if done right.

Romanticised in our visions of the future of gaming, putting on our headset and getting transported to a battlefield far in the future, an alternate timeline present day, or back to witness firsthand the horrors of The Somme or Iwo Jima. Up to now, we’ve had a few attempts from different developers on different platforms, and while some of these have shown sparks of genius, none of them have done enough to be considered the 'Call of Duty' of VR – and even more none of them quite capture the 'Ready Player One' vision of what VR might be in the real world future. 

Why is this? Basically, the games are limited by the technology, and the technology is limited by the setting – typically the player's living room. In all modern shooters, movement and fluidity are essential, both to keep yourself alive or get advantageous positions over your enemy, but also for immersion. We’ve all played games where your character seems to glide over the ground or the movement feels spongey and unresponsive. One of the reasons games like 'Call of Duty' and 'Battlefield' are so popular is that they generally get movement right. 

And this is where VR games in general are struggling. Being limited in the range of movement by the space available around you immediately breaks immersion. When you move outside of your pre-defined play zone and a grey view of your real-life surroundings pops up with an imaginary boundary grid to show you’re past the limit, it doesn’t matter how good the game is, you’re back in real life. 

Unfortunately 'Firewall Ultra' hasn’t managed to solve this problem, but it’s workarounds are decent, and surprisingly not motion sickness-inducing. You can move around your play zone as usual and in combination with the thumbsticks on your controller either move further or snap turn your point of view. Not exactly ground-breaking, but probably the best solution we have at the moment. 

Accepting this inherent downfall of VR games, there’s actually quite a lot to like in 'Firewall Ultra'. There is a good array of different weapons to use, including assault rifles, handguns, snipers, and even a crossbow and bayonet. Each one has a different feel to the others and will be easily recognisable btoy gamers – though presumably because of copyright reasons they’re all renamed, a common practice in game development. Each one has a number of different attachments like silencers, scopes, sights, flashlights, and lasers which come with their own benefits. The different guns and attachments all require the player to level up by playing and collecting the in-game currency to buy them once unlocked. There are also challenges that ask for specific goals to be completed, such as X amount of pistol headshots, which award the player with a bigger payout.

The models for all of these are incredibly well realised, with all the markings, grooves, ridges, and features that you’d expect on the real thing. You can even inspect the inside of the ejection port when the empty magazine holds it open. The reload animation is fine but seems to be slightly simplified, probably as a balance between realism and fun.

The game starts you off in a training level where you’ll get a chance to use most of the different weapon and gadget types so you don’t go into your first match completely green. Once you get the hang of it, the aiming, firing, and reloading all feel fairly natural and smooth. One issue we found, though, was with the sniper rifle. The combination of movements and button presses necessary to fully zoom with the scope was a little complex and also didn’t always work. The last step to fully zooming in the scope is closing your non-dominant eye, which seemed to work around 25% of the time, and sometimes when it did work the scope came back too far and clipped into the player's head. 

The match finder seems to be slightly buggy too, crashing twice while trying to find a game. Once you actually get in a lobby you’re put into a waiting room identical to your safehouse. The wait time once you’re here seems to vary quite a bit, which can lead you to wonder if the network has bugged out again. 

When you do eventually get into a game, the issues above quickly melt away. The matches are exciting, and the immersion of seeing the gun move as you move your own hands really brings you into the game. The slightly clunky movement means that positioning is incredibly important, and you’ll be checking every corner, every hiding spot as you move through an area. The PvE mode is also quite enjoyable and may be better suited to people who don’t want to have the full pressure of PvP play. The AI aren’t the smartest but this is made up for by them being crack shots, and if they catch you in the open you’re not likely to last very long. 

We’re a long way from perfection when it comes to VR shooters, having to choose between an on-rails experience like 'ZombieLand', or the slight out-of-body experience you get with thumbstick controls, but games like 'Firewall Ultra' are definitely a step in the right direction.