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Firewall Ultra

Firewall Ultra Review – Tactical VR Action

Firewall Ultra is a bit of a mystifying game in numerous ways. For a start, jump into this first-person, multiplayer-focused shooter and you’ll be unceremoniously thrown into a training area. There’s no direction as to what you should do to get up to speed. No indication as to how to progress to the main game. You’re just there, and as much fun as it is playing with grenades and trying to complete an assault course in the shortest time possible, it’s not a great introduction.

And then there are the game’s mechanics. Being a VR-only game, you’d expect that many actions here, such as reloading your weapons or striking with a knife, would require you to realistically perform them. But no. You just simply press the X button to reload, or have the process carried out for you automatically. When it comes to the knife, you simply press a button to attack, your in-game arm stabbing or slashing awkwardly as your real arm does whatever it wants.

There are some ways in which Firewall Ultra immerses you in the action, though. While you can freely raise your arm and aim with your pistol, for example, if you want to aim accurately with something like an assault rifle, you’ll have to aim down the sights, using both arms to hold and steady your weapon. Is it enough to make you truly feel present in the game’s world? Not quite, unfortunately, what with all the other elements that draw you out of it. Hell, the camera even switches to a third-person perspective when you’re downed which feels a little awkward.

Firewall Ultra review (1)

Other issues are present in Firewall Ultra as well. There’s limited interactivity, and when you can interact with something, it’s simply a case of holding down a button. To make matters worse, that itself is an act that’s finicky. Actually getting into a match can be tiresome as well. Just two match types are available, and whichever you choose matchmaking is a slow process. What’s worse, already this soon after launch getting enough players to actually start a match can be tough at times.

Competitive types can take part in 4v4 matches against other human opponents, taking it in turns to be attackers and defenders. The defenders need to protect what are essentially laptops from being hacked, while the attackers are the ones hoping to do the hacking. There are no respawns here either; once a player is taken out, that’s it until the next round. The action is tense whether you’re attacking or defending, though matches are often over a little too fast, sending you back to the Safe House for yet more matchmaking.

Those interested in more of an intense co-op experience can instead opt for the game’s PvE mode. Again, this revolves around locating and hacking numerous devices before exfiltrating, but you’re up against a large number of AI-controlled opponents instead. It makes for a nice change of pace from the competitive action, with missions typically taking longer to complete due to multiple devices needing to be hacked. The number of enemies thrown at you should also please those with an itchy trigger finger.

Ideally, Firewall Ultra is the game you’ll jump into with friends, communicating effectively to work as a team. There’s scope to have one person monitoring security cameras to feed other players information, and making use of devices such as motion sensors to get the upper hand. When playing with strangers who aren’t all too keen on being vocal, these tools are often overlooked are simply not as effective.

In the long run, there are the usual unlocks to potentially keep players invested in the action, such as additional guns and contractors to play as, but it’s slow going. Factor in the limited match types and the slow matchmaking, and it’s hard to see the game having much long-lasting appeal. It’s a shame, too, as the action can be tense, and the visuals are rather appealing.

Ultimately, it’s hard to recommend Firewall Ultra. Hardcore VR and tactical shooter enthusiasts might get some fun out of it, but for most there’ll simply be too much downtime and not enough variety. Throw in other issues such as the lack of interactivity, and you have a game that is a bit of a disappointment overall. Can things be turned around? Maybe, if developer First Contact Entertainment can act quickly. Already a patch has been released to speed up unlocks and improve matchmaking, but there needs to be more, like additional match types. Player retention is likely to prove the biggest hurdle here, though; it’s simply not fun waiting longer to get enough players to start a match than the length of a match itself.


Firewall Ultra Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Firewall Ultra is based on the PS5 version, with a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available exclusively on PS5 and requires a PSVR 2 headset.

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