We attracted a lot of criticism for docking Firewall Zero Hour points in our review due to its online-centric design. Our point was pretty straightforward: PlayStation VR is a popular peripheral but it’s still relatively niche, and it can be difficult for even multi-million sellers like ANTHEM to retain players post-launch. Given that we were struggling to get into matches during the tactical shooter’s launch window, we weren’t expecting developer First Contact Entertainment to keep players around for long.
Credit where credit’s due, though, there is still an active community interacting with the first-person shooter – although we can’t imagine it’s especially large. We decided to return to the release after its first major update Operation: Nightfall launched, and we picked peak UK hours to hit the servers in order to give the title the best possible chance. We spent around an hour waiting in lobbies and groaning at server timeouts before we eventually found a decent group we could play with.
Once you get into a match, the gameplay is still exceptional. Players are a lot more experienced now than they were at launch, so the combat can be devastating, but we received a lot of help from our more engaged team mates, and ended up in a couple of really tense battles. Back when we reviewed the game we griped about the single round format, but the five minute matches are fine as long as no one leaves the lobby because it’s pretty swift at getting you back to the action.
So what are the major changes that the latest patch brings, then? Well, perhaps as a means to maintain engagement, the developer’s added a lot of hooks to keep you coming back. There are now daily missions which reward you with experience points and in-game currency, as well as a mix of free and premium missions. First Contact Entertainment’s clearly been inspired by the likes of Fortnite, with this Battle Pass-like model.
Completing all of the missions on a weekly basis will unlock desirable new cosmetics, although you’ll only nab the premium items if you stump up for the Ops-Pass, which doubles as a DLC pack with a new Contractor included. Said new character has the ability to steal in-game currency Crypto from corpses, but unfortunately she looks just about as bland as the rest of the cast; there are some neat new face paints and items you can unlock to at least jazz up the mercenaries these days, so that’s cool.
Elsewhere, there’s a really interesting new map set in a Hangar, which is free for everyone to play. Meanwhile, if you stump up for the Ops-Pass and complete all of the missions, there are three new weapons you’ll be able to unlock – although you will need to be active during specific weeks. The studio basically wants to incentivise activity, which is a good idea – although you can effectively “skip” challenges with Hack Keys, which are available as microtransactions.
Complete all of the missions in the current season, and you’ll get an extra weapon skin, so there’s plenty of reason to keep playing. It does feel like the game’s exploring alternative funding options, which may very well foreshadow a switch to free-to-play. To be honest, this wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world, as we reckon a lot of PSVR owners would get hooked on the gameplay – and more populated servers would benefit everyone.
We should mention that the single player training mode has also been overhauled, with much more intelligent artificial intelligence enhancing these missions. Considering that this mode can also be played co-operatively with friends, it’s a welcome improvement, and it adds a bit more meat to the package’s bones, as the PVE options were borderline pointless at launch such was the dim-witted nature of the computer-controlled Contractors.
So were we wrong about Firewall Zero Hour in our review? Yes and no. The title still demands serious patience if you want to play it competitively online, but once you’re in the thick of the action, its immersion is unrivalled. There’s a great game here, and First Contact Entertainment deserves credit for refreshing it with new features. But the small community is still a problem until it can be rectified, and so it simply has to be taken into account before you consider dropping your hard-earned cash on it.
Do you play Firewall Zero Hour regularly? What are your thoughts on the Operation: Nightfall update? Are you a potential purchaser peeking out from cover? Aim down the sights in the comments section below.