PSVR 2’s Firewall Ultra has some lofty expectations to meet. The original Firewall was a cult hit on the first PSVR, releasing a few years after the headset’s initial surge and launch lineup. It was a game that completely passed me by when I owned a PSVR, but I know everyone who played it loved it. After getting just a small taste of its sequel, I can see now why it is held in such high regard, and the new features First Contact Entertainment is implementing here in Firewall Ultra have the potential to shake up VR in exciting ways.
One of the standout new features in our PSVR 2 review of the headset itself was the eye-tracking, and the Californian studio is making full use of it throughout Firewall Ultra. Looking back at my hands-on preview of the game at PlayStation’s offices in London. The first and most impressive feature is the ability to avoid flashbang grenades by simply closing your eyes.
By opening them after the flash has gone off, you will avoid the potent blinding effect that goes off during a multiplayer match when they are thrown. I’m sure there are a lot of CS:GO players that have wished for such a feature. This allows you to get the upper hand when watching a choke point or doorway as the opposing team expects you to be blinded. This same effect can also be done by covering your face physically.
Additionally, eye-tracking is incorporated throughout the game and in the menus, allowing you to choose your class and setup easily. Within a match, you can also switch weapons simply by looking at the one you want on the weapon wheel. If I wanted to pull out my pistol, all I had to do was press the button to bring up the wheel, look at the gun and let go of the button to switch. The same goes for grenades and other utility items.
It was impressively intuitive and physically using it made me realise just how much potential PSVR 2 offers to change up the flow and formula of gameplay experiences, mechanics, and UI systems that have solidified over decades. It also simplifies things for players, not having to fiddle around with buttons or try to gain the muscle memory of where the triangle button is on the PSVR 2 Sense controllers if you are new to VR.
One neat aspect is also being able to close your non-dominant eye when aiming down sight to have your view clear up a bit and zoom in further, allowing you to peek around a corner with a more focused view of what’s in front of you.
However, one of the big new changes in Firewall Ultra comes after you die. In the first game once you died you had to just sit there and wait for the CS:GO-style, no-respawn rounds to end. But, using the PSVR 2’s eye tracking, once you have died you can use a number of cameras around the map to spot enemies for your alive teammates. This is all done by physically looking at them through the camera. So if they are tucked away in the bottom right corner of the camera view, looking at that corner will cause the enemy to light up with a red outline, showing their location for everyone on your team while you maintain eye contact.
This new mechanic was critical to my wins during the hands-on session and it worked flawlessly. It’s a really smart way to evolve the traditional teamwork that comes from voice chat in tactical shooters. Usually, you would verbally communicate where the enemy is, but here it is all done visually, using something that’s only really possible with the PSVR 2’s eye-tracking tech.
By making the red outline a visual cue as well, the mechanic also ensures it is useful in random matchmade games, as players won’t need a microphone. It also just made every second of a match intense as there was never a moment you weren’t important to your team and your callout could be the difference between a win or a loss.
Even after playing the pulse-racing ride that is Thumper and a number of horror games in VR, I do think Firewall Ultra is the most intense experience I have ever had in virtual reality, due to how much the PSVR 2 headset is able to immerse you thanks to its graphical quality and haptic feedback. It really puts you deep into the game’s PvP matches and during the whole play session I never once felt motion sick, which is impressive for a game that involves a lot of eye movement, camera movement, and concentration.
While I only got an hour with the game, Firewall Ultra feels like a true next-generation VR game, with mechanics and systems that weren’t possible just a few years ago. Not only does it do something great in the VR space, it also sets a new standard for unique, first-person shooter experiences. When you’re talking about the best PSVR 2 games, I would be surprised if Firewall Ultra isn’t in that conversation when the Firewall Ultra release date arrives later this year.