I’ve got a chest infection. My lungs are all wrong. If I were a translucent man from a cough syrup commercial, my insides would be flashing red while some hovering labels point at all of the inside parts of me that are revolting. Which is all to say that I’ve been coughing a whole lot lately.
In public I try to keep a lid on it, but alone in the privacy of my bedroom I can really let loose and show my lungs who’s boss: hacking, whooping and growling like I’ve just been born and I’m experiencing air for the first time.
So I was startled to hear somebody ask “hey, are you alright?” ten minutes into a game of Firewall Zero Hour, a multiplayer shooter for the PlayStation VR that, I only now realise, switches your microphone on by default. I apologised and popped a Strepsil. It was a disarmingly polite comment by online gaming standards, where the typical remark involves your mother’s private areas and any number of different household objects.
Firewall Zero Hour, by virtue of requiring a £230 headset to play it, is populated by a subset of the population that is kind and sympathetic. Which is a useful attribute to have in a tactical, first-person shooter. Games are four-versus-four, with one team attempting to reach a laptop and the other doing their level best to stop them. As such communication is critical, and the best teams report their intentions and locations as they creep around the game’s maps, one of which, City AM readers might be pleased to learn, is a recreation of a few floors of the Gherkin.
Forgive me harping on about how cool virtual reality is, but Firewall feels more like playing a game of laser quest than a regular shooter. You physically crouch behind boxes to take cover, and if you’ve got the rifle-shaped Aim controller (recommended), you can aim and shoot around corners like a cool spy.
But rather than feeling like a gimmick, Firewall’s controls are proof-positive that the FPS genre can work comfortably in virtual reality, and all without making you want to deposit your lunch in the nearest bin. All it needs now is more content, more game modes and faster matchmaking. Right now you tend to spend a lot of time waiting around in lobbies, playing with your gun and coughing at complete strangers.
A new DLC content pack called Oscar Mike launches 16 October, containing new weapons and skins, but hopefully more substantial updates are in the pipeline.