Filling something of a gap in Sony’s PSVR content lineup, Bravo Team is a cooperative title which aims to bring military shooter style first-person action to the platform. Will you revel in cooperative combat, or is this one bullet worth dodging?
Bravo Team Details:
Bravo Team is built from the ground up as a cooperative VR shooter for two players. You can choose to join a random player, a friend, or play with an AI teammate. The game is built with the PSVR Aim controller in mind, but you can play it with both the PS Move and standard PS4 controller as well.
At its core, Bravo Team is a cover-based shooting gallery with node-based movement. You’ll battle across largely corridor-like environments, using cover as you advance against enemies. To move from one place to another, you can scan the environment for white shield symbols which indicate a place which you can move to. Upon pressing a button to initiate the move, you’ll see an ‘out of body’ movement, where you character runs from where you were standing to the new location and, once there, your camera will snap back into the character’s first person view. For the most part, available nodes are placed where you’d expect, but every once in a while you’ll be looking desperately for a node that feels like it should be there but isn’t.
Once you’re behind cover, you can press a button to pop up and begin firing upon the enemies. Your starting weapon is a fairly standard assault rifle with a holographic-style scope which you’ll be encouraged to aim down. It’s a functional weapon—and with the PSVR Aim controller, does a good job of feeling like it’s in your hands—but it loses accuracy quickly under sustained fire, and isn’t as good as I would have hoped at picking off the heads of enemies who really love to duck behind cover just as you aim at them. Often times it was hard to tell when you actually hit or killed an enemy and when they were just ducking back down for cover. Short of clear animations and sound effects, the game could have easily benefited from the classic ‘X’ indicator over your reticle to more clearly show when your bullets were finding their mark.
Enemies are relatively competent and make good use of cover (often annoyingly so, given the accuracy of the assault rifle), but after you’ve killed your first 20 baddies things start to get old, fast. Enemies range from ‘guy with gun’ to ‘guy with bigger gun who takes more shots’ and that’s about it, save for a single section of the game where there were two or so enemies who would charge at you with a knife and lock you into a holding pattern animation, ultimately resulting in your death unless your teammate comes to save you with enough time to spare. Otherwise, all the enemies act more or less the same, so your strategy as you approach them varies little.
Throughout the game you’ll only come across two more weapons (not counting your backup weapon, a silenced pistol which is always available as your secondary): a shotgun and a sniper rifle. There’s no accessories to speak of, no knives, flashlights, night vision, grenades, alternate ammo, etc. Just the shotgun for close range, the assault rifle for medium range, and the sniper for long range.
As sweeping assault rifle fire across enemy heads became quickly tiring I was excited to finally get my hands on a new weapon; first was the shotgun. Instead of changing up the gameplay, the shotgun was really just a signal that you were moving from mostly outside medium range combat to mostly inside close range combat. It was a bit more satisfying and visceral to blast enemies at close range with the shotgun than to spray them from afar with the assault rifle, but the game’s relentless pace of simply throwing nameless mercenary dudes at you never faltered.
The game tried to mix up the pace with some stealth sections where you could wait for a patrolling enemy to have their back turned for you before moving in for a stealth takedown, but the takedowns were simply animated and shown in third-person. As the enemies seemed to have zero awareness of how much noise you were making, and also seemed almost entirely blind, these moments lacked the suspenseful nature that stealth usually brings. In the end, I found the stealth moments more dull than the shooting, so after a stealth kill or two I’d usually just open fire.
Later in the game you come across the sniper rifle. And yes, you guessed it, that means the environments open up a little bit to accommodate some longer range shooting. With the sniper rifle, you look down a slightly zoomed scope, though unless you hold it really close to your eye, the resolution of the PSVR turns the small reticle into a mess of pixels. Even with the PSVR Aim controller, PSVR’s tracking accuracy was sometimes to blame for missing shots. Granted, the sniper rifle was much more capable of honing in on enemy heads hiding just behind cover, and I found it a far more suitable and satisfying weapon for the game’s moment-to-moment cover combat than the inaccurate spray of the assault rifle.
As with the shotgun, the sniper rifle didn’t feel like it was an entirely new tool in the game’s combat sandbox—it felt like it was just prop that I was supposed to hold during that point in the script, and it exists only because it was expected to. Much of that feeling comes from the fact that you can only hold one of the three primary weapons at a time, and you can’t freely pick which one you want—you can only swap for one of the other primary guns when they are presented to you (and you can’t pick up any of the enemies weapons).
Bravo Team wraps its cover-based shooting gallery in a paper-thin narrative. There’s effectively one character (and it isn’t you) which you see for all of two minutes at the start of the game. The rest of the game’s narrative is told to you in broad, uneventful strokes through occasional lines whispered in your ear by some sort of mission operator who likes to tell you obvious things—like, “these guys want you dead,” after getting shot at for the last 20 minutes. The totality of Bravo Team‘s narrative can hardly be said to form a story – it’s merely a setting.
By the end of the measly 2 hour and 15 minute campaign, I was excited to be done, not because I felt triumphant or victorious or heroic, but because Bravo Team’s underlying gameplay got stale fast and had little else to offer over the course of the game. A Time Attack mode lets you replay the campaign with arcade-style scoring, but for me it feels like little more than an effort to bolt on some replayability which simply isn’t there.
Immersion & Comfort
Bravo Team’s locomotion system is rather unique when it comes to PSVR titles. It’s an improvement over straight-up teleporting, as seeing your character run to the next location in third person before having your camera appear there seems to help maintain your bearings. Alas, it still suffers from the issue of not being as immersive as locomotion which keeps you inside your body the entire time.
The locomotion is comfortable, but with the camera jumping in and out of your body, sometimes changing between multiple positions during one moment of movement, you can get turned around easily. This is especially prevalent in close-quarters moments, and exacerbated by the fact that it’s often easy to mistakenly select the wrong node to move to.
No one is going to call Bravo Team a beautiful game, but I can at least appreciate that it looks sharp throughout and maintains consistent art quality and direction.
Starting with the scale of your gun, hands, and arms—which seems to be way off—Bravo Team makes it hard to feel embodied within your character. Pressing the reload button causes your arms to animate in ways that seem almost designed to destroy your sense of proprioception.
You can’t really identify with your character because—aside from shooting—there’s zero direct interaction between the player and the world, and very few opportunities to express your own play style. And let’s not forget that you literally say no words and don’t even have a name (beyond a codename). You character could be anyone at all and it wouldn’t matter one bit to Bravo Team’s narrative.
Really the only thing offering a glimpse of immersion is your ability to (more or less) realistically wield your gun with the PSVR Aim controller, though this is often foiled when the gun’s in-game aim is many crucial degrees off of the actual aim, forcing you to consciously correct on the fly. That’s more justly blamed on the controller’s own tracking than Bravo Team, but it’s important that developers understand the limitations of the hardware they’re building for, and find effective ways to avoid or at least temper those limitations.