Developer: Supermassive Games
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation VR
Alongside The Inpatient, Bravo Team was meant to be one of PlayStation VR’s stellar exclusive releases towards the end of 2017. Again, much like The Inpatient, it saw a delay, which is typically a good thing in gaming – it’s always nice to get those extra few months of development polish, right?
Whilst The Inpatient proved to be a gripping horror experience though, it’s hard not to feel disappointed with Bravo Team. Pitched as a co-operative shooter that focused on all-out cover-based action, it instead has some poor design choices and ends up feeling like an unimaginative shooting experience. Don’t get me wrong, the gunplay itself is enjoyable and it has moments where it shines, but overall it just lacks the excitement that it’s promised since its initial reveal.
Put in the shoes of one of the members of the Bravo Team, you’ve been tasked with escorting the President of a fictional Eastern European country to safety. Of course, this is a video game, and things go drastically wrong when your envoy is attacked and the President is presumably killed. With just two members of the team left alive, you’ve got to fight your way through an onslaught of enemies as you look to make your way back to safety.
Bravo Team’s narrative is decent enough, with it offering your typical military-focused blitz through a city in the midst of a coup. It’s a little predictable and you won’t particularly feel any form of emotion for the personality-less Bravo Team itself, but it offered enough excitement to keep me motivated to see it through its end. There are multiple endings on offer too, with two different finale sequences that play out based upon your choice in-game – neither are particularly lengthy, but it at least makes the conclusion a bit more interesting.
The shooting mechanics of Bravo Team actually feel very satisfying, with four different weapons to use in total: an assault rifle, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and a silenced pistol. Each weapon has their own pros and cons, with the shotgun offering all out power and the assault rifle a lot more accuracy for example. My personal favourite was the shotgun, though that could be owed to the fact that some of the latter levels see you working through more tight and confined areas where it’s a lot easier to take out your enemies up-close.
In the same vein as lightgun shooters such as Time Crisis, Bravo Team allows you to dip in and out of cover with a button press, though there’s an emphasis on full body movement too. You might be hiding behind a wall, but an enemy could still possibly reach out at you from above – actually ducking your body out of the way will help with this. I mean, seriously, the amount of times where I physically dropped to a knee to get an advantage over a particularly accurate enemy was ridiculous. You’re also able to lean around corners to pick off enemies, though this wasn’t always as satisfying; my gun had a tendency to get caught by my cover, with the game simply not allowing you to shoot unless you’re aiming outside of it.
One tip I’d definitely give is to play through the game with the Aim controller. Not only are all of the weapons designed to be used with two hands in-game, but the controls and general shooting just feel a heck of a lot more satisfying too. The Dual-Shock and Move controllers are supported, but they’re just a little hard to recommend – it’s not that they’re awful to use (well… the Move controllers aren’t great…) but rather that the experience is built with the Aim controller in mind.
Whilst the shooting itself is mighty satisfying, Bravo Team lacks variety in its level design. Almost all of the game’s levels follow the same routine of simply bouncing in-between cover and taking down enemies from all angles. There are multiple routes you can take, but they don’t really change gameplay up all that much besides from the fact that you might be taking down enemies from a higher position or without them noticing you. The game adopts the ‘infinite enemies’ trick too, with a constant onslaught of foes coming your way in most locations until you find the correct route to take – this isn’t really a problem per se, but it can leave you in a vulnerable position where you’re constantly getting downed by foes as you try to figure out where you need to go.
Simply put, Bravo Team could’ve done with a few more exciting set-pieces. Instead, everything felt the same no matter where you were in the game. There are a few moments where it shines like the opening level where you’ve got to evade some heavy artillery fire or when you use a sniper rifle to take out foes from afar, but these moments are few and far between when compared to the typically bland and repetitive level design itself. It’ll only take you around two to three hours to finish the game too, so it’s not as if it’s getting boring because it’s simply dragging on.
Disappointingly, Bravo Team doesn’t actually support free movement – instead, you’ll point at specific areas of cover in-game and automatically move towards them. It’s a shame, especially given how great the Aim controller actually is regarding movement in other titles, but it’s something other games have done well so it’s typically an easy control scheme to embrace. However, the team at Supermassive Games made the odd design choice of forcing movement to take a third-person view as you watch your character run from fixed camera angles. I can appreciate that this is to provide a more comfortable experience for those who may not have their virtual reality bearings, but it’s so immersion-breaking in-game and completely takes you out of the experience. You do get used to it, but you’ll never like it – here’s hoping that a patch might be released to at least offer the option to see movement from a first-person perspective in the future.
You’re not alone when playing Bravo Team, with an AI partner given to you when playing in the single player mode. They can be a godsend at times, thanks to the support fire they provide and the fact that they can help you up if you’re ever downed.
However, the AI itself can be incredibly flawed, which opens the game up to some frustrating moments. Sometimes it’s small things, like your partner hanging back in a level when you’re calling them forward or just taking an unreasonably long time to make their way to you when you’re downed – these moments aren’t so bad and are more easy to forgive. However, there were times when it just bordered on being broken, with my teammate getting stuck in the environment, not healing me when downed despite being right next to me, or even running on the spot aimlessly and not being able to move. A few of these moments demanded a restart of the game, which isn’t only frustrating but completely breaks up the flow of action.
Of course, Bravo Team’s redeeming factor is the inclusion of an online multiplayer component – you can play through the entirety of the main campaign with a friend by your side. Besides offering a huge improvement upon the game’s somewhat shoddy partner AI, multiplayer also allows you to properly co-ordinate during some of the game’s more action-packed encounters. There are a few ways in which you can approach each level in the game thanks to the multiple routes you can take, so being able to exploit enemy positions this way through proper teamwork was a lot of fun.
I’ve finished Bravo Team three times now across multiple difficulties, and it was definitely in multiplayer where it gave its best showing – it’s certainly a lot easier to overlook the lack of gameplay variety when playing with a friend. Its short length may seem like a flaw to some, but on a personal basis it’s already helped the game become a ‘go to’ for co-operative PlayStation VR action.
Outside of the main campaign, Bravo Team also features a Score Attack mode that challenges you to rack up high scores by killing enemies. It rewards a speedy and accurate approach, with quick kills and combinations seeing you earn more points as long as you can keep it going without stepping away from the action too much. It’s a fun little mode, and it can also be played in multiplayer, so it’s a neat way to compete with others to prove who’s the best member of Bravo Team.
Visually, the game looks good. The textures are clear, environments are well-designed, and there’s some good lighting effects in place too – sure, it doesn’t look as good as your typical modern first-person shooter, but it certainly shines for the PlayStation VR hardware.
It’s just a bit lacking in imagination. You know those brown and murky locales you visited in last gen’s early first-person shooters? Well, they show up again in Bravo Team, with no level in the game feeling distinctly unique or particularly exciting. It’s not necessarily a flaw because, as mentioned, the game looks good. It just plays it a little too safe, and with no real element of destruction to the action, environments can just start to feel a little familiar over time.