Ever watched one those spy movies where some secret agent is working their way through some enemy complex whilst being led only by their accomplice who’s examining some intricate map of the area, and thought to yourself ‘I could do that’? Well, with new PlayStation VR release Black Hat Cooperative you can – as long as you have a friend to play with you.
Taking a similar approach to titles like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Black Hat Cooperative sees players working together and carefully communicating with one another through different means, with one player taking control of the protagonist in the heat of the action in the PlayStation VR headset and another working as guidance and leading them through each level by examining a map on the TV screen. It’s co-op gameplay at its finest and makes for a fun (and sometimes a little frustrating) experience.
The player in the virtual reality headset is the one who controls all of the action. They’ll be the one working through the maze-like levels and listening to the guide player as they direct them where to go (and how to avoid confrontation with enemies). In honesty, it’s quite a simple role, though players do have a few tricks up their sleeve such as being able scan patrolling enemies and giving the guide player a code to momentarily freeze them. For most the most part though, they simply have to listen to instructions and just follow them carefully.
The guide player on the other hand will have a full view of the map on the TV screen, with all of the enemies (and their patrol routes), traps, and items clearly marked on it. They’ll also be able to input codes given to them by the virtual reality player, which can be used to sabotage enemies or open locked doors.
In honesty, the guide player has the more interesting role – they’re the one who puts together a plan to escape and ensure that the virtual reality player doesn’t die. There’s no denying that giving out instructions is typically a lot more fun that simply following them, and that’s the case here in Black Hat Cooperative. It’s also just so happens to be the tougher role, with careful planning needed to find the best route through a level.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that being the virtual reality player isn’t fun, but rather that taking on the role of the guide is probably better. Both roles are enjoyable and pivotal to success though, and I’d certainly recommend swapping between the two often to get the most out of the game.
Whichever role you take on, you need to work together carefully if you’re going to have any chance of success. This is where Black Hat Cooperative really shines – you’ve not only got to be communicating with each other clearly, but be able to react and think quick enough so that you can get out of any tricky situation. There were plenty of moments where I was playing the game with a friend and I’d blame him for his ‘s**t directions’, or he’d blame me for not listening as I fell into yet another trap.
This might sound like a bit of a pain, but it actually adds to the experience and makes it all the more fun. The communication elements of Black Hat Cooperative are pivotal throughout and really demand both players are switched on, but when a plan comes together and you flawlessly make your way through a level there’s no denying that it’s really satisfying.
That being said, Black Hat Cooperative’s a tough game even if you are communicating with each other perfectly. Levels are maze-like, full of patrolling enemies, and absolutely riddled with traps, so you’ve really got to be on the ball to get through them. Worst of all though, when the virtual reality player moves across each level, their footsteps make a noise that the enemy can detect and investigate. This makes it hard work to evade capture in a rush, especially since only the guide player can actually see how much noise is being made and whether the enemies will be able to hear it – add to that the fact that this noise can be heard through walls, and you’ll find yourself in some really tricky predicaments that are hard to escape. It was the only time the game felt a little bit unfair in its design, which when partnered with the already difficult level design could make for a few frustrating scenarios.
Black Hat Cooperative could also be a little bit guilty of lacking in variety, with the mechanics found in the opening few levels not changing much throughout the entirety of the game. Levels get progressively difficult as you progress, but neither player will do much different throughout these levels – it’s still just a case of making your way to the exit and avoiding the same old enemies or traps.
Of course, swapping around each player’s role on a regular basis can help this, whilst the game has the sort of simple appeal to it where it doesn’t really need to change all that much anyway. It’s certainly noticeable that the game doesn’t vary much as you progress as far as gameplay is concerned, but most of the time you’ll be too busy guiding each other (or arguing over another botched escape attempt) to notice.
Developer: Team Future
Publisher: Team Future
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift