The elite squad of United States hotshots Bravo Team think they’re home and hosed: they’ve successfully escorted the president of a fictional Eastern Europe country safely back to her destination, and all that’s left is a pat on the back and a rousing round of ‘Oorah’. But a sudden coup sees the dignitary snatched away, and much of the titular team wiped out. Left stranded with your buddy, you’re tasked with pushing your way through the foreign nation, and exfiltrating with your appendages still attached.
Designed with the PlayStation VR Aim Controller in mind, it’s no surprise that the title plays best with the plastic assault rifle in hand. While you can use the DualShock 4 or PlayStation Move if you prefer, neither option quite excels like Sony’s faux firearm. Just like in Farpoint, you’re able to physically bring the weapon up to your face in order to aim down the sights of your in-game gun, and you can also reach out or over to fire from cover.
In fact, this added layer of physicality is one of the best things about the first-person shooter. There’s no free movement, with the developer instead utilising a series of cover-points that you “snap” to. Unlike in other games, however, PlayStation VR gives you freedom of movement from your static position, so you can peek out to get a view of what’s unfolding around you – or even crouch lower to ensure you’re fully protected from incoming shots.
While the campaign is split into distinct chapters, it’s framed as one continuous journey through a vaguely Russian city. We really liked the way the scenes segued into each other, and there’s actually some good variety to the backdrops; you start out on a bridge before working your way into a police station and across the metropolis’ rooftops. The visuals are rarely ever outstanding, but there are a few memorable locations.
The action is intense, and surprisingly comfortable. Supermassive Games’ smart locomotion solution may limit your movement options, but it makes for a virtual reality experience that can be enjoyed in long sessions without causing too much fatigue. The highlight of this is the way movement is handled; as opposed to replicating the head-bob of your sprinting soldier, it pulls out to a third-person perspective during transitions, keeping you in the action without prompting you to puke.
But there are a catalogue of issues that detract from the combat. The skewed perspective – which makes everything seem comically large – was a problem in The Inpatient, and it's revived here. More frustrating are the swimmy controls and lack of variety. The former is irritating because the title demands precision, but it never ever feels as tight as Farpoint with any of its available control options.
Meanwhile, the game reveals the sum of its ambition within its first five minutes, and never really does much else. There are some sections geared towards a lacklustre stealth mechanic – though timing these attacks as a team can be fun – and other areas where you’ll need to use a sniper or a shotgun, but mostly you’ll be pushing through waves of faceless foes. The level design allows for flanking, and on higher difficulties it’s pretty tactical, but it feels like there should be more here.
Worse still, the combat just isn’t quite as satisfying as it should be. Physically leaning and poking around cover is, as alluded earlier, entertaining – but the hit reaction from enemies makes the shooting feel rather unsatisfying. In a game like this, which is all about the moment-to-moment gunfights, the act of actually shooting people is bland at best. In fact, the gunplay is arguably at its best in the supplementary score attack mode, where points multipliers and silly sound effects add a little extra satisfaction to popping heads.
All of the content, be it the standard campaign or the aforementioned arcade mode, can be played in online co-op. In fact, this is where the title is at its best. You can play with an AI companion, and you can even command the computer around using a series of gestures, but it’s when you’re in constant communication with a friend or stranger that the title feels truly at home. As always with PlayStation VR, you feel a profound connection with your partner that just can’t be replicated on standard screens.
But it’s not enough to elevate the experience out of the doldrums of mediocrity. Bravo Team has a handful of likeable components, but its sloppy shooting and limited variety let it down. It is better when enjoyed alongside a real person, but it's still barely average, and we expect the online community to bounce off it pretty quick.
Bravo Team’s tactical combat is a good fit for virtual reality, and it’s exciting peeking out of cover in order to take pot shots. But for a title focused squarely on its action, the shooting rarely feels satisfying – even when you’re armed with the excellent PSVR Aim Controller. Though the visuals are never outstanding, we like the way the title takes you on a continuous journey through a war-torn city, but limited variety means the release shows its hand within its first few minutes. And, frankly, not even online co-op will help you to care for the fate of the titular team.