Where I once had long-held doubts over the real viability of first person shooters in VR, as natural as that idea might feel, developers of all sizes have rather quickly managed to find ways to overcome the obstacles in the way of making these feel both natural and intuitive. We’ve had the likes of Arizona Sunshine and Raw Data from indies, but Sony have really been pushing the genre forward with this year’s Farpoint, while Blood & Truth and Bravo Team wait in the wings.
Bravo Team is another game really geared towards playing with the Aim Controller peripheral, casting you as a soldier and asking you to fight through a city filled with hostile forces trying to stage a coup. What’s different here is that, while you can play solo, it’s really been built around the notion of co-op and fighting alongside a buddy, moving from cover to cover and working as a team to take out the enemy soldiers.
In the wake of an explosive assassination, you and your buddy have to pick themselves up off the ground and try to find a way out of the situation, fighting through a hostile city in real time across the game’s three or so hours. Right off the bat, you have to learn how the game’s cover and movement systems work, and it’s a fascinating setup that works surprisingly well.
Neil McEwan, Game Director for Supermassive Games explained, “To avoid the concept of motion sickness and to keep the action frantic, the player points their controller at a cover point up ahead, and that identifies it as partial or full cover, and then selects that. The other player can use suppression fire as well as he’s running. And then in third person you see your character run to cover, and then as soon as you’re in cover, you’re back to first person, so you’re going cover to cover.”
It does work surprisingly well, even if it is unusual to see your character run off to a piece of cover up ahead. Moving between pieces of cover works best with your buddy there to offer covering fire, and using the classic tactic of leapfrogging each other and taking turns as the man at the front.
It’s relatively easy to get detached or push just that little bit too far forward if you’re reckless – one amusing moment had me and a bad guy on opposite sides of a door, as though it were a skit ripped out of Police Squad. Thankfully, the demo didn’t punish such behaviour too harshly, but the difficulty will be ramped up for the final game.
“We try to build the levels so it’s more advantageous for you to take the left and the right,” Neil said, “such as the little bit with [one path through the] container there, but there are moments where one of you boosts the other player up to a platform, and then you’ve got an elevated position where you can cover you buddy and stuff. So yeah, we’ve tried to build it around co-op.”
Further to that, since this admittedly rather old demo, Sledgehammer have worked to make the AI much more dynamic. A “Troop Manager” system will determine when and where enemies are spawned so it doesn’t feel as scripted, and their behaviours will start to see enemies trying to flank your position, so that being able to pull a 180º turn actually might be necessary for your survival.
The gunplay is fluid and precise feeling with the Aim Controller in hand, mimicking the assault rifle in your character’s hands, and the controls are kept relatively simple and intuitive. While PSVR can struggle with tracking in certain situations, Neil was able to boast that when sniping, there’s no need for a hold breath button to stabilise your shot, you simply need to actually hold your breath.
While the ageing demo is definitely rough around the edges and relatively early, it shows potential for a good, all-round tactical shooter in VR, especially as Neil spoke about how the game’s development has pushed on since then. Ramping up the difficulty and fostering more co-op play will certainly elevate the game further.
Of course, while this is meant as a co-op shooter, I just had to ask about friendly fire and being able to “accidentally” shoot your buddy in the back? “Yeah,” Neil said before stating, “You’re the first British guys I’ve seen, and that’s the first time that question’s come up! Friendly fire is turned off here, though.”