Co-op games have always been a hit and miss experience over the years with some games succeeding whilst others failed miserably. A Way Out does co-op in a way I haven’t seen before that truly will change the way you view co-op games forever. This is A Way Out.
I first remember seeing the trailer and gameplay footage for A Way Out back at E3 2017 where Josef Fares introduced his concept to the gaming world. I was intrigued by the escape and survive type of mechanic as well as the co-operative experience as you and a friend work together in a bid to find A Way Out of prison. How you got there and why is revealed throughout the game in small cut scenes that slowly piece together as you play and is executed extremely well.
A Way Out is set in the 1970’s and is based around two characters named Leo and Vincent. In order to play A Way Out, you must have another player join you and for the purposes of the review, CJ from Daily Joystick Podcasts gladly obliged. In fact only one person needs to purchase the game and your co-op partner can enjoy the experience for free which was great to see. Together we embarked on the story and were excited to see what A Way Out was all about, aside from the obvious need to escape prison.
As you begin you will need to choose a character each, either Vincent or Leo. At the start of the game you really don’t have much of an idea as to who is who, but I pretty much picked the character I felt was more like me, so I went with Leo and CJ selected Vincent. The game begins aboard a plane, set at some stage in the future showing you that you are indeed out of jail so to speak, so no spoilers there. However the game plays as a series of flashbacks on how that journey unfolded until you catch up to that point several hours later. It’s a great way to present the story and instantly made me want to know more about their past, how they met, what led them here and ultimately how would it all end?
A Way Out does a great job at telling its story for each of the characters. The split screen design in A Way Out has for example, Vincent’s story on the left side of the screen and Leo’s on the right. As I played through my section of the story, I could glance over and continue to watch what CJ was doing over on Vincent’s side of the story. It’s executed very well and in some parts you could watch each other, whilst in others sections your focus was purely on what you have to do. In a classic resident evil style set up there are moments where you need to work together in the laundry room where one player would cause a distraction whilst the other player would complete the task. All the while, you could watch your partners screen to see when the coast was clear to execute your strategy. It’s these moments where the co-operative gameplay truly shined and team work was an absolute must if you intended on breaking out of prison.
The reasons for Leo and Vincent both being in prison as well as their back stories is something I won’t share nor spoil in this review, however what I can say is their motivations align and they both share a common goal, which is why they work together. A Way Out does a fantastic job at telling each of their stories and you feel for both inmates and what they’ve been through all of which boils up to one of the best finale’s I’ve seen. In fact as I continued to play, the game continued to evolve and the story and plot thickened and each time we finished a chapter we were so impressed with how the game continued to draw us in, never boring us once along the journey.
As the title suggests and the opening credits imply, you do escape the prison, that’s a fact. However the survival in the outside world was also full of challenges and experiences. Exploring the open world, although on a linear path, gave you the option to do a few silly things such as playing darts, fixing a motorcycle, hitting a home run and even playing an arcade machine. Throughout the game you will also drive a car, ride a bike, run as fast as you can, each of these activities and their mechanics work very well. You never feel bored despite the games 5 and a half hour run time being relatively short.
In terms of replayability there is the ability to select different approaches to situations throughout the game. At many of these points, you can select to do things Leo’s way or Vincent’s way. Leo tends to talk with his hands if you know what I mean, whilst Vincent uses his mouth to talk his way out of situations as well. Which method you prefer is entirely up to you but there is reason to go back and try from each characters perspective.
Graphics & Sound
Visually, A Way Out looked quite impressive despite having essentially two games on the screen at once. At first I would have thought split screen gaming degrades the quality however this is not the case. The game hoped along at a solid pace, never once grabbing our attention for any of the wrong reasons. The Xbox One X version comes with two graphics mode settings, one for prioritising resolution and the other for better performance. The first half of the game ran at the default setting for performance, but the second half we dialled it up to increase the resolution given we were both running A Way Out on Xbox One X hardware. Unfortunately this option is not present for the PlayStation 4 making the Xbox One X the definitive version here.
A Way Out was the first title since the original Gears of War that actually had me excited for some co-op gameplay. Co-op awesomeness aside, A Way Out was simply engrossing to play and was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed to the end, as did CJ. A game doesn’t come along very often where I cannot put the controller down from start to finish in one setting, however A Way Out certainly was that great of an experience for us both. It’s great to see titles like A Way Out that encourages co-operative play and makes that accessible for everyone. That aside, A Way Out is an amazing game with a great story that I am confident you will love, plus it’s incredibly well priced to boot.