Developed by Hazelight, a new studio put together by some of the creative minds behind the well-received Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons
, A Way Out
offers a unique gaming experience. Unlike most co-op games where the ability to play with a friend makes for an optional wrinkle, A Way Out
forces you to play with a partner and uses split-screen as a tool to tell the game’s interesting story, even when you’re playing over Xbox Live.
Set in the 1970s, A Way Out
is a cinematic experience that tells the story of Leo and Vincent, a pair of prison inmates who meet at the start of the game and discover that they share a common enemy. With a plan in place to escape from the big house and hunt down the man who has done them wrong, the pair quickly realises that they will need to work together as a team if they are to succeed — even if they are reluctant to do so initially.
Throughout their six-hour long journey, the excellent writing helps to flesh out both Leo and Vincent’s stories, adding believable motives for their decisions and emotional weight to their fledgling friendship, which succeeds despite their vastly different personalities. Vincent is calm and likes to try and talk his way out of tricky situations, whereas Leo prefers to act first and use violence. By the end of the game, it’s almost impossible to not feel emotionally connected to both characters as you head towards its memorable climax.
Whilst the story in A Way Out
is engaging throughout — even if it does follow some clichéd tropes at times — where the game really sets itself apart is in the use of cooperative play as a vehicle to drive the narrative. Regardless of whether you are playing with someone in the same room or over Xbox Live, the game uses constant, dynamic splitscreen to allow each player to always be privy to what the other is doing, and the screen often changes aspect ratio to effectively frame the drama in certain ways.
Being a game that is heavily focused on the narrative, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it plays out like a walking simulator or Telltale-style point-and-click adventure. Sure, there are some similarities. You’ll spend a fair amount of time in dialogue-heavy scenes, button mashing in quick time events and solving simplistic puzzles as a duo, but in between you’ll also experience some incredibly choreographed moments of action like car chases, parachute jumps, gun fights and even a 2D perspective side-scrolling fighting scene to help add some well-delivered pacing to both the gameplay and story. The cleverly put together hospital scene, which maintains a single camera shot throughout and seamlessly switches from one character to the next on multiple occasions is a definite highlight.
Though the game can be played with strict linearity, many levels act like hubs that are filled with small details for players to discover at their own pace. Leo and Vincent will often have different optional responses available when talking to NPCs for example, and there are lots of interactive objects and mini-games that players will miss completely if they rush the main the story. In my first playthrough I spent a solid five minutes arm wrestling for no reason other than bragging rights with my co-op partner.
Being so diverse is one part blessing and one part A Way Out
’s only curse. As a form of breaking up the gameplay the variation of different activities and moments to find works extremely well. Unfortunately, the controls for many of those sections often feel clunky, to say the least. The game's action sequences suffer similarly. The cover mechanic is annoying, and the shooting feels sloppy when compared to other games, but thankfully, those moments will only make up a small portion of your time with the game.
The puzzle sections of A Way Out
will likely feel familiar to fans of other narrative-driven games due to their simplistic nature and forgiving checkpoints which helps to keep the story progressing, but the addition of having a friend along for the ride adds an interesting layer as you will be required to work together to progress. The game is filled with moments that utilize its co-op quite well, like early in the game when one player attempts to chisel away a hole behind a cell toilet whilst the other player keeps watch for patrolling guards, or when both players climb back-to-back up a shaft. A Way Out
succeeds at keeping both players feeling engaged throughout.
before it, you can finish playing A Way Out
's story without unlocking any of the game’s achievements. There are 14 available in total, each one requiring some exploration off the beaten path. If you miss any on your first playthrough, you can use chapter select to pick them up. It’s worth mentioning as well that the achievements will only unlock for players who own the game. Players using the free trial won’t unlock them.
SummaryA Way Out
provides a unique cinematic experience that redefines the way narrative-driven games can be played, thanks to its engaging story and varied gameplay that will keep both players interested throughout, though the controls can often feel clunky. Side by side or over the internet, if you're looking for a game to play with a friend, A Way Out
is an unforgettable co-op experience.
- Engaging story and characters
- Varied gameplay
- Amazing cinematic visuals
The reviewer played through the game twice to experience the journey from both Vincent and Leo's perspective and unlocked all 14 of the game's achievements. The review was written using a copy of the game that the writer purchased.