I – belatedly - went in to A Way Out with rather high expectations. Josef Fares’s well known outburst during the announcement of the title led to strong anticipation for a couch/online coop game that many had dreamt about.
Having heard high levels of positivity from the release last year - and I myself being a big cooperative game fan - I also had high hopes for a unique storytelling and gameplay experience. However, during my 6-8 hour play through experience, neither the story, the slow gameplay, nor the cast, offered me a largely forgettable experience.
*Minor story spoilers*
The marketing led me to believe the game revolved around a tantalising prison escape of the two protagonists, yet following the first chapter the player is faced with various gameplay areas which are mostly uninspiring. Following the prison escape, the story does however open up and we begin to learn much more about our playable characters and why they are doing time.
The backstories of the characters are rather interesting, well-timed cut scenes provide narrative to their persona and offer suitably paced build up to the shocking finale. Leo, the more fiery and certainly more memorable of two has a young family and this plays through in his character development. Vincent, the character with the head more firmly screwed on has a more shady unknown background which the game suitably drip feeds you.
The camaraderie between Leo and Vincent does develop very well throughout the games dialogue, and actions that you undertake as the players play in to the duo’s relationship. You can undertake side tasks – often competitive – including baseball, board games, and other activities that are a nice sidestep from the main game and certainly built my affinity with Leo (my played character). The voice acting is done pretty well – albeit with slightly cringe worthy accents. Each character has their own dialogue options with other NPCs and it is recommended that you speak with each NPC as both characters. Some of the dialogue is quite comedic, yet the dialogue choices do not appear to have any direct impact on your progress.
The simple gameplay in A Way Out is totally serviceable, it controls well yet offers little challenge to more experienced action game players. The infrequent over the shoulder shooting sections are dull, and the gunplay itself is frustrating. The game clearly could have benefitted from having some better gun animation and feel. Furthermore, there are driving action sequences on a couple of occasions which didn’t control well at all; notably a late game motorbike section where the vehicle controls are quite possibly the worst I have experienced since the original Watch Dogs.
The above would be tough on A Way Out, given it is not by design a full action experience. The non-action sections which include stealth and cooperative actions to complete tasks are totally fine, yet there are few of these that you will have not seen in other games which support coop. The stalwart of both holding X to boost up ledges makes an unsurprising return. To be fair to A Way Out, it does a fresh take on coop play, and there are thankfully few moments where one player can be frustrated by the other
What I did think was excellent in A Way Out’s gameplay was seeing my cooperative partners screen throughout. During sections where we were separated but had to complete actions to get the other to the next stage, watching my partner did provide quite a lot of needed gameplay comedy. The camera work in the game really is excellent, and the way the centre screen divider seamlessly moves to ensure you’re focusing on the right character works better than I’ve seen in probably any other game ever.
Visually the game looks okay. The character models and facial expressions look and act realistically, and the environments are all distinct from one another. The graphical style of the game however isn’t one that benefits clearly from 4K enhancements available on Xbox One X.
For TA community achievement hunters, this is a totally achievable completion. The achievements are all tied to performing specific non-story activities during the game, and I only had difficulty with ‘The Dip’ achievement which required superhuman levels of sustained speedy button mashing – enough to genuinely make a drop of sweat appear on my brow. There are some lovely guides available for all achievements on the site, and Maka has a great YouTube video showing you how to unlock them all.
Important: It should be noted that playing the game as a ‘buddy’ (being invited to play, but not owning the game) will not allow you to unlock any achievements.
A Way Out is a solid game that achieves what it set out to do. The dull gameplay is its main downfall, but for a 6-8 hour ride with a friend you could go worse.
Who’s it for: Coop gamers; Gamers looking for a comfortable non-challenging experience; Achievement hunters.
Who’s it not for: Gamers who want a challenging experience; Gamers who don’t enjoy an abundance of cut scenes.
Score: 3/5 – Play it via EA Access, or wait for a sale