A Way Out is taking on a fresh look into the mandatory two-player co-op adventure with the magic of Josef Fares and the team at Hazelight Studios are definitely brewing up something special for this prison escapade. You’re sort of playing a prison break game with A Way Out but the best thing about it is you and your buddy get to work together to bust out prison .
The unique selling point is you only need one copy of A Way Out and you can give an additional pass for another friend to play for free. The director of the game is pretty much against buying two copies of this game with a bold hashtag as stated in the tweet below.
Since you must play this game cooperatively, I think it’s good marketing strategy when you think about all the recent microtransaction fiasco with EA.
You and your friends get to experience the life of two convicts: Leo and Vincent who have vastly different personality but they fit perfectly into the storyline of the game like Yin and Yang.
Vincent, who is a quiet and mostly rational person, just began his sentence of 14 years in prison due to white-collar crimes along with a murder charge while Leo, who is a brazen and impulsive brawler who has been in prison for six months due to armed robbery charges. They end up as jailcell buddies and they begin planning their escape. They may have different personalities but they unite together against a common enemy which the players get to see as the story unfolds.
A Way Out isn’t just an ordinary split-screen game, in fact there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. I can see that the camera presentation is heavily influenced by famous crime films like The Shawshank Redemption and Scarface. This game cleverly uses the camera tricks that are usually implemented in films and applies them to the game which results in a marvellous presentation of cinematic cutscenes and action sequences.
While players typically tend to see a static 180 degree camera on characters in many games, the cinematics are brilliantly choreographed on each side of the screen and it gives out a nice transition into one single frame that happens a lot during intense action scenes.
While the game progresses further from a prison breakout to a continuous manhunt, both of the prisoners have to survive by engaging through various actions such as smuggling sheets from the prison’s laundry room, crossing a huge chasm, rafting away from the police and so much more.
Although it’s an exclusive two player video game, the players have the freedom to navigate both of the characters and choosing which actions to deal with the situation. Pick your poison carefully because both players have to agree with one decision only.
Vincent is a smooth talker so he may roam around the area, talking to NPCs while Leo is a ruffian, he could be involved in a fisticuffs with other convicts. When the tension builds up, the camera converges and shows two of them beat the thugs together. When things seem to cool down, Leo’s character might be in cutscenes while Vincent might be doing something else, not visible on the screen.
Besides the main narrative, players could interact with the NPCs and enjoy various mini activities like playing board and arcade games where you can compete for higher scores. You could even bust out a sweet melody while playing banjo and piano together (Yes, I’m not kidding).
In terms of gameplay, I’ve seen better gunfights in abundant shooter games which makes me think the cops in A Way Out are no better than the stormtroopers in Star Wars. The gameplay mechanics in general supports the cooperative spirit between two players very well as where you can work together to solve problems and you can even challenge the other player in a series of quicktime events or just mash the button non-stop.
We talked about how the game’s cinematic scenes are influenced by famous crime films but you could say those films have also influenced the plot of this game. A Way Out is set in the 1970s while the Vietnam war looms in America and we see two characters who just yearn to return home for their families. In possibly the most cliché plot ever, Leo wants to reunite with his wife and son while Vincent awaits the birth of his long-awaited baby with his wife.
Another thing I enjoyed was the humour exuded by both characters, which is quite funny in my opinion. There’s one, maybe two, scenes that are still latched onto my mind. Though the ending is quite a punch to the gut, so be prepared.
In a way, playing this game is like watching a 6 hour interactive movie. Yes, you can play it in one sitting if you can. I played 3 hours of this game using local co-op with my sister and I finished off another 3 hours with multiplayer online co-op. Make sure you have a strong internet connection for this game because I experienced a few hiccups while playing online.
Check out the first 1 hour of A Way Out in the video below:
Despite that, A Way Out feels relatively short for me. However, there’s replayability value in there for sure because there are multiple choices which lead to multiple endings in game. I wish the graphics could be better to capture a gritty, real-life escape for Leo and Vincent in such a short game but alas, this co-op only video game changes my perspective on how dramatic and simple scenes can play out in video game.
All in all, A Way Out is certainly a breath of fresh air for the interactive drama video games genre such as Heavy Rain and every Telltale Games title. It’s a must-have if you like to pick decisions that will rip your heart out and for A Way Out, you get to deliberate it with your friend!