When I first heard about A Way Out, advertised as a fully cooperative, story driven game, I was apprehensive, to say the least. Looking into it, it looked like it was going to turn out to be a canned story on rails, with little to no compelling gameplay elements. I am very pleased to admit, I was terribly, horribly wrong.
A Way Out, as mentioned, is a 100% cooperative gameplay experience. You cannot pick up this game and assign a computer controlled partner, as you could in games like Resident Evil 5&6 (to varying degrees of success). You must play this game with another human player (although it would not surprise me if some daffy Twitch streamer decided to try and play both characters at once, either with a controller in each hand, or using their feet). While this may seem a frustrating stipulation for some, the developers have made a very compelling allowance to players. If you have a friend you want to play with, but they don’t live near you, instead of both of you each having to buy a copy of the game, only one friend has to buy the game, and the other can download the “demo” version of the game, and they can play the entire game with you on your copy.
The story centers around two inmates, Vincent and Leo. Vincent is described as a more reserved, logical individual, whereas Leo is cocky, and comes off as more of a loose cannon. For obvious reasons, the two do not get along at first. However, Vincent endears himself to Leo, certain that Leo is his ticket out of prison. Realizing they have more in common than they expected, they decide to work together to escape. Their difference in character plays into the story quite a bit, as the players are presented with choices they have to make, and agree on, based on either character. Will you go with Vincent’s more reserved, diplomatic solution to a problem? Or will you try Leo’s more direct, headstrong approach? Needless to say, your choices will play a large part in how you proceed through the game, and the game does appear to have multiple endings.
The gameplay is primarily based around a series of environmental puzzles. For example, one task involves sneaking a wrench out of the prison workshop, and back into your cell, collaborating to get past metal detectors and guards. Most of the puzzles involve this level of cooperation, but there are chase portions and other segments of the game where you work independently to complete separate tasks. These puzzles, surprisingly, don’t get old. Certain areas of the game are also peppered with little tasks that you and your partner can compete in, racking up points against one another, and building the competitive aspect of the game. Horseshoes, darts, even playing the banjo, are all ways for you to gain an edge of superiority over your companion.
Another factor that made for a pleasant surprise in the game was the use of split screen. While most multiplayer games shy away from split screen formats, almost eliminating couch co-op entirely, A Way Out embraces and champions the format. The developers use the split screen as a tool in the game, to emphasize certain actions or story moments. While both characters are often fully in control, some moments involve only one of them in a heavier, more emotional scene, in which case, the split in the screen will slowly slide to cover the whole screen. In other segments, there may be an NPC of particular note, that both players need to be aware of, so they will even earn their own space on the screen. This actually gives the game a sort of comic book panel feel to it, similar to XIII, for those who have played it. While it takes some getting used to, and can get a little confusing when both characters are holding a dialogue separately, on each screen, it actually comes to be one of the more immersive features of the game.
It would be a sin to spoil the end of this game, but allow me to simply say that it is an ending to be experienced, and what truly sets this game apart from any other co-op experience I’ve had. It’s amazing and terrible, and really brings the game to an emotional close. Overall, A Way Out is a game that I cannot recommend enough. For anybody who enjoys gaming, especially with a friend, this is a co-op experience that will stick with you for some time.
Have you played A Way Out yet, or do you think you will? Who did you play, and how did you feel about the ending? What was your favorite segment or element of the game? Let us know in the comments!