A Way Out is a game I had my eye on from the moment I heard about it. My wife and I like to play co-op games, and there have been a number of games I’ve played that she has enjoyed watching, asking if there is a co-op mode. Often the answer is either “No”, or “Yes, but only online” which tends to be disappointing. One of those games was Heavy Rain, so coming across a co-op story driven adventure was somewhat exciting. We played it through together, and here’s how it went!
No spoilers here folks!
We begin in the 1970s, with protagonists Leo and Victor in a plane, heading somewhere. Players choose who they want to be and get a little background on them. I selected Leo (younger, brash, in prison for robbery) whilst my wife went with Victor (older, more level-headed, about to go to prison for murder). In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll keep this simple. The two characters meet in prison for crimes they supposedly didn’t commit, and find that they have common ground. Leo has a plan to find A WAY OUT(!) and needs a little help. Thus begins their adventure to escape prison and clear their names.
I will say that we very much enjoyed the majority of the story. Through the prison escape and beyond, the characters feel as though they are bonding over the escape, the following encounters, and even the little minigames like Connect 4 or horseshoes. The ending though, feels quite contrived. It feels as though the developers wanted there to be a specific ending and created a reason for those events to happen rather than it feeling organic. I know I normally save my critique until later on in these write ups, but I feel it’s worth mentioning at this point.
The time building up to this point was great though. The early sections are very reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption, with one person keeping an eye out for guards whilst the other unbolts a grate. Later, players will need to solve puzzles together, or survive combat scenes with one driving a car whilst the other covers them with gunfire. These sound like fairly ordinary things for a co-op game, but in the context of the game, they are very satisfying and work very well. It feels like a Quantic Dreams game that David Cage wishes he could make (come on Detroit! Be good!)
Puzzles mostly involve finding items around the area to use, or teaming up to open doors and such. Combat takes the form of third person cover based shooting. Neither reinvent the wheel but both work well enough and serve their purpose. The combat does get a little samey towards the end of the game where it becomes more prevalent, and there aren’t many opportunities to change your weapon of choice. The controls here were solid enough though, so mechanically it’s mostly fine. It’s also a fairly stable game, although I did come across a hilarious bug that launched Leo 5 miles into the air. There’s no fall damage though and we ended up skipping past a couple of checkpoints.
Visually, the game is pretty good, with some really well detailed environments. Characters are well animated and show more emotion than the average David Cage character where appropriate. The music is great and quite fitting throughout, but the voices are a little off at times. Characters talking outside sound as though they are inside a room, and occasionally the voice actors slip out of the accent they’re doing. It’s nothing jarring, but it was noticed a couple of times.
It’s at this point that I realise this write-up is actually very difficult (and not terribly good as a result!). This is a game in which the story takes centre stage, and whilst the gameplay is solid enough to carry it, it plays second fiddle. Without spoiling the game and the events in it, there’s only so much I can say about it. But I’ll point out this, if you have a significant other in your life and can play this locally, I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it. Whilst online is an option, I don’t think the scenes of significance would have nearly as much impact if you’re playing with someone miles away. In short, for the cost of entry, you’ll get an excellent 5 hour experience that I don’t think you could get anywhere else.
A Way Out was developed by Hazelight Studios and published by EA (I know!). I played the game on Xbox One and would seriously recommend it to people looking for a co-op experience unlike most others. There’s a mostly great story here with some genuinely touching moments that’s well worth the price of entry.