“Fuck the Oscars! This is the real shit, right here.” At least that is what creator and director Josef Fares said loud and clear regarding his new title A Way Out at the 2017 Game Awards. Given his enthusiasm, it wasn’t a stretch to believe that this experience would not be an extremely good one, especially after some of the team from StarBreeze Studios’ excellent Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons all seem to have followed Farez to new developer Hazelight.
A Way Out is a definitive co-op third person adventure title. I say definitive because, from the jump, this game is co-op only. It cannot be played as a single-player game in any way. You must have a partner on the couch next to you with another controller or someone with a copy of the game ready to jump in with you online. Regardless of whether you run couch co-op or online play, the game is a vertical split screen experience.
You take control of either Leo (played by Josef Fares himself) or Vincent (Eri Krogh), both serving time in a correctional facility for reasons that are unclear at first. You both don’t get along very well initially but as the story progresses you grow a closer friendship as you help each other survive inside the prison.
As you do some odd jobs around the penitentiary together (use the exercise equipment, talk to random NPC’s, do the laundry) a plan to get out of dodge and get revenge on the man responsible for both of your incarcerations begins to form.
The game itself is a very basic, by the numbers experience — walk here, press this button to talk to people, press another single button to pick up or interact with objects around you. I do wish these interactions had more meaning or served a purpose but they don’t. I sat carving a piece of wood for ages, but it turned out to be for nothing. It did bring back fond memories of an old Broken Sword style point and click adventure. There is no real skill involved throughout the entire game experience at all, but that’s not saying it’s a bad thing, not by a long stretch.
Interacting with the environment and each other, you begin to grow a deeper and more caring bond between the two characters and whoever you’re playing with. You both laugh, you both cringe and you both get very emotional (if you have a heart) towards the epic finale together. It is, after all, about the story, not about how many people you can gun down.
A little bit of cover based shooting towards the final chapters of the story and a couple of car chases break up the rest of the game’s 5-6 hour story. I had a bit of time playing both characters and there is no difference in controls, only very minor interactions within the game have different outcomes due to them being two completely different personalities (Josef Fares’s Leo, being my favourite), but in no way change the story or its ending.
I’d love to point out the fact that I am surprised that EA have anything to do with such a unique experience, a game in which you can only play with a friend and even give that friend a free trial copy to play through the entire game? It has surprised me and it’s a major step forward for the publisher after having a pretty shit run with other titles and micro-transaction nonsense this fiscal year.
If you loved the Prison Break TV Series, with its Prison Breaking (of course) and its conspiracy theory wrapped plotline once outside of the prison, this is the game for you and a friend, if you’re after a massive open world game, or an action orientated prison shooter, this might not be for you, if you want a fantastic and unique tale (after the first 2 hours anyway), some characters that you won’t soon forget and some emotional gut-punching that their previous work (Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons) brought in bucket loads. This is one game you won’t soon forget despite its very, very simplistic gameplay.
Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: Once you’re through the initial few hours, the characters, narrative, musical score and gameplay leave a long-lasting impression.
Lowlights: Very Simplistic on rails gameplay, your nan can even join in! having side missions or interactions mean something more would have been nicer.
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Publisher: EA Games
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows PC
Review conducted on Xbox One X with retail code provided by the publisher.