It is always a good thing when innovation leads to something new. While the concept of A Way Out is by no means a groundbreaking breakthrough (a co-op adventure), the whole package feels refreshing and packs an emotional punch that is complemented by generally competent co-op and action sequences.
If you have had the pleasure of playing director Josef Fares previous work, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, you would know how integral cooperation is, with players controlling two characters at the same time and overcoming puzzles. A Way Out is similar in that vein, with the exception of having each character being controlled by one player.
There is no AI or single-player, just you and a partner, either locally or online, and it works to perfection in terms of both gameplay and narrative.
Following the story of convicts Leo and Vincent, we are slowly introduced to a bigger conspiracy that draws both men together for one single goal. Leo is the loose cannon, often suggesting the most direct method of getting things done, and Vincent is more methodical and calm.
A Way Out pays more attention to its story than most games, and gameplay is generally relegated to performing simple actions, except for a few handful of gunplay or driving sequences. Its simplicity makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play, and for a game demanding co-op, it is a perfect fit.
Regardless of the character you choose, there are no gameplay differences, but dialogue is specific, which can make for some interesting tidbits when talking to the same NPC twice. With the screen split in half, there is a degree of freedom in which players can move and interact with the richly realised world.
Carry out mundane tasks like chopping firewood, playing the piano, board games, and exercise, or just jump straight into your objectives. These distractions make the world more fun to explore, and although it can break the narrative flow, we are playing a game after all.
Of course, the co-op elements are the star, and they are simply the best bits of A Way Out.
Aside from the usual holding of a button, the game offers moments that require you and your partner work in tandem. An early example has you trying to steal a tool, while your partner has to distract the guards around you, while the window of opportunity can be forgiving, it still provides a sense of tension and excitement that few games do. There are some gems here not worth spoiling, just experience the greatness for what it is.
There is plenty to see and do, and the game’s visuals do not disappoint with its style and aesthetic. The shifting camera does great, conveying a cinematic feel especially at important moments, and really shines when it plays with the perspectives of the split-screen.
With its narrative focused approach, the story had to be stellar. While it can be quite derivative, drawing from classics like The Shawshank Redemption, Scarface, to TV shows like Prison Break, it remains generally well-paced and developed.
The main attraction is the relationship between Leo and Vincent. From distrusting convicts to becoming true partners, it is a pleasure to experience their growth from start to finish. The actors have done a remarkable job conveying emotions and dialogue, and it makes the story way more interesting that it has any right to be.
A Way Out relies heavily on co-op, and it pays off handsomely. Not just in-game, but having someone along the ride makes everything more fun. From narrowly escaping threats or performing tasks together, there is a sense of accomplishment that is augmented by the shared nature.
Then again, if you keep failing a sequence, the dread is multiplied, especially when you can direct the ire at someone next to you or online.
Looking at its different parts, A Way Out is certainly familiar, but together, it comes together spectacularly. From its visuals, the gameplay, and the story, having a partner, much like Leo and Vincent, makes things easier and more enjoyable.
A Way Out is an enchanting way of experiencing a video game, and a truly wonderful co-operative multiplayer experience that everyone should try.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A true co-op experience, A Way Out went big on crafting a shared experienced and walks away being a marvellous time.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 7.5/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 9/10