A Way Out Review: A Cinematic - Yet Predictable - Co-op Experience

A Way Out

A Way Out is a co-op only adventure game putting you and a friend in the roles of either Vincent or Leo, two prisoners looking to break free. Not just from prison, either, but from another shared situation that leads to a much more involved story than originally expected. It’s a co-op only experience that requires you and a friend to play via split screen in the same room, or through the game’s online co-op functionality. You cannot play it alone unless you’ve mastered using two controllers at the same time.

At Least One Friend Required

The fact that the game doesn’t let you play solo may be a hindrance for some, since you must play with a friend, acquaintance, or someone you’ve convinced to share anywhere from five to seven hours with you. A Way Out can be played from the same couch on a single console or PC, or via the internet. If playing online, only one player has to own the game, which takes advantage of the Friend Pass system to allow your partner to join for free. Progress is only saved on the owner’s system, however, and achievements and trophies only count for the person who forked out the cash. That’s not a big loss, though, as this is all about the co-op experience, with its core focus being squarely on the interactions of its two main characters and how their human puppet masters are able feed off one another.

The premise behind two prisoners teaming up to escape from captivity lends itself well to a co-op gaming environment. Many of the early moments of A Way Out focus on getting the two players work together in unison, each playing a role specific to the situation. A seemingly simple scenario of one player distracting a guard so that the other can sneak around undetected, has been seen in movies countless times and in itself is not original. Few games in my memory, however, have made this the core substance of gameplay and there is a sense of success and pride when you pull off the task at hand.

A Way Out depicts the world via the eyes of a split screen system throughout nearly the entirety of its life. This worried me, as I’m not a big fan of giving up precious pixels to my friends in 2018. Thankfully, the size of each view port adjusts depending on the situation. Panels slide in and out in a cinematic way that is very reminiscent of movies you’ve seen. It offers players a bit of variety, focus, and a sense of ownership. The movement of the panels is used to great effect, giving each player an angle at the other, while still maintaining their own space of play. On occasions when more than two panels are on the screen, you get the feeling you’re watching a semi-interactive action movie/comic hybrid. It was a cool experience unlike any I’ve had before in video games.

Where Have I Seen This Before?

I’m a little conflicted when it comes to the quality of the story telling in A Way Out. The story as a whole is predictable. There is very little replay value, even though you are faced with deciding between Vincent’s way and Leo’s way at several stages of the experience. Frankly, the choose your own adventure theme falls a little flat. The consequences of your choices are relatively small, only causing minor differences in the path you take to arrive at the same goal. It’s the illusion that your choices will change the outcome when that is often not the case.

Thing is, I didn’t think to be critical of these issues until long after I was finished. Could I have predicted the ending? Sure, if I had thought about it, but not once during the six and a half hours of play time did I pause to think about it. Perhaps that’s because I played from start to finish in a single sitting, something I don’t often get to do. Perhaps that speaks to how well A Way Out immerses you in its story and gameplay. I felt very little need to worry, theorize, speculate, or do anything but enjoy the moment.

I put the game play experience to my friend like this: it feels like playing through an 80s action-adventure movie or watching a summer blockbuster, for those of you too young to understand what an 80s action movie is. It’s a fun ride, a great time, worthy of the price of admission, but you’re not likely to consider it for your Oscar vote. And that’s okay. Not everything has to be complicated to be good. Sometimes The Fast and the Furious is exactly what you need, and this was how I felt with A Way Out. I enjoyed it for what it was.