Co-op like you’ve never seen it be­fore

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Sa­man­tha Loveridge

It’s pretty com­mon that be­ing able to play a game in co-op feels like a nice added bonus. It’s rarer that a game is de­signed specif­i­cally in­tended to be played co­op­er­a­tively. And a game that you phys­i­cally can’t play with­out an­other hu­man by your side (or across the in­ter­net) is ba­si­cally a uni­corn. But that’s ex­actly what Haze­light has done with A Way Out. From the same brain that cre­ated Brothers: A Tale Of

Two Sons, Josef Fares, this is an­other nar­ra­tive-driven co-op ad­ven­ture, but it’s one de­signed to be ex­pe­ri­enced to­gether. You only need one copy of the game to play thanks to a new Friends Pass scheme, and if you do, you’ll be re­warded with one of the most clev­erly de­signed sto­ry­lines in gam­ing to date.

You play as one of two in­mates look­ing, lit­er­ally, for a way out in or­der to get a slice of re­demp­tion pie and get back to their fam­i­lies. Leo’s al­ready in jail for armed rob­bery, as­sault, and grand theft, whereas Vin­cent has just started his sen­tence af­ter get­ting time for fraud, em­bez­zle­ment, and mur­der. But de­spite their crimes, you very quickly come to bond with the two crim­i­nals, even if you could ar­gue that they look too visu­ally sim­i­lar—both are brown-haired, burly, beardy men. The story does well to flesh out both their back­sto­ries, their mo­ti­va­tions, and their per­son­al­i­ties, and this plays into how you in­ter­act with the sto­ry­line. Leo’s hot­head­ed­ness can take you down a more vi­o­lent path, while Vin­cent’s calmer, more mea­sured ap­proach is of­ten a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive for not draw­ing at­ten­tion to the es­capees. At reg­u­lar in­ter­vals though, you’ll have to choose between the two ap­proaches, with the story halt­ing un­til you and your pal come to an agree­ment in real life about how to tackle the next step. There’s no vot­ing sys­tem, it’s just agree­ing with each other or turn­ing the game off en­tirely. It’s a neat touch that makes sure you’re con­stantly com­mu­ni­cat­ing as play­ers, as well as in-game char­ac­ters.

Two heads bet­ter

But com­mu­ni­cat­ing is just part of the fun of A Way Out. Ev­ery­thing has been en­gi­neered to shine when played out with your part­ner in crime. Whether you’re splash­ing around in a lake try­ing to catch fish, keep­ing look out for pa­trol­ing guards while your friend chis­els a toi­let off the wall, climb­ing a shaft back to back with­out fall­ing, or just tak­ing some down time to play a game, ev­ery­thing is beau­ti­fully in­ter­ac­tive—if you do it to­gether. The va­ri­ety and in­ge­nu­ity of all the co-op mo­ments avail­able in A Way Out proves that play­ing to­gether doesn’t have to be just part of a game­play ex­pe­ri­ence, it can be the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence.

While talk­ing any more about the story it­self would be to ruin it, rest as­sured in the fact there’s plenty of nar­ra­tive in­trigue in the two char­ac­ters, and in watch­ing them move from two strangers to a pair that have to work to­gether to suc­ceed.

“Ev­ery­thing is beau­ti­fully in­ter­ac­tive – if you do it to­gether”

Al­though A Way Out’s sto­ry­line will be the thing that con­stantly drives you for­ward, it’s com­mend­able just how much game­play va­ri­ety there is in its ten-hour length too. From car chases to shootouts, there’s enough ac­tion to keep you con­stantly mov­ing from scene to scene and make sure the mo­ments of down­time or nar­ra­tive seg­ments never feel too long or fre­quent. It’s a beau­ti­fully paced game that could eas­ily square up to the likes of Tomb Raider thanks to its blend of ac­tion, story, and puzzle solv­ing. The only thing that does let A

Way Out down is its over-re­liance on quick time events (QTE), par­tic­u­larly in the open­ing hour or so. Be­fore the sto­ry­line re­ally gets into its stride, it feels like ham­mer­ing A or tap­ping Y are your only forms of in­ter­ac­tion. This be­comes less of an is­sue as you progress through the game, but ini­tially it can feel like Haze­light has a QTE ob­ses­sion. Still, that doesn’t de­tract from the fact that A Way Out is a joy to play 99% of the time, even when you are mash­ing but­tons for the odd QTE later on in the game.

Dou­ble vi­sion

And that’s par­tic­u­larly true in split screen too, with the view­ing win­dows chang­ing and ro­tat­ing de­pend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion, while cam­era an­gles play with var­i­ous per­spec­tives to make sure that even when there’s only one char­ac­ter on screen, the tran­si­tion between the two is as cin­e­matic as pos­si­ble. One mo­ment you’re play­ing as Leo, hit­ting cops in the face with a lamp­stand, the next the cam­era is soar­ing through air vents and down cor­ri­dors to find Vin­cent hid­ing from cops at the hos­pi­tal’s re­cep­tion. From the cin­e­mat­ics to the small­est minigame,

A Way Out el­e­vates co-op gam­ing in a way no other game has done to date, mak­ing ev­ery ac­tion feel mean­ing­ful rather than a cheap gim­mick.

The tough­est hurdle A Way Out has to over­come is to get you play­ing. Un­doubt­edly the fact you have to play this with two peo­ple will put a lot of play­ers off, but if you leave this one un­played, you’re deny­ing your­self— and your friends—one of the best ad­ven­tures on Xbox One.

Left Your pro­tag­o­nists might look sim­i­lar, but their mo­ti­va­tions are in stark con­trast to each other.

Fa r Left Play­ing with split screen win­dow sizes and po­si­tion­ing means that your fo­cus is al­ways shift­ing. right Con­nect Four is no fun by your­self, any­way.

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