A WAY OUT
Co-op like you’ve never seen it before
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.
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.