Preface – Being a game that is uniquely co-op only, we believed it would be best to write a review in a similar manner. As such, I will be co-writing this review with Jen (my partner in crime), who I played the entirety of A Way Out with. We will both share our opinions and give our insight from our own perspectives, while also sharing equal parts of the review score, resulting in a total score out of 5.
A Way Out is the type of game that seeks to take one new mechanic and play with it as many ways as possible. You play as either Leo or Vincent, each with their own backstories that come to work together over a common goal of getting out of prison and exacting vengeance. Before the game truly starts, each player must pick one of the two characters. Each character gives a small backstory and the type of person they are along with some other details, but outside of that, you are forced to take a leap of faith to truly find out if it’s the characters that fit you the most. Thankfully, this is how far their differences extend, their stories are vastly different compared to one another but when playing the game each character will get the same chance to experience different types of gameplay as the other.
The main feature A Way Out attempts to make use of at every turn is having concurrent but free co-op. Take for example one of the opening scenes where Vincent enters the prison. Playing as Leo I was already in prison, so my perspective was watching new inmates entering the prison and having the freedom to walk around and talk to others. If you were playing Vincent, you were stuck doing what a new prisoner needs to do—walking in a line, getting dressed down, and yes, even getting a “bath.” It immediately introduces you to the concept that the game will continue to play with in different ways throughout the story. This will take shape in solving puzzles, advancing storylines, and even good ol’ fashioned shooting enemies. It is through the use of this mechanic that A Way Out finds and makes its strides.
All the gameplay in A Way Out isn’t revolutionary, if anything, it is anything but. However, it’s how it uses those simplistic gameplay tropes with its co-op mechanics that make it shine. Something as simple as trying to cut a hole in a wall in your cell goes from being just a quick time event, but to a cooperation between two people not to get caught as the guards walked by. This situation was brought about by simply requiring the second person to be the only source of information and way to stall the guards. If you were the one trying to cut the hole, you went as fast as you could until your partner told you to stop and quickly hide your work. It was simple but thrilling because you needed to work together. Even tasks that on the surface seem boring like putting a tire on a truck, instantly become fun from the back and forth between both layers to complete a task. Thankfully, A Way Out recognizes many of these moments not being mechanically interesting and makes sure to not repeat any gameplay tropes for too long. This trend would continue throughout the entirety of the game as you become more entrenched which the character’s situation and story.
This splitting of tasks extends directly into the story as well. Take for example the moment where Leo is reunited with a person he has been looking for. While Leo’s side of the game will break to a cut-scene to explain, Vincent is left to explore the area to talk to local people and interact with various uninvolved tasks. It’s at points like this where the concept of the game design doesn’t exactly match the experience it’s attempting to paint. Having a split perspective is a novel idea, but having an interesting story moment just distracts from whatever the other player might potentially do, removing the point of the concept at the time. Thankfully there are times where A Way Out recognizes that it needs to remove the split-screen experience and focus on a particular moment, and honestly, this should have been used for most of the cut scenes to keep the story from being muddled by other activities the other player might get distracted by.
In the end, A Way Out manages to take a concept and test it as many different ways it can think of. While the mechanics are conceptually simple, it’s how A Way Out uses this concept in different ways in conjunction with those mechanics that make the game shine. The interactions it forces with your partner and crime and the story it weaves leaves a lasting impression that everyone should take a moment to enjoy.
I rate A Way Out a 4.0/5.0.
As someone who did not grow up avidly playing video games (due to the lack of resources), I was intrigued by the concept of A Way Out. Back when I was watching the Game Awards 2017 and the title was first announced; we knew that it was one that we had to get our hands on.
The storyline centers on the fateful meeting of Leo and Vincent when they both find themselves in prison. Playing as Vincent, you are assuming a character with traits that reflect someone who is level-headed and could be described as a “sweet talker.” Leo, on the other hand, is someone with a brash attitude and a rough demeanor. Obviously throughout the gameplay of finding “a way out”, those personality traits become more evident. The options presented when faced with a choice between one action and another, reflect each characters’ mindset. For instance, there was a moment where both of the characters had to get out of the emergency room after an altercation that placed them there, to begin with. The option that the game presents is to either kill the guards or distract the nurse and find a way to get out without hurting anyone. The first option is born from the psyche of Leo and the latter from the Vincent. However, the way that the game progresses is that both you and your partner need to agree on one action, so when that is your character (depending on who you are) reacts differently. As Mitch mentioned, the game makes what would seem like mundane tasks (i.e. sneaking changing a car tire) and actions much more exciting by highlighting the co-op feature. I was thoroughly entertained and never felt like the game dragged at all.
The only gripe that I have with the game is that it seemed like the main “boss” fight was very anticlimactic and the duration of the game seemed cut short. The trials and tribulations that Vincent and Leo went through to get to that point seemed much more trying than the point where they finally come face to face with their common nemesis. Without spoiling too much, however, a huge plot twist drops in the laps of the players that in no way were foreshadowed by either of us that extends the game further. Overall, the developers focus on notable character development as the story progressed made it hard not to be invested in the story unfolding before you.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and looked forward to seeing how Leo and Vincent worked together to attain a common goal. I was surprised to find myself asking Mitch to play the game when we could when he wanted to play something else; it definitely caught him by surprise (hehehe). Please do yourself a favor and grab this game, someone you can at least tolerate, and prepare to get yourself immersed within A Way Out.
I rate A Way Out 4.5/5.0!