A Way Out Review
Final Rating: 7 / 10
F is for friends who do stuff together. U is for U gotta get me outta prison, I seriously hate it here and it’s the 1970’s and I’m not so sure deodorant has been invented yet. N is for No I don’t want to play another round of Connect Four, have you forgotten that we are being hunted down by the police? What do you get when you put it all together? That’s right it spells A WAY OUT, which coincidentally is also the title of Josef Fares’ latest co-op centric, prison break extravaganza.
For those who are unfamiliar, A Way Out is a new strictly cooperative, story-driven title from the designer who gave us 2013’s critically acclaimed third-person adventure Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. At the start of the campaign the players are tasked with choosing between Vincent, who is about to serve 14 years for embezzlement and fraud, and Leo, who is serving 8 years for armed robbery.
Who you choose doesn’t make too much of a difference as each character’s roles aren’t entirely fixed, which allows for the players to determine how they would like to proceed in most cases. There are points where your paths diverge temporarily, but you’ll always be able to see whatever your partner is up to whenever you are apart.
Before long, a scrap in the yard brings our two protagonists together and the story really kicks into high gear. After a little bro-bonding in the infirmary, Leo and Vincent both discover that they have a common goal: getting the heck out of the slammer. No spoiler warnings needed there, unless somehow you’ve managed to avoid reading the title of the game this entire time.
Stubborn convicts that they are, the buddy duo decides that two heads are in fact better than one so they decide to take their relationship to the next level. Usually I wait for the third date to distract a nurse while my partner steals from a file cabinet, but this is prison so Vince and Leo have no time for formalities.
It is from here that the players begin to really get to the meat of the cooperative aspect of the game. From assisting each other with stealing tools for the escape, to climbing butt to butt up an elevator shaft via a series of timed button-presses, your ability to work in unison with another player will be put to the test early and often. Your first few attempts at trying to break a door down by shouldering it together at precisely the right moment will be tough, but after the initial awkwardness no door will be able to withstand the power of your undying friendship.
After making your way back to the free world and discovering that both characters share a common nemesis, we get more of a peek at who these characters are at their core, which is where the heart of the story lies. That being said, while the narrative does a decent job of keeping you invested in the relationship between the two, there are a lot of points where the writing feels clumsy, and at times even comical.
It wasn’t clunky enough to make me want to stop playing, but the more dialogue that was involved in some of the later scenes, the harder it was not to notice some of these weaknesses. In areas where the shoddy writing might have gone unnoticed, the equally lackluster voice acting swoops in and underlines it. There were times when I felt like I was playing a video game adaption of The Room, but without the frightening charm of Tommy Wiseau.
These criticisms aside, there was no shortage of exciting gameplay to glue the whole of this game together, so if that’s the reason to picked up this game don’t turn back just yet. If you’re like me and you want to play this title to see just how the cooperative play was executed, you will be far from disappointed.
Where the story and the dialogue might be lacking, it is certainly clear that a lot of time and care was put into the gameplay, which is a necessity in a game like this to keep things fresh. If the extent of the cooperative play was just busting down doors repeatedly and fighting off a room full of police as a team, things would get stale fairly quickly.
The developers did a wonderful job of finding new and unique ways to get you and your partner to work in unison, which I can guarantee was no easy feat. Lesser devs surely would have been tempted to copy and paste variants of the same 3 actions over and over again, and while there is some repetition, I was never fed up with how often one sole mechanic was used. To be honest, having one guy snap a broom to distract a prison guard so the other could sneak by is something I could do over and over with little to no complaints.
To add to the co-op joy and wonder is a wealth of mini-games that are sure to double the length of your play time, that is if your friends are as stubborn as I am about losing a round of darts. My partner and I spent at least a few collective hours attempting to outdo each other at baseball, playing guitar, and balancing on a wheelchair, and if that sounds like a waste of time to you, you obviously haven’t played virtual connect four in a virtual hospital waiting room. Let me tell you, it’s a real hoot.
Overall, A Way Out has its strengths and weakness like any title, but the game really seems to achieve what it set out to do. It’s a fun and exciting cooperative experience, and a nice break from the norm for anyone who is bored with the current state of AAA titles. Better yet, if you and a buddy want to split the cost of the game, the friend pass allows 2 players to hop in even if only one of them has the title in their library. So if you need a few hours to goof around and have some fun with a friend, playing A Way Out is a terrific way to do so. And it’s gotta be a hell of a lot easier than actually breaking out of prison with one another, but if that’s your idea of a good time I am not here to judge.