Although it was released without too much fanfare from publisher EA, A Way Out is a delightful and refreshing new take on gaming. It’s available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC – the latter platform being the one we tested the game on.
A Way Out comes to us from a group of developers that previously worked on the amazing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Released back in 2013, it was memorable not just because of its emotional storytelling but also because of the clever and innovative gameplay. Using a single (dual stick) gamepad, you would control two characters at the same time and work together to overcome a variety of puzzles on your journey to save your father by finding a cure for his sickness. It’s a game that’s held up well even to this day, and I recommend picking it if you haven’t already – it’s regularly on sale, and an absolute steal.
While Brothers was restrictive in how much you could do with a character because of its control system (a thumbstick and shoulder buttons per character), A Way Out is more traditional in giving you a full set of controls for your character of choice. You’re still playing with two characters at once though, but with a major difference: A Way Out is a cooperative game for two players, either using a split screen on the same system or using an online connection. This isn’t optional – A Way Out can only be played with a second player.
Just like Brothers, A Way Out is story-driven and the game follows its protagonists Vincent and Leo as they bond and figure out how they can escape from prison together. I won’t go into any story details here as that would ruin part of the fun, but the game organically visualizes the bond between the two characters through the gameplay challenges that it throws at them. This can involve one character getting in trouble and the other one helping out, or overcoming puzzles where working together is also mandatory.
The entire adventure will take you (and a friend) about five to six hours to complete, and although it helps to be (physically) in the same spot by using split screen, it never felt necessary. In many parts of the game (as was the case in Brothers), the solution would usually come naturally without having to converse about it. I suppose that makes A Way Out a game that’s a tad on the easy side, but anything else would have probably turned it into something with the potential to become frustrating during times where neither player feels like they can help the story forward. I could imagine that being especially true when playing online, but didn’t test this option myself.
When Leo and Vincent work together and overcome challenges, the game really shines with some of the best cooperative gameplay I’ve seen yet. The writing isn’t terribly original and that’s especially true of the dialogue in the game, but the gameplay more than makes up for it. Speaking of dialogue – although the game features a split screen, the audio output is still a shared experience. This can lead to overlapping conversations when both Leo and Vincent engage in conversation with someone. In rare cases this can be intentional, as a way to distract, but in many cases you’re going to wish you had access to your own personal audio stream that goes with your half of the screen.
I really enjoyed the audiovisual delivery in A Way Out – the game felt like a mix between the TV shows Prison Break and 24 with its theme, split screen action and frequent scenes with a high adrenaline content. In a way, the game can be seen as an interactive cinematic action drama for two people, and it’s quite the experience. It’s not the thought-provoking and emotional story that stays with you long after you finish, like in Brothers – but it’s a fun and entertaining prison break story for two that play out unlike anything else. Highly recommend if you’ve got someone to play it with.