As a child of the 90s I fondly remember a time before multi-player became the dominant online force it is today, a time where multi-player was defined by how many people you could get round a television or how many consoles you could LAN up. It was a time where completing a game together meant sitting in the same room, not praying your randomly assigned team mates had microphones to communicate through, frankly its something the gaming industry has forgotten how to do well.
This is where A Way Out comes in, it offers a solely cooperative story driven adventure which unlike other similar games cannot be played without a partner, the developers even go so far as to let two people play the same game through a nifty game sharing feature which still maintains a split screen for both players even if they’re on different sides of the world. That said for my first run through I wanted to play old school so my brother and myself; veterans of classic co-op games and Halo legendary playthroughs; sat down and picked our characters.
The games two main protagonists are Vincent; a loyal family man strung up for a crime he didn’t commit; and Leo; a thief just doing what he needs to survive and protect his family. Ultimately both are fighting for similar reasons and the games narrative does a satisfying job making you feel for them throughout the story, though in spite of that they are exceptionally cliché in their attitudes and endeavours. Personally I opted for Vincent, mostly on account of him having a goatee.
Meanwhile the game play itself is a real smorgasbord of ideas, offering a variety of chase sequences, puzzles, gun play and a boat load of mini-games – A Way Out is constantly trying to get you and your partner to outplay one another and stay competitive in an otherwise harmonious experience. It comes together to form a strange series of small scenarios, akin to developer Telltale’s interactive story games only with a greater range of interactivity, while each of these scenarios are fun in their own way they can feel a little disjointed at times with the early part of the game offering more puzzles while the later half values more fast paced ideas.
Despite the games advertisements and selling points of it being a prison break game the break itself only really covers the first quarter of it, however that doesn’t mean what comes after disappoints. Each of the levels has something to it that makes it unique as a cinematic co-operative experience, both in events transpiring and the way it depicts them at times pushing one character entirely off screen to concentrate on a key moment for the other. It creates a very cinematic way of approaching the story, even if the story itself is nothing new. One key detail that caught me by surprise is this is not a game with a lot of replay value, despite the optional ways of approaching most situations the story always comes back to the same finishing point and ultimately only offers two endings.
Personally I had a great time playing through A Way Out, in its six hour completion time both my brother and myself found ourselves daring to beat the other at any mini game we could, and while the story and game play don’t offer much new the co-op cinematic experience created throughout makes the game well worth experiencing at least once, though I’d suggest doing it split-screen. Hopefully what A Way Out will accomplish however is to inform the game developers of today that is still very much a need for old school co-op games.