Game Review: A Way Out

A Way Out is a strange game to grasp. On the surface, it’s an adventure game in the same vein as a Telltale game or Quantic Dreams. The plot is a paint by numbers 70’s crime drama. Not to say any of those things are bad, just not very memorable. What sets A Way Out apart is the decision to make the entire experience defined by co-op gameplay.
When I say co-op gameplay, I’m not talking about your run of the mill co-op. This isn’t a situation where single player is exactly the same as multiplayer except two Master Chiefs are running around. A Way Out is impossible to play without a partner and the game will make sure you remember this every chance that it gets.
The game follows two protagonists Vincent and Leo, two convicts who have wound up in prison and decide to team up, escape, and take revenge on a mutual enemy. There’s not much else to get into in terms of plot. It’s not very deep. To be honest though, I didn’t find this to be a bad thing. There was enough there to give the game a purpose, but the story is not the reason to play this game. Once again, for that we need to go back to the co-op.
It’s hard to explain just how devoted this game is to the concept of co-op gameplay with just words, but let me try. In one scenario the two “heroes” are chasing down a foreman through a construction zone. In the ten minute sequence both players trade off chasing the man down while the other overcomes an obstacle, one will control a crane while the other climbs over it, then the camera perspective will change to a top down perspective where the two players will have to communicate to orchestrate a pincer maneuver to trap their target in order to initiate a joint interrogation scene. Now this may seem like a set piece section right out of Uncharted, and in a way, it is. But remember, all of this is being done with two players operating independently with nothing in the game overtly communicating what needs to be done. All the communication has to happen between the player.
This right here is what makes the game so special. Never before have I seen a game that not only requires two players to speak and organize with each other but also do as little as possible to facilitate it. Other than voice chat, there’s no option to tap on walls, or set waypoints, or highlight objects. This is where the fun exists. Not so much in the game itself, but in cooperating with a partner to accomplish something in a setting that demands nothing less. This is where the emotional connection comes from, you don’t connect with the characters themselves but with the person who is inhabiting the avatar. Without realizing the game changes from a simple crime drama to a wholly personal experience with the person you’ve chosen to accompany through the 7-8 hour long plot.
All of the joy resides in the cooperative nature of the game, I can’t stress this enough, but it’s also the source of some issues. By hour two of the game, you’ve basically seen everything that the game has in terms of actual mechanics. After that it’s essentially the same actions just in a new scenario with a couple of one-off moments to spice it up. Also, it becomes very easy to see the contrivances in place to facilitate a cooperative approach to a problem. Even though the enjoyment exists so much outside the game itself, seeing the man behind the curtain still isn’t fun.
Technically, the game is just fine. The graphics aren’t stunning by any means, but seem perfectly adequate for the price. I didn’t encounter any glaring glitches during my play though but there have been some reports of bugs, so keep that in mind I guess.
I know it’s early in the year and I will probably have to eat some crow here, but for my money A Way Out is one of the best gaming experiences to be had this year. Just make sure you find yourself a good partner and make sure your tapping finger is strong.

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