Games with a well implemented co-op element have always been popular and single player experiences have often been something that cannot be replicated in a multiplayer environment. A Way Out blurs these lines and creates a memorable narrative experience that is shared between two players. I can’t remember the last game I played where co-op gameplay was so well engrained and integral to the story.
The ambitious idea comes from Hazelight Studios, the team behind Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (a fantastic experience in its own right) and follows two convicts – Leo and Vincent – on their mission to break out of prison.
The game begins by presenting you and your co-op partner with a choice of who you want to play as, offering an overview of each character’s personality traits. Leo is hot-headed and slightly reckless whereas Vincent is more rational and takes steps to avoid violence. It expands on this idea throughout the game by giving you a choice of alternate ways to approach certain situations, reflecting the differing views of the two characters.
The co-op mechanics are implemented impressively and never feel too forced, offering varied gameplay throughout the roughly six-hour campaign. Reliance on the actions of your co-op partner greatly enhances the experience. Gameplay isn’t just a series of quick time events, it incorporates a range of memorable puzzle solving, stealth, driving and shooting elements. Despite the relatively short running time, there are a number of hidden secrets to find in the game’s various explorable environments.
A Way Out doesn’t take itself it too seriously and contains several enjoyable mini-games throughout the story that bring out friendly competition between co-op partners (bet you can’t beat my baseball score of 217!)
Is couch co-op dead?
Despite what some game developers may have you believe, A Way Out proves that couch co-op is very much alive in 2018 – sure you can play it online with a friend too, but it I would argue that it’s an experience best enjoyed by two people in the same room. It’s a shame that so many games outright ignore this as a possibility these days.
Hazelight, led by the outspoken Josef Fares, paints itself as one of gaming’s ‘good guys’ in this loot box and microtransaction era by allowing one purchase of the game to entitle two people to play, regardless of whether the other person has purchased the game or not. This is a welcome surprise considering the game is published under the ‘EA Originals’ banner. The game is already proving to be a success, having sold more than 1 million copies in just over two weeks.
One minor gripe that I had with the game was that if both characters are speaking to an NPC at the same time then both sets of audio are played concurrently (although this problem might be non-existent when playing online co-op). Some players may also find the mini-games and comic relief moments too much of a shift in tone from the serious and gritty narrative – personally I felt that this only enhanced the co-op experience.
In terms of replayability A Way Out doesn’t give you much reason to jump back in, other than to mop up the achievements/trophies that you missed first time round (all of these are missable).
Most of us have a go-to co-op partner, so weather yours is your best friend/sibling/other half then you owe it to yourself to give this a game a try. I played this game with my girlfriend and we finished it in two sittings as the story had us completely hooked and made it hard to put the controller down. The game enabled us to actually work together, rather than arguing over who messed up like we do in games such as Overcooked or Snipperclips.
A Way Out truly feels like an original idea that brings a completely new dynamic to co-op games.
A Way Out is out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC
– Paul Carrett