Co-op games are generally laidback experiences as players can come and go as they please. However, A Way Out is here to prove that an entire cooperative story-driven game can be enjoyable and man, is it an absolute thrill.
That's right; A Way Out requires two players to play it together from start to finish. Therefore, if you don't have any local pals or trustworthy online chums then you likely won't get much enjoyment out of it. With that word of warning out of the way, allow me to describe what A Way Out is all about. You and a friend play as two inmates named Vincent and Leo. Vincent is quite a straight-laced individual who clearly doesn't want any trouble while Leo constantly inserts himself into others' situations whether it's for the best or not. The two meet each other early on in the story and watching their interactions is highly entertaining, especially seeing how different their personalities are. After being acquainted with life in the prison, Leo hatches a plan to escape and Vincent insists on helping him to which Leo eventually and reluctantly agrees. From then on, you'll be amazed at where the story goes.
The gameplay in A Way Out is difficult to narrow down. It plays a lot like a David Cage game for the most part as you wander around, talk to people, solve basic puzzles, and perform quick-time events. However, there are so many more things that you will do. Whether you're in a car chase, paddling down a river, or stealthily sneaking around; the gameplay is always so intuitive that you never have to struggle with the controls. The majority of the campaign has the screen split down the centre so each player can freely do their own thing without worrying about what their friend is up to. You can even talk to two people simultaneously and the more important conversation will thankfully be louder although you can always read the captions if you want to watch a humorous exchange.
Of course, there are plenty of times when you have to cooperate in order to progress. These moments are handled extremely well in that you must actually communicate with your friend in order to succeed. Such instances include timing when to barge through a door, car chases where one player drives and the other shoots, and stealth scenarios where someone watches for guards while the other person sneaks around. There are so many stand-out scenarios where you have to cooperate that by the time you complete the surprisingly long campaign, you would have made many memories and perhaps formed a stronger bond with your cooperative pal.
A Way Out's story is engaging from start to finish and never becomes boring. The narrative quickly shifts from action-intense segments to laidback portions that involve simply hanging out and experimenting with funny things to do until you decide to move on. Heck, you may even discover a few mini-games such as horseshoe throwing, basketball, and a rhythm game where one player tickles the ivories and the other strums a guitar. As the story progresses, you'll have to make decisions from time to time. I enjoyed discussing what to do with my partner while ensuring each decision was agreed upon before continuing. There are so many ways to work through the story that we're both excited to play through it again from start to finish just to see what else we can do.
The graphics in A Way Out are superb. Although the character models aren't as realistic as your average AAA title, I must say that the environments are absolutely stunning. Whether you're traversing rainy rooftops, paddling down a river, or chasing someone through a massive construction site; it's hard not to stop occasionally to merely admire the view. Along the same lines, the cinematography is top-notch. The way the camera moves and cuts between scenes is downright masterful and it makes playing through the story feel like you're acting in a movie. On the audio side, the voice acting is well done and natural with only a couple odd lines that sound slightly out of place while the soundtrack seems like it could be in a film as the orchestral pieces provide a great deal of tension.
Even though A Way Out might just be the greatest cooperative game that I've ever played, it does have a couple downsides. First of all, I was a bit disappointed how little of the story is spent trying to escape from the prison. For one reason or another, I thought the entire game would consist of breaking out of jail. However, you're free within a few hours or so and that's only the beginning of the tale. Like I mentioned earlier, it's awesome that the story is as lengthy as it is but I just wish more of it involved the prison portion because it's such a fantastic part of the campaign. The only other negative aspect that's worth mentioning is that there are some graphical issues. They didn't occur so often that it took us out of the experience. However, seeing the visuals stutter while textures popped in and a bit of screen tearing happened definitely made the cinematic quality feel less authentic whenever such graphical glitches emerged.
A Way Out is possibly the best cooperative video game ever created. Its movie-quality cinematography, intuitive and varied gameplay, and engaging story full of unique stand-out scenarios make it one incredibly memorable interactive experience.
- + Unique and engaging co-op gameplay
- + Action-packed cinematography, gorgeous environments, and great musical score
- + Story is filled with memorable scenarios
- - Not enough time is spent in the prison
- - A few graphical issues such as texture pop-in and some skipping