I’d like to thank the Academy…
Game: A Way Out
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a game that stuck with the majority of those who played it, with an incredibly weighty and emotional punch being landed, alongside some genuinely interesting gameplay mechanics and concepts. Josef Fares returns with A Way Out, an exclusively co-op experience, based around the simple premise of a revenge story, in which you have to work closely with your new found partner to escape the clutches of the law, and beyond.
It’s the co-operative element to A Way Out that is the most striking part. It doesn’t even let you navigate past the opening menu without having a co-op partner, be it online, or via a couch-based buddy to join you. There is absolutely no way to play this game solo, and I’m personally quite glad of that, as it’s been 100% designed around having two players. From the opening scene’s shifting perspective split-screen, to the gameplay mechanics found throughout the game, it really is “Built from the ground up” for a duo to play.
I think one of the biggest issues that I have with A Way Out is that, for the most part, the dialogue feels a little bit clunky. Characters seem a tad clichéd, with the protagonists dropping lines that would look dodgy in the 1970s action movies that the game clearly cribs from at times. It would be quite difficult to pinpoint a legitimately original feeling character in the whole game, as most of them seem to fit into pigeonholes a little bit too easily. You’ve got the cocky younger one in Leo, who likes to settle his differences by introducing his knuckles to someone’s jaw, and then you’ve got the smooth talking Vincent, who likes to charm his way out of trouble. It’s lacking in originality, sure, but in spite of the aforementioned clunky dialogue, I found myself bonding with the two as me and my co-op partner zipped through the game’s five acts.
There’s something to be said that, for all of my complaints about the stilted dialogue and cookie-cutter characters, I really enjoyed my time with A Way Out. It’s a game that draws you into the story through its mechanics, and there are a truckload of unique touches in there to keep you going. Keeping a watch out for a prison guard as one of you chisels away at your cell wall to escape? Tension-filled fun. A rhythm action section as you climb up a chimney back-to-back? Hilarious if you mistime it a couple of times, before deciding on the best way round it. Working together to catch a few fish in a camp that you stumble across? The best kind of quirky fun. Each mechanic is used for the perfect amount of time, and what may sound like a bunch of mini games is cleverly disguised as a series of distractions in which you build up a relationship not only with the characters, but also with the friend you’re playing with. There were moments that resulted in some raucous laughter, and some that actually hit home, albeit not quite with the gut-punch that Fares’ heart wrenching debut did.
Much has been made of A Way Out’s ending in other publications, and I have to say that I found myself taken with the game well before I got to the last few button presses. The final chapter definitely has an emotional resonance to it that will stick with you and “Player 2” for a while, but there is something about the silly, fun moments in A Way Out that ensure that it’s not reliant on that and that alone. I definitely had a ton of fun with some of the moments, and the game’s initial premise of simply being a prison break is quickly stripped away, and when it begins to open up, it truly shows what its capable of. There is one escape scene in particular that uses camera tricks and gameplay mechanics in a breathtaking fashion, and it’s something that can only be done in a game that uses co-op as well as A Way Out does. I should say as well that it’s to the game’s credit that you can play through the entire thing with someone who doesn’t own the game, as long as you do. Simply get them to download the “Free Trial” and you can have them join you on the journey. More of this please, big publishers, it’s a very good thing.
I said above that A Way Out is more than the sum of its parts, and the more I think about it, the more I believe that to be the case. A game with clichéd characters, soap opera dialogue and, at times, plot points that are so telegraphed you might as well slap a hi-viz jacket on them, it’s a genuine shock that I liked it as much as I did. It’s a game about friendship, loyalty and ultimately revenge. It uses its mechanics in the best way possible to help coerce you and your partner into experiencing the bond between Leo and Vincent, and while it does feel a little bit like the digital scenery has been chewed more than a puppy’s favourite toy, it sticks the landing well enough to leave a mark. It simply wouldn’t work as a single player game, and I’m genuinely pleased that this game exists.