“We have to respect freedom only when it is intended for freedom, not when it strays, flees itself, and resigns itself (…) I am oppressed if I am thrown into prison, but not if I am kept from throwing my neighbour into prison.” – Simone de Beauvoir
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Released: March 2018
A Way Out is a unique, exclusively co-operative action-adventure game in which each player takes on the role of either Vincent or Leo, two prison inmates. The pair form an unlikely alliance and must work together in order to escape the prison walls and survive beyond them. The game has a heavy narrative focus which explores ideas of trust, consequences, and companionship throughout its emotionally charged storyline.
The game requires two players, this can be local or online co-op, the latter of which still only requires one copy of the game to be purchased with the second player joining via a ‘friend pass‘. It can be played with any combination of PlayStation, Xbox controller or keyboard and mouse and whilst a controller felt more appropriate, the characters’ movement was often awkward regardless of input device.
The bulk of the gameplay occurs in a split-screen format, merging for regular and sometimes quite lengthy cutscenes. A Way Out contains a lot of QTEs and button-bashing sections making it somewhat reminiscent of Telltale games. The disconnect between the input and the action often serves to break the player’s sense of engagement and doesn’t do the narrative justice.
There are situations within the game that are too detached from reality, circumstances in which the pair should be caught but aren’t. The protagonists carelessly discuss plans on prison phones and giving personal details while on the run, cops and guards are laughably oblivious to their surroundings and have terrible aim, all of these things ultimately hinder immersion levels.
However, there were well-implemented elements from a range of familiar genres, including racing games, RPGs, stealth games and third-person shooters that are both more challenging and more fun. As a fun addition, there is also a selection of competitive mini-games dotted throughout A Way Out, such as four-in-a-row, baseball, and darts.
Narrative and Styling
Whilst it doesn’t pack quite the same emotional punch as the developer’s previous title, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, A Way Out’s narrative has a lot to offer and its storyline and characters are the standout features of the game. It is an action-packed, dramatic and emotive experience with multiple endings. It also consists of various choice points, these influence the course of the game and are based on each of the distinctly characterised protagonists and their preferred actions.
Aesthetically, A Way Out is pleasant enough but not particularly noteworthy. There are a variety of great environments and scenery throughout the game, often with effective ambient lighting, however, the general art style is familiar and lacklustre. The game makes good use of music and surround sound to build tension and add to the overall atmosphere, really working with the visuals to evoke a reaction from the player.
A Way Out is a relatively short game for the price, taking around 6-8 hours to complete, but with two characters to play as and multiple endings there is a fair amount of replayability. It mixes a range of genres and mechanics but despite the intensity of the action at times, the game’s primary focus is the characters and progression of the narrative. The storyline is emotive and gripping, with both heartwarming and heartbreaking moments overshadowing the game’s obvious flaws. Overall, A Way Out is a great game to enjoy with a friend and its original and varied design mean it offers something for everyone!