For the past few years, there have been arguments that some studios have sacrificed the quality of certain game experiences for the sake of capitalising on a growing online multiplayer marketplace. And you can’t blame them, I mean, you’d be stupid to give up the opportunity to make the kind of money that they do. Games like CoD have all but seemingly given up on single player campaigns, offering very little in the way of decent, and believable, stories. And where in years gone by titles encouraged you to get friends round for some couch co-op chaos, it now seems having such modes is a luxury feature, if even featured at all, except for the odd sports game such as FIFA or Rocket League. Hazelight Studios, however, have done the unthinkable and brought couch co-op back to the forefront of gaming.
A Way Out is essentially the game that the TV series Prison Break deserved. It not only has a high entertainment value but the ability to keep you gripped 100% of the time too (except when I had to run my Cat outside because he was about to throw up). Set in a US prison, the story follows that of two inmates; Leo Caruso, a hot-headed individual sent down for an armed robbery that trouble always seems to find. And Vincent Moretti, a man with a more logical approach to finding a solution, which is strange since he’s just been found guilty of murder and been sent down for 14 years. They get off to a rocky start but they soon form a strong friendship and rely on each other to escape the joint they’re in and track down a man named Harvey whom they both have a grudge against.
I’ll leave my summary of the storyline at that, because I really don’t want to spoil it for a single person, as hard as it is for me to contain how amazing an experience A Way Out has been. But what I will say is that the story is only part of the masterpiece, the way the story is told and how scenes unfold adds to the magic and really brings the game to life. For the majority of the time, you’ll play split-screen as above, like any classic couch co-op game. However, as events unfold and the story develops, the split in the screen shifts and puts the focus on the central point of the story at that time, then going on to take up the full screen when both characters are involved. For the majority of the game, this is fantastic and nails the cinematic sequences on the head. But one thing that did grind on me is that if one character is chatting with someone, no matter important or frivolous a conversation, then the other character does the same it drowns out the first conversation. I’d like to see that changed so that you can’t both chat at the same time.
Besides that slight annoyance, there isn’t anything else that really irritated me in the game, in fact, I didn’t find one noticeable bug in any of the gameplay mechanics. Everything seemed to run so smoothly, and the controls were responsive without being too over/under sensitive. Although I did find it difficult to shoot oncoming police jeeps when I was sat in the back of a truck, that may have been something to do with my partner’s bad driving though. For the majority of the time in the rest of the game, you are walking around in the 3rd person, trying to solve puzzles and finding your way out of the prison. Once out, it’s all about steering clear of the local authorities who are after you, and getting to Harvey so you can exact your revenge on the double-crossing murderous swine.
One of the main reasons I decided to buy this game though wasn’t because of the intriguing storyline, nor the interesting gameplay demonstrated at various events throughout the past year or so. It was because it’s the first game that genuinely felt like you are getting a fair deal when buying the game. Unlike others, it isn’t priced up near the £50 mark, in fact, I got mine for less than half that at £21.99 from Argos after Amazon announced it could take another five weeks for it to arrive on release day. There are no micro-transactions to help you get through the game quicker or to milk money from those who want their character to dress like a Mexican wrestler. There is also no need for you and a friend to buy the same game to play online co-op. Yeah, that’s right. You and a friend can play the same game for the low fee of £21.99 (price correct as of 23/03/2018) just as if you were sitting next to each other on the couch. It’s actually almost hard to believe EA had anything to do with this game.
But in fairness, what EA saw in Josef Fares and Hazelight Studio’s first game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (which is sensational by the way), was enough for them to know that giving the director and his studio the backing of the EA Originals program was the right thing to do. The more surprising bit though was how they were given complete creative freedom over the game. For a company of EA’s magnitude, that is a massive amount of trust they’re placing in Hazelight, but if you don’t risk it for a chocolate biscuit (preferably hobnobs), you aren’t going to get the rewards. And having played the game through twice now (you can see part of our first playthrough below in the embedded stream we did on Twitch) I have to say, the risk paid off because, and I might be jumping the gun a little here, this is a serious Game of the Year contender.
Overall, I’m not too surprised at how good this game has been. I mean, if you haven’t played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, I sincerely hope you do because it is one of the most beautiful, breathtaking and magical games I have ever played, and A Way Out follows in its footsteps, making them slightly bigger. Spectacular storytelling, done in a way that has you gripped throughout the whole experience and not wanting to put the controller down, is what these guys do best. And I genuinely can’t wait to see what the next project is that comes from Fares and Hazelight, because I know it’ll be good, it’s just a case of how do they top this?
Before I finish though I do have to give a special shoutout to my couch co-op and IRL partner Megan who accompanied me on this adventure. And although her poor timing and bad driving sent us to our doom a couple of times, I couldn’t have made it to the end without her.
- A Way Out brings couch co-op games back to the forefront of gaming;
- An exciting storyline that will reel you in hook, line and sinker;
- No need for you and a friend to both buy the game to play online co-op;
- The cinematic style can sometimes cause annoying interruptions into speaking with NPCs;
- Beyond replaying twice to unlock different endings, the game gives you no other reason to revisit.
A Way Out is developed by Hazelight Studios and published by EA. It comes available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and there is no need for friend’s to buy a copy of the game if you want to play online with them. Just have them follow the instructions that come with the game to activate Friend Link.
And for those of you wanting to see some gameplay and a bit of the story, here’s part of our stream below: