When’s the last time you tested the foundation of your friendship with a friend? If it’s been a while and someone’s looking a little shifty, you might want to play A Way Out with them.
As someone who loved co-op games growing up, A Way Out was a welcome modern touch on a nostalgic feature. There is no single player mode to this game, you and your partner in crime are Vincent Moretti and Leo Coruso; American prisoners convicted in the 1970s that have to work together to escape from prison and stay on the run from authorities whilst simultaneously attempting revenge on a mutual enemy.
The game is directed by film maker Josef Fares, who has turned his hand to game design, his first title being Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons which received critical acclaim. Knowing this, it’s no wonder the story is so well crafted. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say the prison break happens fairly quickly, which was great because the story continues and we were seriously worried we would end up in another The Order: 1886 situation, feeling unfulfilled by the game. The story and characters unfold throughout the duration of the game, via cut scenes and gameplay, keeping us heavily engaged and turning what could have been a very gimmicky experience into well made movie that you can play.
Playing as Leo and Vincent means that you and your “friend” will approach situations differently. Leo is a hot head, punch-first-ask-questions-later kind of guy; whilst Vincent is more calculated but less intuitive. We immediately adopted their characters, talking about:
“That’s why you got mollywhopped by the guard last time ’cause you too damn violent!”
“I said drive slow! DRIVE SLOW! I thought you were the discrete one?!”
The gameplay is definitely entertaining, the developers (Hazelight Studios) set out to create a co-op game that is “unique and different” and it’s safe to say they surpassed that goal. The cooperative element is a well placed thread throughout the game; when moving heavy objects, distracting guards, infiltrating villas in Central America, car chases and when making major decisions that impact the story. Hazelight Studios achieved a good balance to ensure co-op was established as the nature of the game and not just a novelty to make the game “different”.
The game manages to stay true to its style, with exciting interweaving chase scenes in various locations as well as incorporating a few unexpected changes such as a 2D platformer fight scene just to mix it up a little bit. In addition to that, there are mini games and activities throughout the game to offer a change of pace and tone, you know, to add some levity to the fact that your friendship is being tested.
The representation of Black people/POC in the game? I mean, it’s okay…the first POC in game are two non-white Middle Eastern and/or Arab men who get shot. There’s Black man with a speaking role who is a 2nd-in-command lackey that either disappears or dies; I can’t remember. You do have a Black Woman (YAY!), the sassy (…damn) cautious arms dealer; a friend of Leo Coruso. Then when you travel to Mexico, again the Mexican mobs pose as disposable lackies. So it’s not devoid of representation but in my opinion, the POC are essentially extras in the movie.
*cue W’Kabi voice* “It’s just more of the same”
However if I’m honest, it doesn’t bother me or take away from the game too much in this instance. It’s just another game to add to the everlasting list of games with middle aged White men as the protagonists; another day in the gaming world. There is also a line from Leo about Africa being undesirable to travel to and that it has “lions and sh*t”, which I side-eyed but really it reflects Leo’s character and how much of a non-entity would be to me in real life.
I will say the game is not very challenging; you get involved in more high-octane action towards the end of the game but even then it’s not very complex. I do think a little more challenging content would have kicked the game up a notch, however the story, the interweaving and entertaining gameplay, and easter eggs had us engaged, bickering and cooperating at the edge of our seats more than once.
Hazelight has reminded me to not sleep on co-op games, and I look forward to seeing more games from the studio. All in all I would definitely recommend you to grab your PC/Xbox/PS4 and a friend to play A Way Out. Another great thing is you only require one copy of the game; another thing to fight with your friend over… Good luck!