Welcome to our Community Review segment, where we invite members from the Progress Bar community to write-up their thoughts about a recently released game.
Our community reviewer this time is Reneesky, who has reviewed A Way Out. Take it away, Reneesky!
“This game,” Kochie says as we struggle from the wreckage of a truck we didn’t crash. “Really just wants to tell its story.”
On the surface, A Way Out promises a co-op prison break. It delivers – or attempts to deliver – a whole lot more.
This being my first co-op game, I’ll be chatting mostly about that element, as it seems to be the game’s biggest talking point. In a world of online multiplayer, one player per console, a solely co-op game is rare. With this new dynamic comes a whole bunch of issues – finding time to play is a big one that I’ll go into later. Big shoutout to the developers for adding in the ‘buy-one, both play free’ feature – only one purchased copy is required for two people to play. Go splitsies, install, invite, play. It’s that easy.
A Way Out is the story of Vincent and Leo, both in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. In a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, the story is trotted out as cutscenes, mini-games challenges, and narration. A prison break is brokered between the two, but trust is a harder thing to just shake on in the exercise yard.
After introducing some fairly clunky walking mechanics, the two characters are thrust into the first fight scene – choreographed pretty well with some interesting transitions between players without feeling choppy. This lands both characters in a prison hospital, where some wobbly trust is metered out between the two men. It was our first introduction to the co-op element of the missions, as Kochie, playing Leo, was sent off to retrieve a chisel under the nose of the repairman while I, as Vincent, distracted the nurse with requests for sponge baths.
It was in these moments that the game shines. Having to work as a team at tasks, rather than sprint through a level shooting bad guys together, added an element that I’m unfamiliar with in gaming. Communication, timing, and the willingness to forgive easy mistakes all come out during these levels. The game does a fairly good job of making sure that each player is on equal footing regardless of gaming skill so they can experience the story together. The puzzles are easy but not boring, however there were a few moments where the difficulty could’ve been upped to take advantage of the tension.
From the prison, to the surrounding forest, to a cityscape, and finally Mexico, A Way Out lavishly surrounds you with incredible environments. It takes the opportunities afforded by each setting to incorporate new game play elements, such as third person shooter, stealth sneakies, and even a side-scrolling beat-em-up at one point. Extra mention given to the entire hospital scene for amazing scene transitions during an extended chase sequence.
What could’ve been a tedious and repetitive (I tend to panic under pressure and run into the first obstacle) experience instead became a cinematic treat. Driving mechanics are famously wonky, as games that aren’t dedicated racing sims tend to be. I lost count of how many times the motorbike I was in control of decided to shoot sideways, or skywards. There are a few sections where one character drives, the other shoots, which are quite fun and make for some unintentionally comedic sections. The script between the two acknowledges this, making it even more enjoyable.
What starts as a dedicated puzzle-solver ends as a good old fashioned shoot-out, complete with an awesome sniper rifle sequence. It was a welcome change of pace from the puzzles, driving, and chase scenes. At the climax of the game, all that exists between you and your quarry is a maze of expendable bad guys, and guns with which to dispatch them. Fun was had.
The voice-acting, motion capture, and writing of A Way Out sets it apart from a lot of others, but at some points struggles to deliver. In terms of story, three-quarters was okay. The last twenty minutes or so attempts to rip the beating heart from your chest, and ties everything together in an extremely painful manner. What begins as an agreement out of necessity ends as a friendship interlaced with family ties and real-world issues. Vincent is having trouble with his wife, who’s finally pregnant. Leo has been separated from his wife and partner in crime, Linda. In between the running, gunning, driving scenes, we’re treated to little gems of heart-warming script and mini-games (turns out I can play basketball better than a seven-year-old NPC).
The characters are given fleshed out back stories which serve to deepen their on-screen motivations. The supporting cast is mainly made up of women, which is an interesting choice, but not an unwelcome one. While I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Leo and Linda as best-friends-turned-married-couple, I could sympathise with Vincent’s spouse as she dealt with pregnancy alone. It made this game more than it appears on the surface – a jailbreak.
The co-op element of this game is both a help and a hindrance. While playing with a buddy, it’s excellent – but trying to find time to play together can be difficult. Luckily, or by design, this game isn’t one that needs to be played in a linear fashion to be memorable. With only seven or eight levels, it’s easy to remember what’s just happened, and what’s about to happen. It’s also better to play a decent chunk of story at a time, rather than bits and pieces here and there.
For people looking for a story-based game reminiscent of a 70s noir film, A Way Out delivers in spades. Those who don’t enjoy listening to lengthy dialogue, or delving into a character’s back-story, might find this game a little tedious. Any longer, and this game would be relying on mechanics and story that just wasn’t there. With a play time of six hours, the story is compact enough, the game play interesting enough, to hold attention.
I’d recommend grabbing a buddy, a spare six hours, and a box of tissues. The ending of A Way Out will at some point be spoiled, as everything is want to do on the internet, and you want to experience it firsthand.
Thanks Reneesky! If you would like to be part of our Community Review segment, get in contact with us!