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A Way Out

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Hazelight
Release Date: March 23, 2018


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PS4 Review - 'A Way Out'

by Cody Medellin on March 22, 2018 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

A Way Out is a co-op only game uniquely tailored for two players to work together no matter the situation.

Buy A Way Out

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was an excellent game for two big reasons. The first was the story, a tale that didn't have a single line of spoken dialogue but conveyed far more emotion than verbose games. The second element was the game mechanics, which had one player controlling two characters at the same time with one controller, essentially creating a solo co-op experience. Some of the people responsible for that title, including writer and director Josef Fares, were given an opportunity by EA to create a game that could be just as powerful but with a bigger budget. When the trailer for A Way Out premiered during E3 2017, it looked like it would be something special, a title as memorable as Brothers. After taking the game out for a spin, it's safe to say that those expectations have clearly been met.

A Way Out opens in 1972, and we're introduced to Vincent, a money launderer who's serving out a 14-year prison sentence. You meet up with Leo, a thief who's also serving time in the pen. You become reluctant friends and have one thing in common: getting screwed over by the same rich crime boss. It doesn't take long for the two of you to plan a prison escape with the ultimate goal of getting revenge.

The story works well because the characters are believable. The lines are well written and are reminiscent of movies and cable TV shows. This means that there's cursing, but it feels meaningful, not just because the medium can get away with it. The lines feel natural, and the delivery makes the characters feel real. Lines flow well without any awkward pauses. There are moments when the delivery intentionally stumbles to convey a sense of hesitation. In short, this is one of the better performances you'll see in any game.

Another key element to the successful execution of the story is pacing. Even some of the best games can feel like the plot drags along, and some arcs are added for the sake of padding. They may still be enjoyable, but you can tell that some segments could've been cut to tell a tighter tale. That isn't a problem in A Way Out, as every piece feels like it needs to be there. Dull moments are few and far between, with some of the flashback scenes, which appear between chapters, being the only elements that could be cut if the game were adapted into a film or miniseries. It certainly says something that the experience feels rather breezy, even though you're spending about seven hours for a single playthrough.

Before getting into the gameplay mechanics, it has to be noted that A Way Out is only playable in co-op mode. There is no option for solo play with a bot, and while you can come up with some inventive ways to play by yourself using two controllers, you aren't likely to do that unless you're going through a second playthrough or doing it as a proof of concept. If you're playing locally, you'll be treated to a vertical split-screen view almost all of the time, where Leo and Vincent can roam around the area without being tied to one another. There are only a few scenes where the view changes to a horizontal split or an isometric viewpoint. In a neat twist, the subtitles are also split across screens, depending on who's talking. That's useful if one character is involved in a scene that's of less importance to the story but you're still interested in what's being said.

If you're unable to have someone consistently there for local co-op, you can still play the game online, but you're restricted to those on your Friends List. While the game works fine if you're playing with someone else who bought a copy, those who don't own their own copy can still participate via a downloadable demo that lets you play the whole game, provided your partner owns the full title. If you aren't too concerned about earning Trophies or playing offline, then you can conceivably beat the game this way without spending a dime.

As for the actual online gameplay, it's just as reliable as offline play, with the lack of lag contributing a great deal to this feeling. Interestingly, playing the game online retains the offline, split-screen experience. On the one hand, it is kind of weird to see this happen since it means that your view of the action can feel restricted. On the other hand, it means that there's no advantage gained, and you can still help your partner since you can still see what they see.

When you start the game, you get the impression that this takes on the typical Telltale model, only with more walking. Your first moments involve performing basic dialogue choices, and the first few fights are scripted Quick Time Events where the success is reliant on hitting the correct buttons within a generous time window. There are also quite a number of cut scenes, so you'll spend a decent amount of time watching the game unfold without your direct participation. The execution is well done, but it doesn't line up with what most people may be expecting.

It doesn't take long for A Way Out to add other gameplay elements to the mix. There are plenty of puzzle sequences that seem simple at first glance but require some thought to execute. There are more than a few stealth sequences where the main objective is to not get caught, but you can optionally knock out people. There are plenty of chase sequences on foot, but you have a few where you can use vehicles, and at least one of them introduces shooting. Not all of these things serve the story, however, as the world contains loads of interactive hotspots for the sake of feeling like a more lived-in world. That includes a number of minigames, including a simple game of darts, using the prison gym equipment, and engaging in some batting practice.

Regarding this gameplay approach, all of the sequences are designed with simplicity in mind. When you're driving, you only need to worry about braking and stepping on the gas, so you don't need to know about powersliding or engaging with the e-brake to get through. Avoiding spotlights and hiding behind barriers is enough to get through the stealth sequences. This isn't to say that the sequences are too easy to accomplish, as you'll need to put in some real effort to not get caught during a chase. The lack of complicated controls means that the game is accessible to anyone, which is especially important for those who may not be big on games but are still drawn in by the narrative. It also helps that the game has plenty of checkpoints, so failure in a sequence doesn't mean that you have to replay large sections.

Just about every activity involves co-op to varying degrees. The minigames have scoreboards to encourage competition. Some of the puzzle sequences require two people to work together, like when one needs to get by a guard without hassle. The aforementioned chase sequence with shooting is split, so one person drives while the other concentrates on pumping lead into others. Even the sections where a choice needs to be made require both parties to agree before the action can be taken. There's rarely a moment when one person doesn't need the other.


With an arresting narrative and solid gameplay that feels really good, A Way Out doesn't have many flaws. There are a few paths that allow for divergence depending on what course of action you take, but they don't alter the main narrative too dramatically. The lone exception is the ending, and that doesn't require another playthrough to see since the game opens up all of the chapters once you complete it. Thus, one playthrough will be enough for most people. There are a few bugs, like some subtitles lingering past their time period and some incidental guard dialogue being repeated too often, but they're minor enough that they don't affect gameplay. The same goes for a few instances where some people lack collision or small objects float in the air.

When it comes to the presentation, the audio portion is near-perfect. Beyond the aforementioned vocal performances, the music is very film-like and evokes emotions at the right moments, all while sounding pleasing to the ears. The use of Unreal Engine means that the graphics suffer from the dreaded texture pop-in when you reach a new environment. At the same time, the engine is able to produce some great-looking environments, and character models look good and animate well. The frame rate is a bit uneven, as you get bouts of 60fps, but otherwise, the game sticks to 30fps without any drops.

A Way Out is nothing short of an awesome experience. The story is fantastic, the characters are very believable, and the game moves at a good pace. While it doesn't concentrate on a particular game style, it's easily accessible to all. The mandatory co-op may turn off those who can't easily find others to play with, but this game is well worth the effort of finding someone who's willing to go through the journey with you. A Way Out is certainly a game that's worth playing as soon as possible.

Score: 9.0/10

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