A Way Out is one of those titles you are waiting for. Not because it’s a surefire candidate for a hit, but out of curiosity. At E3 in 2017, it was, in my opinion, one of the most interesting announcements during the presentation of Electronic Arts. Two-player co-op prison break played on split screen – sounds original, doesn’t it? But there is a long way from an original and interesting concept to a successful product. Did the creators from the Swedish Hazelight studio get through it without a hitch? You will find out from the review below.
A Way Out is theoretically a debut project of the Swedes. I am writing theoretically, because these creators were a team working together with Starbreeze AB studio on Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. If someone does not know it, I would like to inform you that this is a great title, which since its premiere in 2013 on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, has been released successively on mobile devices and consoles of the current generation. Only the Switch is missing from the collection, but it’s probably just a matter of time. Importantly, Brothers was also based on the cooperation of two characters, but in a slightly different form. The game could be completed by yourself, and in the case of A Way Out, a companion is essential.
A Way Out review
The main characters of the game are two prisoners, Vincent and Leo, who, after realizing that they have a desire to escape and the same enemy, decide to help each other and escape from prison together. As it quickly turns out, getting out of the penitentiary facility is a piece of cake, compared to being a fugitive wanted by the police. In fact, it is difficult to reveal something more, without spoiling the pleasure of discovering the story, because it is the most important thing in A Way Out. The most important, but unfortunately it does not mean that it is at a very high level. The creators had a pretty good idea for the plot, which they tried to fill with a large dose of emotional charge, but ultimately did not know how to end it well. Despite many numb dialogues, building bonds between the characters and discovering their sensitive nature turned out to be quite good for the creators, but I was left with a lot of disgust at the plot twist served at the end of the game straight from the B-class sensational films. however, I expected a little more from the Swedes. The situation is also not saved by not fully thought-out gameplay solutions, which sometimes spoil the atmosphere. The characters themselves are quite stereotypical, and in both the visual and fictional layers, you can see many clichés in the game, for example from such cult film productions as the Shawshank Redemption or the Scarface. However, despite everything, the game is addictive and we don’t even think to give up the game before it’s finished. This is largely due to the diverse gameplay and the illusion that the decisions we make have an impact on it. Ultimately, however, it turns out that the elections have no impact on the course of history. Yes, the creators have prepared two endings, but the last fragments of the game decide which one we activate. And the funny thing is, it’s not about some difficult moral decision, but about the endurance of the finger … You’ll understand how you play.
However, it wasn’t history that caught my attention after the first presentation of A Way Out. In a flood of similar games, the production of the Hazelight studio was to bring a breath of fresh air to the stuffy Battle Royale titles and micropayment scandals. A Way Out offers a real mix of genres and mechanics, but what first caught the eye was the possibility of network cooperation on a split screen. The creators also decided to make a bold move and in the era when all companies are focused on easy profit, the Swedes give players something for free. A Way Out works only in co-op for two players, but it is enough for only one to have the game and the other to use the invitation to the game. A great solution. Besides, we have few productions that use the benefits of cooperation in such an original and realistic way. When one of the prisoners is up to something in his cell, the other watches the situation and warns about the approaching guard. The prison stage is the strongest part of the game in my opinion. We then have to perform a few simple logical puzzles in which cooperation and communication with the other player is essential. After leaving the penitentiary, a festival of various mechanics begins. There are stealth fragments, arcade escapes: by car, motorboat, motorcycle, banal fights realized in the Quick time event system limited to pressing two buttons, and at the end we get a very average shooter. I understand that the creators wanted to give players the power to experience. And they partially succeeded, but I can’t help but feel that by filling the game with a genre mix, they created a production as mediocre as the build quality of each of the gameplay elements used. However, despite all the gameplay richness, completing the game takes only 6 hours, and the difficulty level is so low that each new mechanic and attraction available in the game leaves no permanent trace in our memory. In this case, more is not necessarily better.
In terms of the design of the location, I have nothing to complain about A Way Out. The prison, construction site, hospital and many other places that we will visit during the Vinceta and Leo trek are created with attention to detail. Locations sometimes ask to be more open, but on the other hand, even if we find an additional corridor, it usually leads into a dead end or allows you to tear yourself apart by taking part in one of the numerous mini-games. It’s a pity that after taking part in the first few, we lose the desire for the rest, because nothing comes out of them. But I must admit that for the curious, they are the only factor that motivates to visit, because the gameplay is painfully linear and scripted, and there is one right path to the goal – straight ahead.
Although I have already heard a few critical comments about the graphics, in my opinion it is one of the strongest points of A Way Out. It is worth remembering that this is not an AAA title, and looking at the momentum with which it was made, many high-budget productions would not be ashamed of such a visual layer. The second strongest aspect of the game is the currently underrated split-screen gameplay. Although there are some shortcomings here as well. It happens that important dialogue issues are drowned out by a meaningless conversation between the other player. The situation becomes even more complicated when we don’t know English. The game has Polish subtitles, but in the case of a conversation between the characters, the relevant issue appears only on the side of the character who says it. Though perhaps I’m exaggerated, because the dialogues are so simple that to understand them, all you need is a basic knowledge of the language.
A Way Out review – summary
I complained so a bit about A Way Out and forgot to add that it’s actually a nice game. The Hazelight team showed great creativity and versatility and created a production that goes beyond today’s trends. It’s good that someone wants to experiment, and not just create games based on the most popular ones. Undoubtedly, you can have a lot of fun with A Way Out and spend one or two evenings, but it’s a pity that the creators did not try to provide a more demanding gameplay and a more ambitious storyline. Although it does not lack moments that can move and make us reflect, with time we get caught in a whirlwind of action that destroys the emotional foundation of the production. The plot blurs and we only get a hackneyed story straight from sensational films. But who knows, maybe it was a deliberate action by the creators. The game must sell, because if such innovative projects do not bring the appropriate profits, then in the future there will be no courageous people to implement them. Hopefully A Way Out heralds a return to a creative and original approach to game development.
The game was provided by the publisher Electronic Arts Polska