Title: A Way Out Review
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Official Site: https://www.ea.com/games/a-way-out
Release Date: Mar. 23, 2018
Where To Buy: local retailer, Xbox Live, PSN Store, Windows Store
A Way Out is a beautifully cinematic experience that tells the story of two unlikely partners-in-crime as they work together to escape prison. As simple as that premise sounds, it goes much deeper than that. The game draws you in and leaves you emotionally attached to the two protagonists who are both dynamic and realistic. Environments are rich in color and detail, characters are phenomenally animated, and even the games aspect ratio (a la widescreen) lends to the very cinematic feel of the game. The whole experience feels like a Telltale experience if it were polished fifty times over, not to say that Telltale games aren’t great, but this experience shines through in a genre filled with “interactive cinema” games.
Interestingly, the game is directed by Josef Fares, known for Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which featured a similar concept between the two characters being controlled simultaneously.
Most of A Way Out takes place on the west coast, specifically in 1972 Utah according to highway signs found toward the middle of the game. These dry (most of the time), flat plains, make for a great setting for the game and give it a very old-fashioned prison aesthetic, which works perfectly, considering the theme of the game.
The story follows two prisoners, Leo Caruso and Vincent Moretti, as they attempt an escape from prison, working together to solve puzzles and work their way out of the building and into the wilderness.
Their escape isn’t easy, however, there are enemies at every corner, whether it be fellow prisoners or policeman, the two characters have to work together using both sides of a split-screen format in order to carve out a way for the other.
In one sequence early in the game, Vincent must come up with a distraction in order to allow Leo a chance to grab a chisel from a table in the next room. Still in his hospital bed after a brutal fight with a prison gang, Vincent talks up the nurse while Leo sneaks away, evading a guard and another nurse before coming across the tool and stealing it.
These sorts of situations are prevalent throughout the game and prevent one player from trailblazing and leaving the other behind. All situations essentially require teamwork, even fighting. Several moments in A Way Out calls for both players to come in at different angles in order to take out two or more guards at the same time to avoid suspicion. These split-screen, two-player moments are fluid and transition well between each other. The combat, however, felt just a tad clunky and not as free-flowing as would be expected for an action-adventure game.
Other moments are less serious and are extremely entertaining. There are hundreds of interactive objects in the game that each character reacts to in different ways, and often can be interacted with by both characters at the same time. In one instance, the two characters play a “Connect Four” type game together, despite the fact that they’re escaping the law. These scenes lead to comedic and refreshing moments between the characters and are a breath of fresh between police chases.
The whole game feels very cinematic, between the coloring, the lighting, and the music, it honestly feels like a great drama film wrapped up in a gaming package, and that’s where it loses some brownie points. It is a game, and thus, the fact that it feels more like a film than a movie is a loss for A Way Out. Of course, it is still an amazing experience, and every moment seems to be well thought out, and it definitely draws in the player, but the whole game just feels like an interactive movie.
It works in the favor of the story, but it detracts from what many imagine could have been a good balance between cinematic scenes and gameplay. What it does do well is the whole fluidity of the game. The screen will constantly pan and shift between split-screen and mono-screen, depending on what is happening on screen or if a cutscene is occurring.
What really impresses though is the fluidity between these shifts. In one moment, the split-screen that players have gotten used to divides into thirds and the left-most portion of the screen becomes a screen for an assassin who is chasing after the two other characters. This moment was intense and unique, the screens only lend to the whole experience.
Speaking of the screens, that’s really what makes this game unique. Experiencing two entirely different people simultaneously makes the game feel more realistic. There is no AI to bumble around getting stuck on staircases or falling off the world map, they are controlled by someone else, which leads to the fact that each character is entirely different because they are also played by two entirely different people.
This unique take on two-player games took some getting used to when first played through, as distractions become a severe reality when both players are interacting with people or objects at the same time. At times, both characters would speak at the same time and it is almost impossible to keep your eyes and ears focused on one side of the screen at a time.
Later on in the game, this becomes a useful feature as when one character goes down, knowing exactly where they are shaves off time in order to save them. This feature is also heavily used in the climax, which will not be spoiled in this review, but it is quite an unexpected twist and adds to the story very well.
Overall, A Way Out is a heavily film-influenced gaming masterpiece with some caveats thanks to some of the newer, and unique ideas such as the split-screen, and dual character playability. The fact that it can’t in any way be played by one player is a bit of a turn off for some people, as not everyone has a friend willing to sink 6-8 hours into the game, even if it is free for the other person.
The cinematic feel and the atmosphere all lend really well to the game and the player is left in a daze as the story unfolds, especially as the climax comes into view, of which there are multiple endings.
It is a short adventure but it is a memorable experience that can be shared with a friend, and for this games case, it works well for this particular experience.
Verdict: A Way Out is a cinematic adventure dripping with a great story, music, and character development but feels too much like an interactive movie to be a perfect game.
- Beautiful visuals
- Great story
- Perfectly blended scene transitions
- Emotional powerhouse
- Clunk combat controls
- Feels like an interactive movie
- Quick-time events
- split-screen gameplay can be confusing at times