A Way Out, developed by Hazelight Studios and published by Electronic Arts (EA) offers the chance to share a couch with your buddy and work your way through a narratively driven experience (something that’s rare these days) and I’m glad I had the company of my friend (his name is Ross, in case you’re interested) next to me, because our shared dislike of the game and subsequent joking and bantering about it, was the only thing that pushed us to see it through to the end. There are certainly some interesting technical aspects to the game (how it handles its cooperative story, visually), but much of, A Way Out feels like busy work, rather than an engaging experience. So let’s get this review underway and see if this game is worth your time or money.The game follows, Vincent Moretti – voiced by Eri Krogh – and Leo Caruso – voiced by Fares Fares – who meet in prison and soon realise the same man put them there. They quickly hatch a plan to escape and reap revenge upon him.
I was really excited when I first saw, A Way Out at E3 last year. My friend and I agreed we’d meet up, sit down and play through the game in an old-school couch co-op fashion – and we did exactly that. We kicked our feet up, cracked open some diet coke (cause we’re crazy like that) and settled into a game that was tailored made for such an experience. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to notice that the game we were playing was extremely limited in scope and in gameplay.
A Way Out starts out slow, but I just saw that as the game taking the time to establish its story and characters; get you familiar with the controls – you know? What any normal game would do. But, it quickly became apparent that the story wasn’t going to go beyond being extremely basic and continually predictable – it’s characters having very little, to no depth at all – and its gameplay never evolving past button prompts and quick time events (QTE) – minus the final two missions of the game which has you doing a little more than just pressing a button when told to.
What started out as a co-op experience that felt different in its presentation (a presentation that always felt fresh and never faltered) was soon a tedious, predictable game that both my friend and I struggled to want to keep playing – it was only because we made our own entertainment that we were able to find some enjoyment in the game.
This games biggest problem (and thing that held it back significantly in my mind) is the completely unengaging gameplay. A Way Out’s gameplay is the bare minimum of interaction required by you. Either you and your partner tackle extremely linear segments with a very easy to solve puzzle (much of the beginning of the game is segments like this) or you’re both loaded into a small sandbox where you can wander around and find things to interact with. It wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that your ability to do anything in either of these segments is so limited.
The extent of what the game requires from you is pressing square, R2 or X when prompted to (we completed the game on PS4) and following the limited path before you. Or searching for little off-the-beaten path points to interact with; which were usually empty and pointless conversations with NPCs (non-player character) mini-games (hitting baseballs, throwing darts, playing an arcade machine) or simply interacting with an object for reasons that I’m still baffled by (hammering a nail into some wood, trying on a hat or washing the dishes). The game put you in these segments and then filled them with the bare minimum of things to make it seem like there was more than there actually was. It was busy work. Filler that served no real purpose, other than to fill the areas with something to justify them existing and you being there. Finding these things and, “interacting” with them was sad honestly; to see that this constituted a, “game,” in 2018.
My buddy and I would run around these areas desperately searching for the mini-games, as it was the only point of enjoyment we found in the game. That’s right, playing other games, like connect four or darts, etc. was more fun to us than the actual game. Trying to best one another’s high scores was what fuelled us in these segments (and Ross usually ended up winning. Damn him). What you had was the illusion of gameplay – the illusion of interaction. Failing was nigh on impossible. Coming up against a formidable obstacle; a challenging puzzle, or a memorable segment of the game, simply never happened. You just follow the path and press one of the three buttons when prompted to.
Beyond the lacklustre gameplay (undoubtedly the most important aspect of a game) the narrative and characters weren’t much better. Leo (who I played as) and Vincent (who Ross played as) are barely characters. Neither Ross or I ever found ourselves connecting or caring about our characters. In fact, Ross began to actively hate Leo early on; finding him annoying and dumb. Who they are and what motivates them never goes beyond being basic and predictable. They both have their reasons to want to kill Harvey, but we didn’t care. I wasn’t invested in seeing them reap revenge on him – I never found myself itching to see what would happen next and what part we’d play in it. And it seemed to be much the same for Ross.
Overall the story was predictable and uninteresting to follow most of the time. It also borrowed liberally from other properties. Ross was particularly annoyed by how much they were copying from the Shawshank Redemption in the prison portion of the game. We would both often guess what was going to happen next and how it would happen and one of us would always be right. By the end (in fact, much earlier than that) we would both slump back on the couch when cutscenes would start and just wait for them to be over. The dialogue was particularly bad. We weren’t sure if it was the writing, the animation or the voice acting that made the delivery of the characters so bad, so we agreed it was a combination of all of them – plus the timing of their responses, which seemed oddly out of sync. Soon, we found ourselves struggling to find reasons to see the game through to its end. We did end up doing it, but only because we made our own fun.
If it wasn’t for sitting on that couch with one of my best buds, making jokes – at the games expense – and generally just bullshitting around; I don’t think either of us would have had the patience to finish this game – especially if it was a solo campaign (I know I certainly wouldn’t have). Running around making our own fun; playing the mini-games, ripping into the characters and what they’re saying, talking about life outside the game. This was what made us make it to the end and finish the game – it also helped that it only took about five and a half hours to complete so we did it in one sitting. And so, I’m of two minds when I think back on A Way Out and my time spent with it.
On the one hand, I had a day where I hung out with one of my best buds, played a video game together and laughed the whole time – genuinely it was a really fun day. But… it was the poor quality of the game that inspired those laughs and jokes; it being such a chore to get through by the end only spurred more bashing of the game, and more joking around. I appreciate that in 2018, A Way Out brought us together in the same room to play a video game together (especially when playing online is now the standard for all games, whether they’re singleplayer or multiplayer). But I also can’t ignore the fact that this isn’t a good game. In fact, it was a game that I think both of us actively disliked by the end.
And so, I DO NOT recommend, A Way Out, and probably neither does Ross. Maybe for the comradery of hanging out with your pal for the day, there could be an argument for recommending the game, but knowing how much the game itself isn’t fun to play, I can’t bring myself to tell you to buy it or play it. But if there is still the want within you to play it, then I suggest waiting until it comes down in price. This game is at no point worth £25/$29. One thing I would recommend – and something I’m going to make the effort to do – is have more gaming experiences that involve getting friends together, sitting in front of the couch, drinking some beers (that’s right, we’ve upgraded from diet coke to beer – so crazy) and having some laughs. What could be better than that?
I’d love to hear what you thought of, A Way Out and my review of it. What was your experience when playing it? Let me know in the comments section down below. If you liked what you read here and would like to know when I post more reviews, may I suggest following both my blog directly, and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. But I’ll bring these mad ramblings to a close now by offering you my sincere thanks for taking the time to read my review – I truly do appreciate it!