In a first (to my knowledge anyway) A Way Out features integrated 2 player Co-Op, the entire game is based around two players working through it together. Naturally as Abbie and I like playing games that we can work through together, this seemed the perfect game for us both to play. It was released on PS4 and Xbox One in 2018. Abbie and I played the PS4 version.
If you read my reviews regularly you’ll notice that Abbie has a particular fondness for games that we can play together. We got a bit Lego-ed out after playing Marvel Superheroes, Harry Potter, and various others so we attempted New Super Mario Bros. Wii but since my review we haven’t picked up that game again. It works perfectly fine if we are playing individually but 2 player is as big a nightmare as it was the first time we tried so I won’t play it in Co-Op and Abbie won’t play it without me…it is therefore consigned to gather dust on the shelf.
However A Way Out seemed perfect for us as it is designed to be played together and also includes local split screen so you don’t need two consoles or two copies of the game. I admit that prior to starting the game I had watched a few episodes of Outside Xbox playing the game but I deliberately stopped watching when Abbie and I decided to get the game because I didn’t want to spoil it for myself. Abbie had watched a full walkthrough so she was familiar with what was going to happen but she didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to ruin it for me.
The game opens with Leo and Vincent in a plane heading to locations unknown, you choose who you want to play as and then we jump straight into a flashback. Leo is a thief and is incarcerated in a prison when Vincent arrives to serve his time for murder. A crime boss on the outside wants Leo dead but as he is jumped by other inmates Vincent intervenes. The pair are beaten and whilst they are recovering in the infirmary they realise that they have a common enemy, the crime boss that tried to kill Leo, named Harvey.
Both want to go after Harvey for personal reasons and they decide that if they are to break out of the prison to go after him then they must work together.
Working together you plan their escape and over a series of several days (?), weeks (?) you are able to break out with the authorities hot on your trail. After eluding the authorities Leo pays a visit to his family and tells them that he is going after Harvey but if things go wrong they need to be prepared to flee.
Leo learns that Vincent was framed for murder by Harvey and has a heavily pregnant wife who is about to go into labour. Being on the run and dependant on each other the pair begin to bond as they rely on one another to keep the other safe. Leo encourages Vincent to go and see his wife and new born child at the hospital, but the authorities are waiting for them.
Again after working together to elude the police Leo and Vincent decide that they need to head down to Mexico to get revenge on Harvey for what he has done to them both…
The time period for the story is set around the 1950s, so there are no mobile phones or electronic tags, and the setting makes you feel like you are playing a game set in the same universe as the Shawshank Redemption. Vincent is the wrongfully convicted man that is looking to escape his confinement to get revenge on Harvey, the man who killed Vincent’s brother then framed Vincent for the crime. Leo also has a grudge against Harvey so the two band together to get themselves out of prison to go after him.
I honestly have no idea what the time scale of the story is, whether it is days, weeks, or months, and the game doesn’t seem to specify. Not that it matters too much really.
In terms of the characters the story is very character driven, both Leo and Vincent have a score to settle with Harvey, but they both have very different ways of going about getting things done. Leo has been a thief his entire life but it is a means to an end to keep his family going, and as a result he tends to favour the more direct approach to achieve his goals. Vincent on the other hand was a straight arrow until he was framed for murder so he tends to favour the more subtle approach to getting things done. These two attitudes result in there being several opportunities throughout the game to choose one of two paths, Leo’s Way or Vincent’s Way. Leo’s tend to be more violent but easier, and Vincent’s harder but more stealthy. Ultimately neither way really makes much difference to the progression of the story as events happen regardless of which option you chose. In one sequence Leo and Vincent have the option to drive a hijacked police car over a bridge or sneak underneath, I saw Outside Xbox do the former so I opted to do the latter. Abbie agreed and we snuck our way under the bridge, in the police car version they get caught and have to flee, in the sneaky option they still get caught, and still have to run so whilst you are given choices the story is very linier so it doesn’t really matter which option you decide to do.
Both Leo and Vincent walk that line between being criminals but not necessarily being “bad” people. Leo grew up in an orphanage with the woman that became his wife, they have had to steal just to get buy in life. Vincent was framed for murder and is seeking to clear his name, his heavily pregnant wife doesn’t seem to know what is happening, and the pair have become estranged. It is unclear if she believes that he is innocent or not.
For me the highlight of the game was escaping from the prison sadly this is only a very small part of the game, maybe only a quarter, and whilst there are other puzzles to solve during the rest of the story none of it really comes close to the excitement of breaking out of jail.
Working together also creates several incidences when both of you are required to work together to do something. If you are jacking up a car to replace a wheel that is fair enough, but neither Leo nor Vincent has the upper body strength to pry thin sheets of corrugated metal blocking their path. So they must call the other to assist. This does lead to many a moment in which one of you is standing by the contextual “continue level” objective whilst the other one is off exploring the level. Numerous objects can be picked up and interacted with varying degrees of purpose. Either character can pick up a hammer and hammer nails into a board, why you ask, well why not? the game replies. Picking things up and looking at them, or just tightening screws can all be done but serves no real purpose. It does help to make the game feel more interactive but Leo and Vincent playing banjo and piano respectively during their escape from the authorities seems a tad out of place.
On the subject of things out of place, the button prompts are always present and correct to let you know which button to push and when, but there are also woeful driving mechanics. I will freely admit that I am not a fan of driving games, played one, played them all as far as I am concerned. But games like Saints Row or the GTAs include a fair amount of driving around, and I consider myself to be a decent enough driver. However, there doesn’t seem to be a reverse so if you get hung up on terrain then there is no way to reverse and go a different way. Like the rest of the game the driving sequences are pretty linier and you tend to be in a car, sadly there is a sequence when you are being chased whilst on bikes, and being chased by trucks with mounted machine guns on them. This sequence was very irritating because despite the fact that you are on dirt bikes that go off road, your pursuers have no difficulty following you, and will shoot at you constantly. This part of the game is more maze-like so you have no real idea where you are supposed to go and should you go the wrong way or get stuck on something there will be a truck behind you to hammer bullets into your back. Of everything in the game this was the sequence that we needed to play over and over because we kept getting gunned down by our pursuers.
The game play itself does change as the game progresses, when you are escaping from the prison it is puzzle solving and heavily stealth focussed. As you are escaping it becomes more driving and shooting, and by the time you head down to Mexico to track down Harvey it has become a full on shooter. Leo and Vincent break into Harvey’s compound and naturally he seems to have an inexhaustible supply of henchmen with the survival instincts of suicidal lemmings that will race out of cover to get gunned down. Abbie wasn’t so keen on this section because she is not a fan of shooting games and this seemed to go full on GTA which was a far cry from what we started off doing. I don’t mind shooting games and thankfully the shooting mechanics are not as bad as the driving so hiding and shooting was not that much of a problem. Abbie spent a lot of time cowering whilst I cleared out the enemies as I was more confident in the shooting sections than she was.
Right I cannot go any further without discussing the ending so…
Throughout the game you have the option to do as Leo decides or as Vincent decides, and as I said above ultimately it does not matter which you do. I am going to try not to spoil everything but something happens which sets Leo and Vincent against one another. There is even a boss fight you have with each other where they are trying to kill one another, however, both are on opposite sides of a warehouse so you cannot run up to your opponent and shoot them point blank. As Abbie had seen one of the endings she was keen to see the other so allowed me to beat her character to get the different ending. It did make me wonder though if both of you were playing to win, then this fight could get incredibly tedious with one person hiding awaiting the other to move, taking a few pot shots to whittle their health bar down, and then ducking back into cover. Anyway so we had the boss fight and then the game moved into a final fight in which one of you must kill the other...
My problem was that you have no choice about killing the other character, one of you wields the gun and the button prompt appears when you need to take your shot. I wanted to know what happened if you didn’t shoot but all that happens is the gun remains pointed at the other guy until you hit the button. So it isn’t as though you have the option to shoot wide or not shoot at all. Apparently the endings are very similar which bugged me due to their lack of creativity, and for a game that is so character driven it seems a tad lazy to have such linier endings. Similarly to Infamous 2 I came up with at least four possible endings for A Way Out or more if you factor in whether you went with Leo’s ideas or Vincent’s choices throughout the game. Unfortunately every decision you make through the game amounts to naught and it is only the last few minutes that effects how the game ends.
Abbie and I did enjoy the game but personally the weak endings left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth because it did not need to be like that. Give us endings in which the decisions you made as Vincent and Leo actually meant something, give us the decision of whether or not to kill the other character. Allow multiple endings which show that the choices we made through the game counted for something which would also encourage multiple playthroughs to see all of the different endings.
Overall I did enjoy the game and whilst the ending could have been so much better it didn’t ruin the overall experience. It was a really good 2-player game and neither Abbie nor I got bored with playing it. It could have been longer with our playtime clocking in at maybe 8ish hours and escaping the prison was the highlight so I would not have objected if that had been the majority of the game with hunting down Harvey saved for the sequel. The game is not getting anything less than a Thumbs Up but my rating would have been higher if the endings had been more creative and interesting.
7/10 – The 2-player Co-OP game play did not get any less fun as we played and the split screen meant that we could easily play it on one screen rather than online. Sadly if the endings had been better then I might have given the game an 8/10 or maybe even a 9/10 but the weak conclusion to the story affects my overall opinion because there is really no reason to play it again as if I want to see the other ending we’d just need to play the final chapter again.