For as long as consoles have existed, playing on the couch with friends has been a favorite way to pass the time. I remember playing g Halo 3 and Gears of War with my friends when I was younger. Taking down the covenant or conquering the locust horde together on the same screen.
Even when the experience is shared online, there’s nothing better than partnering up with some random strangers to put the hurt on some zombies, like in Left 4 Dead, and the experience is ten times better than playing those same games solo even though that’s always an option and won’t hinder your time spent in the game.
But what about a game that doesn’t give you a choice? What about a game where you absolutely have to play with a partner in order to complete it? Then look no further than the critically acclaimed game from Hazlelight Studios called A Way Out. A unique third-person adventure about two strangers escaping from prison.
I was itching to experience this game for myself. So, I grabbed a second controller, teamed up with my closest friend, and got stuck into one of the most emotionally charged adventures I’ve played in a while. There’s plenty of brilliantly written characters and plot lines to get acquainted with. So, without further ado, let’s see if A Way Out is still good in 2021.
A Way Out
What’s It All About?
In A Way Out, you play as either Vincent or Leo, two unlikely strangers that both have a grudge against a man named Harvey, and more than enough reason to break out of prison and exact their revenge. Leo finds himself in a heap of trouble when one of Harvey’s hitmen finds him in prison but, with some help from Vincent, he survives and the pair make an unlikely connection.
Vincent soon realizes that Leo is planning an escape and, after a brief disagreement, Vincent convinces him that he needs help and won’t be able to do it alone. From there, the two convicted criminals work together to escape from prison, travel across 1970s America, and takedown Harvey once and for all.
This game was tailor-made for couch co-op and the two players work together almost from the start. Every enemy you encounter, every environmental puzzle that needs to be solved has to be tackled as a team because one person’s failure will derail everybody’s progress throughout the game.
Each character’s story is told impressively through the dialogue and cut scenes that can happen independently of each player. one might be doing tasks in the environment while another goes through an important cut scene with another character, immersing both in the tale that these two inmates weave.
What’s Good About It?
By far, the most compelling aspect of A Way Out has to be the strong narrative that gets driven along by two of the most well-written characters I’ve seen to date. Both Leo and Vincent’s motivations are clear and well-defined that you can’t help but cheer them on right up until the final showdown.
There’s so much for them to interact with in the world that each response or witty remark further develops the relationship that these two escapees share and, whenever they disagree on a course of action and leave the decision in the hands of the players, it further emphasizes their personalities and character traits.
Vincent is always more calculated and would rather not harm anybody to get the job done while Leo is far more abrasive and hell-bent on getting the job done no matter what happens or who gets hurt. It’s an interesting dynamic that the game does a good job of exploring and expertly engages you in the story.
The levels in A Way Out cover various different gameplay styles that experienced players will be familiar with. From driving cars to shooting out of a moving vehicle, there’s even a bit of hand-to-hand combat thrown into the mix. But, what ties everything together are the small puzzles you need to overcome to progress.
The majority of the puzzles you encounter require both players to work in unison and figure it out. One might keep a lookout while the other begins the escape from prison, one might crank a barn hook and carry the other across to get an important item. The variation is deep and will keep both players on their toes throughout the experience.
What’s Bad About It?
While I’m always impressed by a great story and the co-op puzzles were a decent curveball to overcome, they weren’t really puzzles that demanded a lot mentally and they were more a case of taking items from one place and using them in another, which began to feel a bit tedious after a while.
Not to mention all the needless side games that are available at each level. I mean, being able to play the instruments in the old couple’s house was interesting but, in the grand scheme, seemed more like a waste of time and was quickly abandoned by me and my teammate once the novelty wore off.
Overall, I’d say the biggest hindrance was the fact that A Way Out never felt like an idea I could fully wrap my head around and I spent most of my playtime confused about what kind of game it wanted to be. You spent so much of the time walking around puzzle solving that the brief moments of action would end up feeling out of place or make you excited for a moment then leave you wanting more as you go back to walking around, talking to NPC’s.
Should I Play It?
While the action and gameplay might be a little too tame for my liking, it was certainly a co-op experience I won’t soon forget. Being forced to rely on a teammate was unique and made me wish that games with co-op catered more to making it a truly cooperative experience between players rather than just a tag-team bullet farm.
Have you had the chance to play A Way Out with a friend on the couch or online? What did you think of the complete co-op experience created by Hazelight Studios? Let me know in the comments section below.