A Way Out review – humdrum crime with a co-op twist

Mar
29

A Way Out review – humdrum crime with a co-op twist

A Way Out, the new game from the Swedish-Lebanese director Josef Fares and his team Hazelight Studios, absolutely insists on being played co-operatively by two players. Not just two players, but two friends. The action is followed using a clever, dynamic split-screen display that keeps the two player characters in view at (almost) all times, and the game is best experienced in local play. It can be played online, but not with strangers; there’s no matchmaking and you can issue invites to your friends list only. You are, at least, granted a Friend Pass that lets your online buddy download the game and play with you for free.

So, it’s not the easiest game to play. You need negotiation and co-ordination skills just to fix a time to sit down to it. It’s clear that the developer really wants you to play it with someone you know. And it won’t surprise anyone who played Fares’ debut game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, to learn that he has a very specific pay-off in mind.

That game had two lead characters as well – both controlled by the one player this time, using both control sticks on the gamepad. It used this set-up to generate some gentle puzzle gameplay, but also to frame a mighty emotional hook near the end of the game, where the unique control scheme and the affecting storytelling coalesced in one unforgettable moment. A Way Out tries to do something similar, only with social dynamics rather than game mechanics. It kind of works, but – as is often the problem with this kind of high-concept game design – the pay-off doesn’t quite justify the set-up.

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