X
X
PlayStation 4


 

 

Emma Schaefer It takes two people to play A Way Out, the latest cooperative game from Hazelight Studios. The game places you in the shoes of two convicted criminals who must learn to work together in order to escape from prison, and beyond. I played the game alongside my fellow EGM staffer, Evan. While I stepped into the shoes of Vincent Moretti, a well-groomed banker sentenced to fourteen years in prison for fraud, Evan took over the role of Leo Caruso, a hardened criminal in the middle of serving his sentence for armed robbery, assault, and grand theft. Evan, what was it like playing as Leo? What were your first impressions?
To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy playing as a convicted felon, especially since I originally believed the entire game would take place inside of a prison. Thankfully, though, both Leo and Vincent are given a good level of depth, allowing for the player to see past the reasons they’re in prison and find a pretty relatable character. Leo was a lot of fun to take control of mainly because he liked to react first and ask questions later. Plus, he’s pretty headstrong when it comes to getting what he wants, which is basically the opposite of me. But what about you and your time with Vincent? I know both characters play pretty much the same way, but were there any moments with Vincent that stood out? Evan Slead
Emma I felt like I related more to Vincent’s way of handling situations. Vincent tends to talk his way out of situations or choose a route that avoids as much collateral damage as possible, such as knocking out a guard instead of killing him or taking the long way around a police checkpoint. Leo tends to run in guns blazing, not caring who gets hurt in the process, as long as it leaves a clear path for him and no witnesses. That doesn’t mean that one character’s way of handling things is always better than the other’s, though. There are many points where you have to choose whether to handle a situation Vince’s way or Leo’s way, and I felt that the game did a pretty good job of balancing them out. I’d say we ended up choosing mostly based on which option looked like the most fun, and that ended up being a pretty good mix of both characters.
 
That’s a good point you bring up about how to choose which direction to take. The game has a surprising level of goofiness to it in certain moments, which was where we had most of our fun. We should also say, A Way Out can be played in online or local co-op, with us taking the local, “couch” option. While online would’ve likely worked in a similar way, it was interesting to sit down and play a storyline together, which I honestly haven’t experienced since Resident Evil 5. I initially felt that a cooperative plot was a risky move for Hazelight to make, but in the end, I think it’s arguably the game’s greatest strength. It was much more engaging to make decisions with you than it likely would’ve been if I had been playing alone. How did you feel about the co-op aspect? Evan
Emma The co-op is crucial to making this game work. If the same storyline had been single-player, with the same sort of plot and the same prompts, it wouldn’t have been very interesting. Because, honestly, the game by itself is not very challenging—there is usually only one path forwards, and most of the interaction is simple button prompts. All of the interesting parts come out of having to coordinate that with another person, figuring out, “oh, if you walk over here, then I can pass this tool through the grate to you, and then I can distract the guard while you walk behind him.”

The game also has some interesting cinematography due to its co-op nature. Most of the time, it’s split-screen, but the split is dynamic. When one character is having a big moment, they’ll get a bigger share of the screen space. Story beats are also timed out so that when one character is having an important conversation, the other will usually just be walking down a hall, or playing basketball, or something passive that lets you pay attention to the other person’s side of the screen while still controlling your character. Did you feel like you had an equal share of screen time?

I did. This goes back to my praise of both characters’ personalities and backstories getting fleshed out throughout the game. Sometimes co-op experiences can make one player always feel like the main, primary character, while the other is just there for support. In A Way Out, I always felt that we were balanced, as we get a good deal of engagement with both men. As you mentioned, the puzzles weren’t extremely difficult, but both Leo and Vincent had the same amount of responsibility in each one. To me, that’s a harder feature to get right than making a puzzle “hard.”

I felt this translated well into the more pivotal choices we had to make in the game, too. Despite being one continuous story, the plot is broken up into chapters that can be accessed repeatedly. It gives the players a chance to redo a chapter and pick the alternate route, and that was one of the more interesting parts of our experience. Leo and Vincent both offer unique ways of handling trouble, whether its how to get extra money to buy weapons or how to properly take out a prison guard. While picking either character’s option will progress the story, the next chapter’s events will change slightly. In turn, one path can unlock a new opening cinematic for the following chapter or even provide a different gameplay element.

That’s another great aspect to the game: the change in gameplay. While a majority of the game handles like a third-person split-screen adventure, there are driving sequences, shooter elements, and even stealth. How did you feel about the multi-genre approach?

Evan
Emma A Way Out didn’t go in the direction I thought it would. From my first impressions of the trailers, I assumed that it would be mostly a puzzle/stealth game set entirely in the prison. The story goes far beyond that, though, showing Vincent and Leo’s entire escape and evasion in the days following, which is where all those other genres come in. Sometimes sequences hit on two different genres simultaneously, like the times when I’d be driving a car away in a GTA-esque escape from the police while you leaned out the back window and took shots at them.

The dives into other genres felt a little shallow to me. When driving the car, for example, I only had options to accelerate or brake, and got stuck a few times because I’d hit a rock at a weird angle and couldn’t put the car into reverse. Or there’s the shooter sections, when you just have a gun but not the fully fledged combat, cover, or movement system of a game that’s really testing your skill at shooting.

However, I don’t think that the dips into other genres are a bad thing. It’s something that ties into the “surprising goofiness” of the game that you mentioned above. The game is often both extremely dramatic and extremely over-the-top—more like a soap opera than something truly gritty, so going on a sort of theme park ride of all these different genres didn’t feel too jarring. And speaking of goofiness, I think you had a few favorite moments in that regard, right?

 
I agree that the driving segments were less than stellar. However, I found the shooter moments to be quite fun, especially since Leo and Vincent both get a dodge roll ability they can use to maneuver through areas while holding a gun. My only complaint in those sections was that they ended pretty quickly, and didn’t get featured until later into the story for some reason.

But boy, oh boy, the goofiness was definitely what kept me engaged most of the time. Without giving plot elements away, within several of the chapters were these random reprieves that ended up being mini-games. For example, at one point Leo and Vincent find themselves in a house where they can interact with various items that let them do pretty innocuous tasks. While I was in the kitchen doing dishes, you were upstairs trying on hats and messing with a sewing machine. We even got together in the living room to play piano and banjo, which we played using button commands in a timed mini-game. That’s just one example, but we were constantly looking for games like these in every chapter, and thankfully, there seemed to be one pretty consistently.

As much fun as we had with the games, though, how do you feel it made the overall experience? Remember, A Way Out is supposed to be an emotional drama for the most part.

Evan
Emma My feelings are mixed. On one hand, the goofiness can disrupt the tension that’s been building through the narrative. To add another example to yours, at one point we were racing through a hospital, trying to get to a certain room while also avoiding police scrutiny—and then we stumbled across two empty wheelchairs and the wheelchair-balancing minigame. Stop everything, forget why we’re here, it’s time for these two grown men to see who can hold a wheelie the longest! On the other hand, the deadly serious context made the goofiness even more hilarious.

There’s more goofiness, too, that’s built into the action of the game. We climbed out of a vertical shaft using a move straight from The Emperor’s New Groove. We drove a car off a cliff in dramatic slow motion. We went over the edge of a waterfall. Even though the game is telling a serious story—and it does have some very serious emotional moments—there did seem to be this constant undercurrent of silliness to a lot of it. The emotional punches of the story still hit home, but I laughed a lot more than I was expecting to.

The humor was definitely unexpected. In turn, it’s difficult to know if the developers were in on the joke or if this was just bad game design. But, when it comes to recommending this as a co-op experience, I think the goofiness makes it much more enjoyable than if every element was played completely straight.

With that said, I think we should get to the final word on A Way Out. As a game built off of the co-op campaign model, do you feel it succeeded in what it was trying to accomplish? How do you feel it stacks up with other games like it?

Evan
Emma I do think it succeeded. I had a lot of fun with it, more than I was expecting, and it had some creative uses of puzzles and environments that required two players to solve. I think the experience was heightened by having both of us there on the couch, able to talk through solutions and pick which path to take (and to laugh at the game when it got ridiculous).

The one thing it might miss that other multiplayer games have is replayability. I could see going back through the game one more time to try out playing as the other character, and to try seeing what happened with the alternate choices. Beyond that, once you’ve seen the story, I don’t think there would be much more to do.

Overall, I enjoyed it. What about you? Any final thoughts?

I definitely agree that the cooperative aspect is the game’s greatest strength. I had some nostalgia for the days when only local co-op existed, which I never imagined missing. But I think you’re right with the replayability of it all. Going through the main story in one run was a good time to be sure, but it would be hard to play through all of it again with the same person. I could only see bonus content, such as a multiplayer battle arena or something similar, being added later as a way to make the game a lasting experience. Overall, though, I appreciated the level of cheese and wackiness that was woven into the otherwise generic crime-driven plot. Evan
Emma I agree. Sometimes it’s fun to show up just for the cheese.
 

Editor’s Note: EA’s Friend Pass system is not up and running before the launch of A Way Out, and so the ability to connect with friends was not able to be taken into account during the review period. You can only play A Way Out with friends either online or locally; there is no random matchmaking option. The entirety of this review is based on couch co-op sessions in the EGM offices.

Publisher: Electronic Arts • Developer: Hazelight Studios • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.23.2018
8.0
A Way Out hearkens back to the days of couch co-op, placing players in the shoes of two criminals who must solve puzzles and support one another to escape. The game’s emotional drama runs alongside its silly undertone, making for a game that’s both moving and, at times, unintentionally hilarious.
The Good The game’s dramatic story combined with the sudden appearance of its goofy minigames led to some surprisingly hilarious moments.
The Bad There isn’t much to do outside of the main campaign and the already short story lacks replayability.
The Ugly Be prepared to watch two grown men balance in wheelchairs, draw on paintings, and try on stupid hats.
A Way Out is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Electronic Arts for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

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A Way Out DoubleTake review

Somebody’s been watching The Emperor’s New Groove.

By EGM Staff | 03/22/2018 09:00 AM PT

Reviews

 

Emma Schaefer It takes two people to play A Way Out, the latest cooperative game from Hazelight Studios. The game places you in the shoes of two convicted criminals who must learn to work together in order to escape from prison, and beyond. I played the game alongside my fellow EGM staffer, Evan. While I stepped into the shoes of Vincent Moretti, a well-groomed banker sentenced to fourteen years in prison for fraud, Evan took over the role of Leo Caruso, a hardened criminal in the middle of serving his sentence for armed robbery, assault, and grand theft. Evan, what was it like playing as Leo? What were your first impressions?
To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy playing as a convicted felon, especially since I originally believed the entire game would take place inside of a prison. Thankfully, though, both Leo and Vincent are given a good level of depth, allowing for the player to see past the reasons they’re in prison and find a pretty relatable character. Leo was a lot of fun to take control of mainly because he liked to react first and ask questions later. Plus, he’s pretty headstrong when it comes to getting what he wants, which is basically the opposite of me. But what about you and your time with Vincent? I know both characters play pretty much the same way, but were there any moments with Vincent that stood out? Evan Slead
Emma I felt like I related more to Vincent’s way of handling situations. Vincent tends to talk his way out of situations or choose a route that avoids as much collateral damage as possible, such as knocking out a guard instead of killing him or taking the long way around a police checkpoint. Leo tends to run in guns blazing, not caring who gets hurt in the process, as long as it leaves a clear path for him and no witnesses. That doesn’t mean that one character’s way of handling things is always better than the other’s, though. There are many points where you have to choose whether to handle a situation Vince’s way or Leo’s way, and I felt that the game did a pretty good job of balancing them out. I’d say we ended up choosing mostly based on which option looked like the most fun, and that ended up being a pretty good mix of both characters.
 
That’s a good point you bring up about how to choose which direction to take. The game has a surprising level of goofiness to it in certain moments, which was where we had most of our fun. We should also say, A Way Out can be played in online or local co-op, with us taking the local, “couch” option. While online would’ve likely worked in a similar way, it was interesting to sit down and play a storyline together, which I honestly haven’t experienced since Resident Evil 5. I initially felt that a cooperative plot was a risky move for Hazelight to make, but in the end, I think it’s arguably the game’s greatest strength. It was much more engaging to make decisions with you than it likely would’ve been if I had been playing alone. How did you feel about the co-op aspect? Evan
Emma The co-op is crucial to making this game work. If the same storyline had been single-player, with the same sort of plot and the same prompts, it wouldn’t have been very interesting. Because, honestly, the game by itself is not very challenging—there is usually only one path forwards, and most of the interaction is simple button prompts. All of the interesting parts come out of having to coordinate that with another person, figuring out, “oh, if you walk over here, then I can pass this tool through the grate to you, and then I can distract the guard while you walk behind him.”

The game also has some interesting cinematography due to its co-op nature. Most of the time, it’s split-screen, but the split is dynamic. When one character is having a big moment, they’ll get a bigger share of the screen space. Story beats are also timed out so that when one character is having an important conversation, the other will usually just be walking down a hall, or playing basketball, or something passive that lets you pay attention to the other person’s side of the screen while still controlling your character. Did you feel like you had an equal share of screen time?

I did. This goes back to my praise of both characters’ personalities and backstories getting fleshed out throughout the game. Sometimes co-op experiences can make one player always feel like the main, primary character, while the other is just there for support. In A Way Out, I always felt that we were balanced, as we get a good deal of engagement with both men. As you mentioned, the puzzles weren’t extremely difficult, but both Leo and Vincent had the same amount of responsibility in each one. To me, that’s a harder feature to get right than making a puzzle “hard.”

I felt this translated well into the more pivotal choices we had to make in the game, too. Despite being one continuous story, the plot is broken up into chapters that can be accessed repeatedly. It gives the players a chance to redo a chapter and pick the alternate route, and that was one of the more interesting parts of our experience. Leo and Vincent both offer unique ways of handling trouble, whether its how to get extra money to buy weapons or how to properly take out a prison guard. While picking either character’s option will progress the story, the next chapter’s events will change slightly. In turn, one path can unlock a new opening cinematic for the following chapter or even provide a different gameplay element.

That’s another great aspect to the game: the change in gameplay. While a majority of the game handles like a third-person split-screen adventure, there are driving sequences, shooter elements, and even stealth. How did you feel about the multi-genre approach?

Evan
Emma A Way Out didn’t go in the direction I thought it would. From my first impressions of the trailers, I assumed that it would be mostly a puzzle/stealth game set entirely in the prison. The story goes far beyond that, though, showing Vincent and Leo’s entire escape and evasion in the days following, which is where all those other genres come in. Sometimes sequences hit on two different genres simultaneously, like the times when I’d be driving a car away in a GTA-esque escape from the police while you leaned out the back window and took shots at them.

The dives into other genres felt a little shallow to me. When driving the car, for example, I only had options to accelerate or brake, and got stuck a few times because I’d hit a rock at a weird angle and couldn’t put the car into reverse. Or there’s the shooter sections, when you just have a gun but not the fully fledged combat, cover, or movement system of a game that’s really testing your skill at shooting.

However, I don’t think that the dips into other genres are a bad thing. It’s something that ties into the “surprising goofiness” of the game that you mentioned above. The game is often both extremely dramatic and extremely over-the-top—more like a soap opera than something truly gritty, so going on a sort of theme park ride of all these different genres didn’t feel too jarring. And speaking of goofiness, I think you had a few favorite moments in that regard, right?

 
I agree that the driving segments were less than stellar. However, I found the shooter moments to be quite fun, especially since Leo and Vincent both get a dodge roll ability they can use to maneuver through areas while holding a gun. My only complaint in those sections was that they ended pretty quickly, and didn’t get featured until later into the story for some reason.

But boy, oh boy, the goofiness was definitely what kept me engaged most of the time. Without giving plot elements away, within several of the chapters were these random reprieves that ended up being mini-games. For example, at one point Leo and Vincent find themselves in a house where they can interact with various items that let them do pretty innocuous tasks. While I was in the kitchen doing dishes, you were upstairs trying on hats and messing with a sewing machine. We even got together in the living room to play piano and banjo, which we played using button commands in a timed mini-game. That’s just one example, but we were constantly looking for games like these in every chapter, and thankfully, there seemed to be one pretty consistently.

As much fun as we had with the games, though, how do you feel it made the overall experience? Remember, A Way Out is supposed to be an emotional drama for the most part.

Evan
Emma My feelings are mixed. On one hand, the goofiness can disrupt the tension that’s been building through the narrative. To add another example to yours, at one point we were racing through a hospital, trying to get to a certain room while also avoiding police scrutiny—and then we stumbled across two empty wheelchairs and the wheelchair-balancing minigame. Stop everything, forget why we’re here, it’s time for these two grown men to see who can hold a wheelie the longest! On the other hand, the deadly serious context made the goofiness even more hilarious.

There’s more goofiness, too, that’s built into the action of the game. We climbed out of a vertical shaft using a move straight from The Emperor’s New Groove. We drove a car off a cliff in dramatic slow motion. We went over the edge of a waterfall. Even though the game is telling a serious story—and it does have some very serious emotional moments—there did seem to be this constant undercurrent of silliness to a lot of it. The emotional punches of the story still hit home, but I laughed a lot more than I was expecting to.

The humor was definitely unexpected. In turn, it’s difficult to know if the developers were in on the joke or if this was just bad game design. But, when it comes to recommending this as a co-op experience, I think the goofiness makes it much more enjoyable than if every element was played completely straight.

With that said, I think we should get to the final word on A Way Out. As a game built off of the co-op campaign model, do you feel it succeeded in what it was trying to accomplish? How do you feel it stacks up with other games like it?

Evan
Emma I do think it succeeded. I had a lot of fun with it, more than I was expecting, and it had some creative uses of puzzles and environments that required two players to solve. I think the experience was heightened by having both of us there on the couch, able to talk through solutions and pick which path to take (and to laugh at the game when it got ridiculous).

The one thing it might miss that other multiplayer games have is replayability. I could see going back through the game one more time to try out playing as the other character, and to try seeing what happened with the alternate choices. Beyond that, once you’ve seen the story, I don’t think there would be much more to do.

Overall, I enjoyed it. What about you? Any final thoughts?

I definitely agree that the cooperative aspect is the game’s greatest strength. I had some nostalgia for the days when only local co-op existed, which I never imagined missing. But I think you’re right with the replayability of it all. Going through the main story in one run was a good time to be sure, but it would be hard to play through all of it again with the same person. I could only see bonus content, such as a multiplayer battle arena or something similar, being added later as a way to make the game a lasting experience. Overall, though, I appreciated the level of cheese and wackiness that was woven into the otherwise generic crime-driven plot. Evan
Emma I agree. Sometimes it’s fun to show up just for the cheese.
 

Editor’s Note: EA’s Friend Pass system is not up and running before the launch of A Way Out, and so the ability to connect with friends was not able to be taken into account during the review period. You can only play A Way Out with friends either online or locally; there is no random matchmaking option. The entirety of this review is based on couch co-op sessions in the EGM offices.

Publisher: Electronic Arts • Developer: Hazelight Studios • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.23.2018
8.0
A Way Out hearkens back to the days of couch co-op, placing players in the shoes of two criminals who must solve puzzles and support one another to escape. The game’s emotional drama runs alongside its silly undertone, making for a game that’s both moving and, at times, unintentionally hilarious.
The Good The game’s dramatic story combined with the sudden appearance of its goofy minigames led to some surprisingly hilarious moments.
The Bad There isn’t much to do outside of the main campaign and the already short story lacks replayability.
The Ugly Be prepared to watch two grown men balance in wheelchairs, draw on paintings, and try on stupid hats.
A Way Out is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Electronic Arts for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

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