Review – A Way Out
Hazelight’s new cinematic action/adventure game, A Way Out, is the latest game by Josef Fares and other key members from Starbreeze Studio, the people behind Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Like A Tale of Two Sons, A Way Out focuses on the story of two characters and them working together to get past puzzles and obstacles. Instead of a single person controlling both characters, this time you’re meant to play in either couch or online co-op with a friend.
Each player takes control of either Leo or Vincent. Leo is the classic sarcastic but hot headed tough guy while Vincent is more rational and reserved. You definitely see this through game play options where you must choose how to handle specific situations. Handle it the hotheaded “get it done” way or look around to find a less aggressive way to get your end result. It creates a duality with a push/pull between the characters.
This duality is, for better or worse, what defines almost every aspect of this game. There were equal times I was stuck to the screen with my popcorn in hand, and times I was more than willing to get up and check my phone as the screen played out another portion we had no control of. Equal times I was playing a really good “Walking Sim” adventure game, and times I was playing a poor man’s Uncharted action/adventure game with even clunkier controls. A game I truly enjoyed playing with my wife whom has very little game experience, and a game that I would be bored playing with any of my gaming friends.
The story in A Way Out is the game’s most compelling part, even if the ending chapter is fairly obvious and the story’s root is something you have seen plenty of times already on the big screen. But being forced to personally play the game out, after investing yourself in your chosen character and his story, is something Hollywood can’t give you. I found myself easily able to choose one option, but my body wouldn’t allow me. That wasn’t what I wanted to see for my character. I was at odds with myself, even if briefly.
The gameplay isn’t bad, but it is extremely forgiving. Mechanics are mostly just press or tap Square, hold down R2, press X to climb a ledge, Triangle to talk. Save points seem to be every couple of steps, never forcing you to play through a tougher area for long. The puzzles are also all but spelled out for you, telling you what you need to move on. The only “puzzle” is to walk around until you find it and then, most times, work together to get there. And most of those work-together moments were to push something out of your way or to bust through a locked door. I chose to play alongside my wife for a reason; I wanted to see how the game was for someone not into the hobby. What I noticed was that it seemed there were lots of parts that were too easy so they didn’t engage her or parts that were too clunky or unwieldy that left her frustrated.
The parts I did love were when each chapter ended in a chase/escape scene. These were my favorite moments as it truly felt high adrenaline, escaping from another police capture. Some had you running together, some forced you apart as you each took separate paths in the chase. One specific escape was just done so beautifully, so originally, shifting from player to player in such a unique way rather than the standard split-screen you have relied on up to that point. I had to pause after just to turn to my fellow convict and say, “Damn . . . that was pretty awesome.”
If my review seems to be reading one paragraph positive, one paragraph negative and so on, that’s pretty much how A Way Out presents itself. Every chapter had me engaged, bored, impressed, disinterested, enthusiastic. You absolutely see Fares’ writer/director fingerprint all over the story and presentation. Yet you also see a studio’s first game, and that they’re trying to figure out the best approach for the ideas that they have.
A Way Out is as divisive as its main characters, Leo and Vincent. Each time I want to say something bad about the game, I am reminded of something it did brilliantly. But each time I think of something positive, I’m reminded of some of the gameplay or moments that remove you from playing. It does a lot right in an unusual, sometimes clunky way. Brothers was a tale of two sons, A Way Out is a tale of two games.
Being mostly cinematic, the graphics are top notch in that regard.
Works well in its Adventure gameplay, not so well in its Action/Adventure gameplay.
Was impressed with the voice work for the main characters. Not so much with most side characters.
Fun Factor: 7.5
Despite some level design flaws and removing you from “playing” too often, there are enough fun moments.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Reviewed on PS4.
A Way Out is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.