A Way Out is a pretty mediocre video game, with shallow storytelling. It doesn’t really “nail” any of the aspects I rate games on. Yet I’ve played it 4 times, and I’d buy anything like this again in the blink of an eye. I want to talk about the “why” using this review as a medium. If you’ve already played the game and just want to read that bit, skip over to the end. If you haven’t, don’t worry, this is going to be spoiler-free. Like all my reviews, I’m going to dissect the game and try to talk about each aspect individually, rate them on THIS 10 point scale and give out my final words in the end.
Note: This is a co-op only game. You cannot solo any portion of the game, just getting that out of the way in case you had any confusion regarding that. And it will always be split-screen, whether you’re doing couch coop or are connected online from different corners of the hemisphere.
Gameplay – 6
When I think about what the “gameplay” in A Way Out was, I really can’t put my finger on anything. This is a game that wants to do everything. It has hand-to-hand combat set-pieces, third-person cover shooting, stealth sequences, lite-puzzle segments, driving chases, and even some parts where you make a choice on how to approach a mission. The cost of doing so many things is that none of them are remotely close to what I’d described as “fleshed out”. I’ve played this 4 times with 4 different people, and the most memorable aspect of the gameplay for me is when my dad (who doesn’t play video games at all) took the controller from my sister when we were playing Connect 4 within the game (no puns intended). It lead to a long series of Connect 4 matches in place of what would have been an urgent follow-through to what was happening in the story. This game is at its best when it leaves the players to do what they want – but those moments are few and far between. I can’t blame it much though, because it’s going for a cinematic co-op experience, and I personally am struggling to remember any games that advertise themselves as such. So despite all my complaints about the gameplay, I would definitely admit that this game is a “one of a kind” experience overall.
Narrative – 6
Okay, you might look at it and think that this is going to be one of those games where the gameplay is serviceable at best but the storytelling makes up for it? NAH. The story is pretty mediocre as well! The characters aren’t well written, while they had the potential to be. The dialogue feels like a bland translation of something that was originally in another language. The suspension of disbelief required to enjoy the story is a little too much. Still, you might laugh your ass off at some point and call out how moronic and passe the writing is. But, since you’re going to be enjoying it with a sibling or friend, it will still be an enjoyable ride. Because if you cringe at the story, you can cringe together!
What I’m saying is, don’t go in expecting the “Uncharted of co-op games”. Manage your expectations about how good the storytelling is, and it’ll be a blast for both of you.
Visuals – 7
The game looks really good. While the lip-sync is off pretty noticeably a lot of times, the overall look of the game does put it in the “AAA-look” landscape with its bright greenery and realistic water. Really not much to talk about here, since the game doesn’t really have any original aesthetic direction. Just the good ol’ realistic ‘graphics’.
Content – 6
As a balanced metric on the quality and quantity of content on the game, I’d say a solid 6 is where I’d put A Way Out. There are a couple of mini-games you and your co-player can engage in throughout the campaign – just like the Connect 4 game I described above. Those activities can range from arm wrestling to playing instruments. Sadly, most of them boil down to seeing who can damage their controller more by violently jamming the square button. There was a lot of potential here, or even in those segments where your partner and you are given the choice of deciding how a scenario goes down – more of those couldn’t have hurt. Then again, it’s understandable why they couldn’t more optional content in. There isn’t as big of a market for “co-op cinematic experiences” to warrant the kind of budget big games are able to bag.
Mechanics – 6
Good enough. Whether it was the overall movement, the shooting, the cover system, the stealth, or the driving – the mechanics weren’t flawless but they were good enough that I’m not complaining about the wonky movement here. I don’t think you’d leave the game complaining about how awkward it is to play or how much you kept getting stuck in portions. That also has to do with our next portion. The game runs smoothly on PC with one player on keyboard, and one on controller as well – and both of them control well enough. However, I would recommend a controller.
Challenge – 4
There really is no aspect of a challenge to this. I’ve played games that were focused on story that still ended up having some sort of challenge component in their gameplay, but A Way Out doesn’t even try. And by harder, I don’t want the game to just make enemies take thrice the more bullets to die – but actually implement some kind of difficulty in the gameplay. The game basically plays itself in the case of A Way Out. The plus side of this is that it would appeal to your sibling or friend who isn’t that much into video games. If this game is anything, it is easy to pick up and play; the lack of solid challenge reinforces that even more.
Diversity – 6
The saving grace for this category are the couple of choices you get within the game, and those little mini-games I know I’ve mentioned thrice. What can one do when those are the only things that could differ your experience from mine. There is some good visual variety as well, from a prison (obviously) and a construction site to an island in Mexico.
Mapping – 6
The level design is made to incorporate co-op gameplay. Thus requiring the same old “climb on my face so you can pull me back up later” sections and “this door requires two shoulders to open” bits. They could’ve gotten more creative in this section more than others, by creating little puzzles out of the environment and actually incorporating challenge in the gameplay this way. It was a missed opportunity.
Sound Design – 7
The voice acting was pretty average. The OST was good though not very memorable, but I’d say the overall sound design was still really good.
Interface – 8
The game has a neat UI style it follows in both its menus and in-game HUD. For a game as linear as this, I would’ve appreciated not having a blip telling me where to go, rather a visual design subconsciously leading the way.
Pricing – 10
For the amount of content and fun the game has, it goes for a pretty good price. The best part is that you don’t need to buy it twice to play online. Even if one friend has a copy, both people can play. This is a really good feature and I don’t see it enough in co-op games. I do commend that.
Performance – 10
I’ve played this game 4 times, 3 of which times was online. I’ve never had a single network related issue with the game. The game is well-optimized and doesn’t have any performance issues. It doesn’t take more than a couple of seconds for both players to hop into the game and get going, so it’s not like it makes “getting into the game” hard for you, unlike most games that attach the term “multiplayer” with them.
Replay Value – 7
Well. I’ve admittedly tried it more times than it deserves to be played. It is completely linear and apart from a couple of things, it remains the same exact experience every time. So, why did I play it so many times? It was more to do with “who” I was playing with. It is a game that appeals to people who aren’t even that acquainted with video games, and it has a co-op story with both of you having your own character. It’s crazy how this is the only title that does it, considering there’s so many games made every year. All of this makes it very easy for me to boot this up when I want to have a satisfying 2-player experience with someone. It’s like one of those movies that aren’t particularly good, but you’ve still watched all the way through with different people for the heck of it. Overall, I’d still say it can definitely be played one more time for the multiple choices aspect alone.
Final Rating: 6.8
Bottom line, if you have someone who can play games with, I would recommend this, regardless of the kind of titles you’re into. Because this game is so purposefully unspecific in what it wants to be, it ends up appealing to pretty much anyone. Regardless to say, this is pretty much the only “cinematic co-op game” I can think of, thus being a pretty unique game in itself. It would be like playing a movie together, and if that kind of thing sounds appealing to you, I’d highly recommend the game. Just don’t go in expecting groundbreaking gameplay or storytelling.
I’ve heavily criticized the game for its weak links throughout this review but it can’t be ignored it is basically creating a niche for itself. And if “cinematic co-op games” become a genre going forward depended a lot on how well A Way Out does. I’m in no way considering this the peak of this category of games, but merely a spark of something that has the potential to lead up to some really good games. As far as I know, A Way Out “exceeded all sales expectations” – which sounds reassuring enough that EA won’t be shutting this studio down for a change.
Nevertheless, I don’t consider A Way Out to be an outlier among a category of games that are broadly regarded as “co-op”. I want this to become a category of its own. Titles with multiple playable characters are no surprise at this point, but ones that allow them to be controlled at the same time, along with a concurrent narrative and a solid campaign going on? This has more potential than we might be giving it credit for.