In the Play This Next column, Man of Many takes a look at a great new or recently released game that may have slipped under your radar. Given the sheer quality of content available on consoles and the near-limitless potential of PC, it’s easy to overlook an amazing game in favour of the latest hit. For every Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, there’s another game equally worthy of attention, and we make a case for why you should play it and where you can find it.
No one wants to be thrown in prison. But I guarantee at some point in your life you’ve thought about escaping from one. A Way Out lets you experience said escape all from the comfort and relative freedom of your couch. Plus it’s a compelling story to boot.
A Way Out is the second game from Swedish filmmaker turned game developer Josef Fares. It follows the success of his debut Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from 2013.
Set during the 1970s, A Way Out is a prison break/action adventure game that follows Leo and Vincent: Two inmates who connect in the prison infirmary while recovering from a vicious brawl. The two criminals have their differences, but it’s a mutual thirst for revenge that sets them on the same path and ultimately working together to escape confinement and tie up loose ends.
As there are two lead characters, A Way Out can only be played with two players, so you need to bring a friend. To make the game more accessible, publisher EA made it free-to-play for player two, so only one copy of the game needs to be purchased even if your partner lives on the other side of the globe. Player two can jump online, download a free copy and you’re both good to go. This surely makes it one of the best value games available. You can always opt for the old-school couch co-op “which is more enjoyable,” says the ageing games writer.
Even if you’re playing with a friend online, A Way Out is presented in split screen so neither of you miss key events. The plot unfolds in such a way that events don’t overlap; meaning one player may control Vincent during a quiet, reflective moment, while Leo is amidst a dialogue-heavy cut scene or vice versa. This way both players can experience the full narrative at the same time.
The split screen style takes cues from the cinematography and editing of films from the 70s, even if its real purpose is far more practical. More recently, it’s reminiscent of the split screen style of the excellent second season of FX’s Fargo.
Only around one-third of the game is set in the prison. The remainder follows the fugitive’s time on-the-run and quest for revenge. It’s a little like Prison Break season 1 and 2 before it went completely off the rails.
Gameplay jumps around quite a bit between puzzle solving, shootouts and interactive conversations between the two protagonists and the supporting cast. Many of the game’s challenges force you to work closely with your partner. There’s one such instance during the prison escape where the two characters are locked back-to-back while shimmying up a shaft. It requires the utmost cooperation. Obviously.
For the most part, gameplay is linear. Each character will occasionally offer a branching path and their reasoning for it. One is usually a stealthier option while the other is tackling a situation with guns blazing. It’s then up to you and your partner to decide which one to take.
Even in its quieter moments, A Way Out offers plenty to do. Whether it’s scaring fish in a lake so your partner can spear a meal or stopping in a hospital waiting room for a game or two of Connect Four, there’s always a reason to have your fingers finely tuned to the controller even if the story is A Way Out’s priority.
Despite the praise, A Way Out isn’t perfect. The story is not the most original, with scenes and dialogue seemingly lifted straight from classic prison break films. It’s a small thing but an obvious one.
Even if it’s not the most original, A Way Out still offers an engaging story with fully-realised characters and enjoyable cooperative gameplay. Leo and Vincent are both believable protagonists. Whichever character you select, you’ll invest in their goals and argue with your partner over the finer details long after the credits rolled.
There are not many reasons to revisit the game once it’s complete. With a running time of around 6 hours and a price tag of just $39.95, A Way Out doesn’t need to offer more. A Way Out is available now on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can pick up a physical copy or grab it as a download.
Man of Many received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher.