The co-op drama of A Way Out – Reader’s Feature | Gaming
A reader explains why he’s enjoying EA’s indie crime game, and how sometimes co-op is the best way to play a game.
‘With a record collection and a mirrored reflection, I’m dancing by myself’ goes a line in the seminal 1980 smash by Billy Idol, Dancing with Myself. It’s a great song which captures the simple joy of enjoying a pastime solo. Switch dancing with gaming and you have the essence of our hobby captured to the tune of an upbeat tempo. Gaming is one of the best things you can do alone in an empty living room. But, like dancing, there are situations where gaming is better with a partner and I want to describe how, for the princely sum of 25 odd quid, I indulged in a bit of co-op gaming and *spoiler alert* had a brilliant time. The game was A Way Out by Hazelight Studios and published by EA Originals.
I suppose a good starting point would be to briefly cover what is A Way Out is, for those who’ve never encountered it. I first heard of this indie effort from the head game designer Josef Fares and his sweary and entertaining interview with Geoff Keighley. Josef was tired, emotional, and excitable. And among the many things he touched on during his interview, he had some choice words for the Oscars and the anti-consumer practices of EA, and conversely his pro-consumer ideas for the game he was promoting. I liked the cut of this guy’s jib and put his game on my radar to check out.
To describe A Way Out in a nutshell, it is a co-op prison breakout story. It can be played online or on the couch. My experience was the latter and I think the more optimal of the two. The great little feature is that if you want to play online only one of you needs a copy of the game, though you both need Xbox Live or PSN. Even with that wrinkle I think it’s a good progressive idea that garnered the game a lot of free good publicity and earned it a great deal of goodwill from the gaming populace.
Gameplay-wise, the two players control two distinct characters, Leo and Vincent, independently of each other, The game becomes splitscreen when needed and involves lots of dual control where both players work together to achieve a simple goal. For example, there is a section at the start of the game where you must make an opening in your cell while your partner keeps an eye out for the guards, calling to you and concealing your tools for you when a cell shakedown occurs.
It’s simple and effective for engaging both players, to get them shouting instructions to each other and joking about who flubbed the last section. To be fair, Josef Fares has previous for this type of game design; he was the lead designer on Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons, another game about controlling two characters and creating and maintaining a bond between them – as well as using the controls to reinforce the metaphorical point with the physical controls. It seems to be a thing he likes to explore with his games.
The characters of Leo and Vincent have been given enough depth to raise them above the standard video game leading men and have striking features, with Leo sporting an impressive Roman nose and Vincent with his boxer’s face and out-of-shape body. Leo is the younger hot-head, violent and impulsive. Vincent is more mature, calculating, and reserved. Throughout the game these personalities are manifested in decisions on how to handle various situations.
For example, will you terrorise and tie up an old couple (Leo’s idea) or release the horse from their barn and steal the car while they try and round up the erstwhile equines (Victor’s idea). Both parties must agree to the plan and I found I had good fun role-playing as Leo and arguing my case that tying up the old couple while stressful in the short term in the long run was less stressful than the loss of their livelihood of us releasing their horses (I lost the argument) but I thought it is a good way of drawing the player into the role.
I’m about halfway through the game and there’s enough variation, and the story is interesting enough, that I want to keep playing. Plus, the visuals are at times lovely, there’s also clear nods to the Shawhank Redemption which as a fan I appreciated. I’m enjoying the experience and having it amplified with a buddy is definitely the main selling point. I do find myself wondering if the game had had a bigger budget it would be a better game, but I also worry if it would lose its soul in the process.
So, in terms of buying advice I’d only go for this game if you can get a few beers in and get a friend round to have a roaringly great time blaming each other for not shooting that police car or driving into that lorry. In any case it was entirely worth writing this feature just to put the song Dancing with Myself in your head, good luck trying to get it out for the rest of today… and you’re welcome.
By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)
The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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