The last two (or three) generations of console brought with them significant improvement on the overall gaming experience, with regards to graphics, controls, storytelling, and in their ability to connect you to gamers around the world through online play. The downside of that global connection is that it has actually reduced our local one. Most games these days that support multiplayer are exclusively online, meaning that whilst we can now play against up to god only knows how many others, most of this experience takes place alone in a darkened room.
One of the things I miss about the older PS2/Xbox era of console gaming is split screen multiplayer. I’ve written previously about how much fun it was replaying the definitive split screener, Goldeneye, with some of my fellow Lamppost Contributors. The experience of sitting beside your mate whilst you attempt to work together or kill each other, being able to check their half of the screen whenever you fancy, even being able to elbow their controller to get the upper hand (I’m a full-contact gamer), are all things that we seldom get to experience anymore. And worse still, if you want to enjoy a game with a friend online, they have to buy the game too!
That’s what makes A Way Out so darn good. It’s a game that has been entirely built around the idea of old school, split screen, couch co-op. The game has to be played with another person and is ideal for when you’re hanging out in your living room. Better still, if you do find yourself home alone and needing an online companion, then you can share it for free thanks to the ‘Friends Pass’ version of the game!
A Way Out has a pretty unique take on the whole split screen too. Generally speaking, it’s your standard tv-screen divided vertically down the middle into two equal halves, however at certain points during the game theses ‘halves’ can increase/decrease in size to draw focus to certain plot points on one players screen whilst still allowing the other player to continue with whatever activity they are tasked with. Occasionally, one side will sweep across and entirely engulf the screen so that there is only one viewpoint being shown if the plot calls for it. It works to greater or lesser degrees, but there is one phenomenal chase sequence through a hospital where the controls seamlessly change from one player to the other in a continuous camera shot, reminiscent of THAT fight scene from Marvel’s Daredevil.
Gameplay aside, the plot is interesting but doesn’t break any ground. It’s a traditional tale of revenge with a prison escape thrown in. Whilst the overall narrative is pretty linear, you are given a degree of control in terms of how to approach certain situations based around the advice and personality of the two protagonists – the calm, calculating Vincent, usually looking to talk his way out of things, and the hot-headed Leo, usually looking to take a slightly more ‘direct’ approach. These characters are likeable enough, with believable motivations, and both are developed well over course of the story, either through dialogue, flashback, or the mission objectives themselves.
You’ll probably complete A Way Out in 8-10 hours, but the pricing of the game is far more reasonable to reflect this, additionally so when you take into account that purchasing the game gives you the ‘Friends Pass’ version of the game too.
If you’re looking for a 50-60 hour open world RPG, or an excuse to repeatedly ‘pwn’ your mates on a WW2 battlefield, then A Way Out isn’t for you. But if you fancy a cinematic gaming experience that’s thrilling, easily accessible and ultimately fun to play, then you can’t really go wrong with this prison escape revenge flick.
London Lamppost Score – 8/10
Feature image is a screen shot by the author taken during game play of A Way Out developed by Hazelight Studios, and published by Electronic Arts.