Lebanese filmmaker turned bold game developer Josef Fares’s latest creation aka A Way Out for Xbox One can be called many things, but predictable is perhaps not one of them. A Way Out involves 6 hours and 37 chapters’ worth of intense gaming with your partner-in-crime, in the game and real life. The game itself expertly combines emotion, visual storytelling and the feeling of playing several mini-games all the while focusing on building the trust and relationship between the two characters Leo and Vincent.
A Way Out game for Xbox One
True to its name, the game features a successful prison break attempt by its two characters turned unlikely friends. And this is where you would think it runs out of fuel. The mini-gameesque feeling loses its charm, and you start finding it predictable and undercooked. Till you realize that it isn’t. Because the ending is what makes the 6 hours’ of being absolute couch potatoes totally worth it.
The story of the game
The story begins when recently incarcerated Leo meets Vincent at a prison. Leo is serving time for murder and Vincent got arrested for grand theft. The two form an uneasy friendship when Vincent saves Leo from thugs that have been sent by Leo’s longtime nemesis-Harvey. As they recover, Leo enlists Vincent’s help to steal a file. Vincent complies and, on guessing that Leo plans on breaking out of prison, offers to help. The usually hot-headed Leo allows Vincent to join in on his plan, especially when he finds out that they are fighting a common enemy.
Together they break out of prison and try to stay ahead of the police while trying to find Harvey the entire time. During this time, Leo reveals that Harvey betrayed him after a heist and killed the dealer they were supposed to sell a rare jewel, the Black Orlov, to and Leo went to jail for it. Harvey apparently also killed Vincent’s brother.
Fuelled by sentiments of revenge, the characters make their way to Mexico in search of Harvey. Once they reach his mansion, they get rid of Harvey’s guards and then Harvey after making him surrender the Black Orlov. Leo and Vincent then make their way back to the US. Here, their plane is surrounded by police as soon as they land and Leo finds out that Vincent is an undercover police offer who wanted to get to Harvey through Leo because his brother was the dealer Harvey killed. As a result of this betrayal, Leo kidnaps Vincent and takes him away in a cop car and afterward tries to drown him. But Vincent is saved by his pilot friend Emily who is the same person who had flown them to Mexico.
The final moments of the game are perhaps the most intense and emotional. The two decide to fight it out themselves after Leo grabs Emily’s gun. The fight injures them both, and they lose their guns. At one point, they notice one of their guns lying close by and they both try to grab it. The character that succeeds shoots the other, creating a bittersweet moment of friendship and farewell as the guy who has been shot breathes his last.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the game is how seriously it takes its co-op feature. A Way Out is not a co-op just for the heck of it. The entire game itself revolves around the building relationship between the frenemies, Leo and Vincent.
The creators obviously took the cooperation part very seriously because some of the levels won’t be solved if you are not acting simultaneously with your partner. For example, during the escape, one of you must handle the guards while the other grabs the tools. You and your friend need to press keys simultaneously at times to break down doors and coordinate to climb ladders and chase fish as the other spears them.
What is also interesting is that despite seeming predictable at first, the game changes in subtle or major ways with each new choice or change of character. The dialogues and required actions change when you switch characters. The characters’ aspirations also become clearer as the story/game progresses till the players start to relate.
It is not very often that you come across a game whose greatest strength is also its worst weakness. In A Way Out’s case, it is its co-op structure. Perhaps predictability too could have been counted among its many weaknesses, but the game amazingly makes the most obvious things subtle. There are not more than one way to handle any situation, and the camera will often guide you on which way to go, but the breathtaking cinematography makes even the predictability enjoyable.
Among its many saving graces is also its exquisite cinematography, with few of the most memorable one being a continuous shot of the characters’ hospital escape and the swiveling camera movement as one character watches out for guards as the other create their escape route. There is also a strange satisfaction that can be gleaned from breaking down doors together, dodging the guards while having each other’s back and chasing fish so the other can spear it.
In its co-op split screen setting, the game can be termed as being enjoyable, if not memorable. The collection of ever-changing gaming styles and scenarios will keep both players on their toes in several instances as they compete and cooperate and take down every hurdle together. A Way Out is available here on Amazon.