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Co-op gameplay is a popular feature in many recent titles, however, with the new adventure game A Way Out playing cooperatively isn't simply a benefit, it's required. The only way the game can be played is via online co-op or local split screen, and it makes for an entertaining experience, even if the gameplay is for the most part, overly simplistic, there is a glimmer of greatness with numerous creative uses of co-op and a compelling narrative.
Vincent and Leo are a pair of inmates at a correctional facility in 1972. Leo is a lifelong criminal for whom being in prison is par for the course, while Vincent is a white-collar guy who got in over his head. However, when the two meet on the inside and discover that they both have a vendetta against the same guy who was responsible for putting them both behind bars, they agree to partner up, break out, and deliver a little payback.
A Way Out comes together as a sort of co-op version of a Telltale adventure game. Much of the action unfolds as a series of simple button presses and quick time events. The difference here is that often those button presses need to be handled together, such as both players hitting a button at the same time in order to kick down a door. It's a nice touch, but a co-op QTE is still a QTE.
That doesn't mean that there aren't some creative gameplay ideas on display here. A Way _Out_ shines when it forces you to work together in interesting ways, such as an early sequence where one player has to distract the prison infirmary staff while another sneaks undetected to pick up a needed item, and then get back unseen. Or when it cuts back and forth between the two characters as they get separated and are being chased by police. When that happens you feel like you're contributing to the story a lot more than when you're simply working together to move a heavy object out of your path. When co-op feels organic and necessary it's great and incredibly satisfying. When it's forced to justify its existence, it's not.
As far as that story goes, it's a solid, if mostly predictable affair. The game takes about six hours to complete so you spend a significant amount of time with the two characters. The prison break is only part of the story so it goes to various different places allowing for different sorts of gameplay. You get to know Vince and Leo and their families and potentially empathize with their situation. The story has enough emotional beats to it that you'll likely get invested in seeing it to the end. Doing so isn't difficult, nothing about the game is particularly complex and checkpoints are refreshingly frequent so on the rare occasions that you do die, you rarely need to replay much that you've seen before.
There is some potential replayability in the game, there are a few points where the players must choose which of two different approaches to take in a situation, both players must agree on a choice in order to proceed. In addition, there are a few points where only a particular character can complete a given action, so playing through with each character has some value. Still, after playing the game once, I'm pretty satisfied with it and don't feel any particular need to play through again.
A Way Out is a fun game to play with a friend and there are moments where it absolutely shines from a gameplay perspective. It would be nice if there was a bit more of that, but there's enough fun to be had along with a compelling story and interesting characters, to make the time spent playing A Way Out to feel like time well spent.
This review was done with an Xbox One version of the game provided by the publisher.