Playing co-op games is my second favorite activity to do on a couch (the first one is snuggling with my dog, in case you were wondering). In general, I love playing co-op games. I enjoyed solving puzzles in Portal 2 with my wife, and yelling at my friends to get the f*** out of the way in Overcooked. However, the best co-op games are the ones where you go through an intense and interesting experience with a good friend – and that I don’t get to do as much anymore.
The last co-op game I’ve played all the way through with a friend was Gears of War 4, and we did that online (which was a bit of a pain to tell the truth). While there’s nothing wrong with playing online, it doesn’t pack the same sense of “togetherness” as local co-op does. When playing online co-op, it feels like we’re playing the same game at the same time. However, when playing local co-op, we are playing the game together. Plus, yelling at someone through a headset is weird to me (maybe I don’t play enough Call of Duty).
But when you get down to it, the main reason I play less and less co-op games is because there aren’t as much cooperative games out there, with an emphasis on actual cooperation. There are plenty of competitive games you can play with your friends online or on the couch, and some of them are really fun, but I want to play with my friends, not against them.
That’s why I am so exciting about A Way Out, a story-driven, co-op only adventure that was announced during EA’s pre-E3 2017 show.
A Way Out tells the story of two convicts working together to break out of prison – each for his own reasons. Leo and Vincent, the game’s main protagonists, don’t know each other when the game begins. Leo has been incarcerated for some time before Vincent arrives at the prison, and the two don’t seem to get along at first. However, as their story unfolds, the two eventually decide to try and escape together.
To do so, two players will have to work together in various ways (each scene is supposedly unique). Since Leo and Vincent are two separate people, each of them has his own methods of dealing with a situation. In an example shown during the gameplay trailer, we see a scenario where the two try to smuggle sheets out of the prison’s laundry room. Leo seems to be the aggressive type, knocking out a fellow inmate to steal a laundry cart, or starting a fight as a diversion, while Vincent is more cunning, bribing the inmate or sabotaging one of the laundry machines.
While the game does start in a prison, A Way Out continues to the world beyond cells and barbwire, where the two will experience an emotional journey peppered with car chases, stealth passages, melee fights, and shootouts. It seems like the two are trying to escape a few personal demons as well.
A Way Out’s premise and setting is interesting enough on their own, but what really grabbed my attention was the fact that you cannot play this game your own. A Way Out is a co-op only experience that can be played with one friend online or on the couch. Josef Fares, Writer and Director at Hazelight, claims that the game was designed to be played in local co-op, and that’s the reason there will always be a split screen. This mechanics goes as far as to allow one player to keep playing, even influencing the scene around them, while the other one is in a cutscene. That should create some interesting effects.
“This game is going to bring a co-op experience unlike anything you have ever seen before,” said Josef. “The idea for A Way Out came when me and a friend tried to find a story driven co-op game that wasn’t a drop-in/drop-out experience. We simply could not find a game like that. We’re also bringing an innovative look into how to tell the story of both these characters. Players will be immersed in the game with the way we change the display from a full screen experience seamlessly to different cinematic split-screen formats. By focusing on the two characters in different ways, it opens up a huge variety of gameplay, as we really wanted to avoid repetitions so they will get to know the characters through very different situations.”
Hazelight, by the way, are the developers of Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons, a clever twist on the concept of cooperation. It’s basically a co-op game for one person, or two people willing to share a controller. We actually got to see a glimpse of A Way Out all the way back in 2014, when Hazelight announced their next game will be published by EA.
And that’s all I know about the game’s story and gameplay so far, but it’s enough to make A Way Out the highlight of the first E3 2017 presentation. Judging from the gameplay video you just saw, it’s going to be an intense and interesting experience to share with a friend, which is exactly what I’m looking for on a co-op game.
A Way Out is coming early 2018 as a digital download for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.