A Way Out is a third-person cinematic story driven action adventure available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. A Way Out is developed by Hazelight Studios; previously responsible for developing the highly rated Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Can the unique split-screen or online co-operative gameplay of A Way Out achieve such great heights as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, while simultaneously becoming a new benchmark for the EA Originals range?

A Way Out’s story revolves around two men named Leo and Vincent daring to pull off a prison break in an attempt to put their criminal pasts behind them. A Way Out’s story is written and directed by Nordic Council Film Prize award winning Josef Fares having previously written and directed such films as Jalla! Jalla!, Kopps, Zozo, Leo and Balls that has allowed Josef Fares to bring a cinematic quality of storytelling upon directing videogame debut Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and A Way Out.

Leo and Vincent work together during fights and puzzles such as Vincent distracting the nurse and a guard in the prison hospital, while Leo stealthily gets a tool that he needs; distracting guards as Leo retrieves a tool from an otherwise out of reach location or unscrews a wall panel and more besides. Both of the leading characters have numerous enemies in the form of other prisoners that fight them on the basketball court and in the kitchen area, while guards patrolling the prison to keep order amongst prisoners are also enemies as if they spot either character in an area they are not supposed to be, then they will blow their whistle; sending the players back to the most recent checkpoint until the movement or puzzle is completed without the guards seeing either character.

Environment design is quite varied including a range of prison surroundings such as the yard, cells, kitchen, hospital, washing facilities and sewers; complimented by a wide array of environments outside of the prison including a farm, trailer park, construction site, hospital, the desert, an airplane hangar and much more besides that are all expansive enough to require further exploration from players.

A Way Out’s remote play performance is excellent as the graphics, audio and general performance maintains the quality of the PS4 version, while translating surprisingly well to Vita’s 5 inch screen, despite the framing of the scenes. Remote play control optimisations include performing physical actions or shooting being re-mapped to the top right of the touch screen, while focusing or aiming moves to the top left of the touch screen, although sprinting has inconveniently moved to the bottom left of the touch screen that feels uncomfortable when wanting to move with the left analogue stick and sprinting simultaneously, but it is otherwise a comfortable and enjoyable remote play experience.

The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 mostly for your character to perform physical actions or to shoot a weapon; holding L2 to focus or aim; pressing square to interact; pressing triangle to engage in dialogue; pressing X to jump; pressing O to cancel; pressing L3 to sprint; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your chosen character and to perform certain puzzle solving or actions such as unscrewing a wall panel; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Vibration occurs during moments of physicality such as when having to lift a large heavy grid before entering the sewers. There is no touch pad implementation that could have been utilised as an alternative to solving puzzles such as tapping the touch pad instead of pressing L2 and swiping the touch pad in a circular motion when needing to unscrew a panel or a different shape that is familiar to the puzzle at hand, while there is no light bar support that could have provided an alternative HUD to show when guards are suspicious of your presence in an area your character is not supposed to be situated in.

Graphically, A Way Out is superb as it combines excellent character models and detailed environments with cinematically framed scenes that make players as immersed as playing an interactive TV series. PS4 Pro support offers an uncapped frame rate in comparison to the PS4’s 30 frames-per-second.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the title menu, main menu, local and online multiplayer menus, character selection menu, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds focus on Leo and Vincent seated within transportation.

Writer and director Josef Fares and studio manager Oskar Wolontis performed all of the motion capture and stunts for Leo and Vincent respectively in incredible performances that provide a genuine physicality to the animations of both lead characters such as when they punch or choke out a guard or when making a huge leap from one platform to another in their mission to breakout of prison.

Voice-overs from the ensemble cast of allies and enemies help to bring their respective characters to life. The cast features Fares Fares voicing Leo having previously portrayed Antoine Costa in the Westworld TV series, Senator Vaspar in Rogue One and Vargas in Safe House, while Eric Krogh voices Vincent having previously voiced Stormtrooper in Star Wars: Threads of Destiny, alongside Andrea Deck voicing Linda having previously voiced and motion captured Amanda Ripley in Alien: Isolation, Ashley and Sarah Lindwall in Soma, Martha Wayne in Batman: Arkham VR and female Nomad in Ghost Recon: Wildlands and some great performances from newcomers such as Robert Davide voicing Harvey and Jessica Calmhede voicing Carol. Meanwhile, even the additional voices are provided by established actors such as Tom Clarke-Hill (Sergeant Cortez in TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect, Karl Fairburne in Sniper Elite V2, 3 and 4, Sergeant Rico Valasquez in Killzone and Killzone: Liberation, Kendert in Horizon: Zero Dawn and voice of Tony the Tiger).

Sound effects mostly include ambience within Leo and Vincent’s surrounding environments as they continue towards breaking out of prison and their respective fight scenes with enemies. Instrumental intense dramatic music is composed by Gustaf Grefberg (Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, The Darkness and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay) and Sam Hulick (Mass Effect trilogy). There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation that could have produced voice-overs, sound effects or ambience for your character’s side of the story.

The trophy list includes 15 trophies with 4 silver trophies, 10 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Every trophy is related to progressing through each chapter of the story; therefore the platinum trophy can be achieved in a single playthrough if the players do not find it too hard to solve the variety of puzzles in their path. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 7 to 20 hours to platinum the trophy list based upon how much players explore the environments and spend in mini-games.

There are no difficulty levels, although the difficulty curve is quite interesting, especially from a communication point of view given that two players have to work together to progress through the prison break. One scene sees Leo and Vincent having to walk up a wall by pushing up against each other’s backs, while attempting to climb the wall with a simultaneous push that is gauged by a circle swinging back and forth that must be engaged by pressing X within a small yellow area of a meter and must be continually judged to perfection by both players in order to gradually climb the wall.

A Way Out’s unique premise technically takes split-screen multiplayer into cinematic overdrive, albeit in a very positive sense as there are too many gaming experiences that should be local multiplayer, but are not; whereas A Way Out is that kind of game that would be anticipated to not be split-screen multiplayer, although ends up pulling it off to a consistently impressive quality. Meanwhile, A Way Out also offers an incredibly generous online multiplayer that is everything the split-screen multiplayer is packaged in an initiative referred to as friend pass in which any player who owns the game can invite another player who does not own the game to play it with you co-operatively and free of charge. All that is required is for the invited player to download the demo version and for both players to have the subscription service of their respective platform for online multiplayer.

Contained within A Way Out’s co-operative teamwork are numerous competitive mini-games throughout a range of locations including chin-ups, dips, push-ups and sit-ups in the prison yard; horseshoes in the farm; seeing who has the best musical talents in playing such instruments as piano and banjo; darts, baseball and basketball in the trailer park; arm wrestling on a construction site; Connect Four in hospital; bench pressing and an arcade game in an airplane hangar; and much more besides.

A Way Out’s replayability originates from split-screen local and online co-operative multiplayer throughout the entirety of the story and numerous competitive mini-games including everything from exercise routines to a miniature rhythm action variant of Rock Band and an arcade game that reward exploration of environments that will collectively keep players returning for many hours beyond completing the first playthrough of the story.

 

 

Analysis

  • Title: A Way Out
  • Developer: Hazelight Studios
  • Publisher: EA Originals
  • System: PS4
  • Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
  • Cross-Buy: No
  • Cross-Play: No
  • Players: 1-2 (Split-Screen Local and Online Co-operative Multiplayer/Competitive Mini-Games)
  • Hard Drive Space Required: 17.11GB (Version 1.01)

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