A Way Out is the new prison escape game from the makers of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and from the early trailers I was instantly cautious to the point of being dismissive.
You HAVE to play it co-operatively? There’s NO single player? Screw that! I’m a 100% anti-social gamer, I’m not playing with other “people”, no way!
First off, I would have to find someone else who has bought the game to play with, or invite someone over to my increasingly overrun with children household to play this game. Uh, no thanks! I mean why can’t one of the players be controlled by AI? I mean everybody LOVED Sheva Alomar in Resident Evil 5 right? OK maybe not…
Then the reviews came in and the buzz started to build. What’s that? You only need one copy? Wait, this is an EA game isn’t it? Surely somebody SOMEWHERE is looking for a way to screw us out of another £5 or so. Alas no, A Way Out is actually quite consumer friendly. It’s one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve had, and definitely gets a full Rodriguez Recommendation.
With the type of tasks you have to complete, AI really isn’t an option either. You need to warn your buddy if a guard is coming, distract prison staff with the right kind of questions, something an AI would surely get wrong, but the teamwork makes this game better than the sum of its parts.
Playing this game alongside my lifelong gaming companion Rudy Manchego, who spent the entire time looking for the showers and asking me why nobody had been fiddled with just yet, I started to think back to the few co-op games that I have enjoyed. Multiplayer games for so long seem to have been about energy-drink ridden twelve year old’s named Cody handing my ass to me along with some of the most creative abuse I’ve heard this side of a primary school playground. Turns out if I go back far enough, there have been quite a few, I’ve just forgotten about them.
Portal 2 comes to mind, one of the most inventive and creative multiplayer experiences I can remember. Even such middle of the road fare as Kane and Lynch or the Gears of War games – both a bit so-so by themselves, but when you can play with someone you trust not to sabotage your game, these games are elevated to near legendary status (OK, maybe not Kane and Lynch 2…)
The thing I like most about A Way Out is that, had I been able to put up with being in the same room a Rudy for more than an hour, the game would have looked exactly the same as it did with him at the opposite end of the country. Couch co-op games are becoming something of a rare beast, so its refreshing to see one designed with playing together in mind. Last year I attempted to find a racing game with split screen co-op, one of the few games my partner reluctantly said she might consider playing with me. It was much harder than you’d think, outside of the non-Horizon Forza games, there really aren’t that many. Playing a game “with” someone seems to now involve being in different houses, rather than throwing Doritos at each other from opposite sides of the sofa.
I hope that the strong sales of A Way Out will see a change in this trend. So many people tell me that the pinnacle of their gaming experiences was going to their friends house to play a Goldeneye 64 tournament. I STILL play the original Battlefront games because of their strong split screen multiplayer modes – I can’t thank Microsoft enough for making them reverse compatible. Someone at EA might claim that these games are less profitable but they are up there on the fun quota.
For such a great gaming experience I might even consider breaking my “I’m an antisocial gamer” mantra. Maybe even with Rudy, if he can stop talking about prison sodomy for more than five minutes.