Hazelight Studios deserves praise for the high ambitions of their first title, with A Way Out attempting to emulate a wide variety of genres, themes and gameplay mechanics. While there are some key sequences that end up working out for the better as a result this jack-of-all-trades style approach, the overall game suffers from inconsistent gameplay and an uninspired story and presentation.
If you go into A Way Out thinking its mandatory two-player co-op is a gimmick, you’ll likely come out of it realizing that it couldn’t have been done any other way. Vincent and Leo’s journey will have you and a friend performing tasks together both mundane and dramatic, and the result is a memorable, variety-packed cinematic adventure that feels like what Telltale’s games might’ve evolved into if they’d leaned into game mechanics instead of phasing them out.
A Way Out has many faults, but a lack of heart isn’t one of them. Seeing that heart translated into a cooperative play experience makes the journey worthwhile.
A Way Out's co-op vision is a bold choice that works because it uncompromisingly places players in a co-op context, joining them onscreen and off. But given the weakness of the gameplay at times, perhaps the game isn't bold enough.
There's a twist that would provoke eye-rolling in any movie, it would seem so predictable - but the co-op context, the investment that you and your friend have made in Vincent and Leo's journey, side by side, somehow make it fresh and shocking. This moment alone makes A Way Out a successful experiment in the unique and still underexplored possibilities of video game storytelling. If only the story had been worth telling in the first place.