I consider Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice as the most important game of 2017. It did some fascinating things and taught a few valuable lessons to the industry. Having seen the unveiling of A Way Out in E3 2017 made me hope that this will follow in the veins of Hellblade, and I would consider A Way Out to be the most important game of 2018. Having played the game now, twice, what do I actually think of it? Here is the review of A Way Out from a video game tester.
While I would usually categorize my reviews in to story, graphics, gameplay and overall score, it is important to consider the impact this game had when it was revealed, and the little controversies the creator Josef Fares landed into. Because while this game is a success, all of these above elements did help in getting it more exposure. So, here goes….
Like many people this game had my attention from the day it was revealed. But watching the creator talk about his game “being nothing like you’ve ever played or your money back”, kind of made me doubt the game. And then there was the Game Awards incident which put Mr. Fares on the map. Suddenly this game was getting famous for all the wrong reasons.
But that is not fair considering what this game actually is. This is a game that encourages couch co-op like the good ‘ol days. And it largely succeeds in keeping both members invested throughout the game’s roughly 6 to 7 hour run time. In an era of battle royales and micro transaction driven multiplayer focused games, this game comes with a message and delivers it in spades. Let’s take a deeper look.
Perhaps the weakest element in the game, the story and writing leave a lot to be desired by the time the end credits roll. It follows two protagonists, Leo and Vincent. The former, a punch first talk later hot head and the latter being more rational and thoughtful. As the name suggests, the story is about how these misfits team up to escape a prison, but there is a lot more in the game which I won’t spoil. The game does throw some genuinely strong moments, but for every one of those you have an absolute dud to make for it. One time, your character is holding his new born child while trying to make things right with his wife. And in the other you are being chased, and shot at, by cops on a river bank and you escape using a row boat. Yes, a row bot. Not a motor boat. A row boat with paddles. And it was as if the writers were aware that this made no sense, so the gameplay transition to a cut scene once you reach that boat. So, the game has both these elements in abundance and as I mentioned earlier, the story isn’t the strong point here.
How you interpret the gameplay of this game is up to you. Since this is an independent game with AAA ambitions and throws multitude of gameplay typed and scenarios, all in one game. One moment you are doing stealth take downs, and the other you play basketball, and then in the other you play a third person shooter. The tradeoff is that having so much variety pushes this game to being mediocre at best control wise. If you can excuse the wonky controls and the horrendous AI however, you are in for a treat partnering with your couch-friend. The game somehow manages to emphasize on interaction between the two players and have them work together like the two protagonists. And there are some (very) tense gameplay moments throughout the game, both, intentional through the story, and unintentional. I was never going to give up in an arm wrestling match when my opponent was sitting right beside me. It is moments like these that this game really shines, and it was moments like these that this game frankly was made for to begin with. (Pro tip. If you consider yourself to be like one of the characters you play, try finding a friend who has similar character traits to the other character. This game takes a whole new dimension that way.
Once again this is an indie game with AAA ambitions, and it shows quite often. There are some very nicely rendered beautiful scenes, but there are also texture pops and wonky animations. The characters are somewhat stiff too. The main point to note is the always on split screen which works like a charm at times, but totally ruins a scene contextually in others. This game is certainly not a looker, but it does the job to move the story forward while keeping you invested in it.
So this game does not have the best story, the gameplay is not very sharp and the graphics are average. Having said that, this game does something so unique that other games are so scared to do – Innovation! And by that I do not mean the next step in VR, but something as simple as variety in gameplay. This game shows that only indie studios and colorful characters like Josef Fares can make innovative and clever games like these. Something that the Major companies shy away from these days. And props for Mr. Fares and his team for doing just that. I enjoyed Josef Fares’s first game Brothers : A tale of two sons. It was one of the very few games that hit me so hard emotionally. And I like this game just as much, but for different reasons. Whether you like action games or not, you need to really try this game especially if you have a friend/ brother/ partner at home that play game like you do. And you will know that this game is different.
The success of A Way Out has resulted in this team moving on to a bigger office and expanding in to a bigger team, making a bigger game. And Fares says that this is their biggest and longest game yet, not because they want it to be, but because the story and context demands it to be. Fares promises that this new will be just as different and unique as his 2 other games. Here’s hoping that he is true to his words and he delivers again. I can’t wait.