In the era of online gaming, “cooperative gaming” seems to have fallen by the wayside in favor of games where you’re loosely playing on a team but moving at your own pace. In 2018, Hazelight Studios developed “A Way Out,” a strictly two-player action-adventure game that redefines what it means to work together in a video game. In the game, two players control Leo and Vincent on their quest to break out of prison and exact revenge on a crime boss named Harvey.
From the very beginning, you understand what cooperative means. The first activity performed together has Vincent distracting a nurse while Leo sneaks around to steal a chisel from the infirmary. They then have to take turns watching for guards while the other removes a vent in their cell. Working together feels natural and important, a quality that rarely gets experienced in today’s video games.
Not only is it important to the plot, but they take the inherent co-op and sprinkle several fun minigames to play together. There are strictly competitive classics like Connect Four, darts, horseshoes and competing to see who can keep themselves balanced on the wheels of a wheelchair the longest. You can also try to see who performs the best through different exercises. You can pitch a baseball to the other person who tries to hit it. There’s an arcade video game that most resembles some mix of volleyball and Pong. There’s even a situation where the two can duet on a banjo and piano. It sprinkles in this playfulness in what is generally a very serious tale-and the game is better off because of it.
That’s not to take away from the plot. The story is an emotional ride as the bond between two inmates continues to grow. They face struggles and overcome them together as they learn to trust one another and that’s honestly remarkable. Every twist from start to end feels natural and it becomes unthinkable to consider that Leo and Vincent hadn’t been together forever. There are cutscene points that focus on just one of the characters as they overcome their own personal hurdles that remind the players that these characters are together.
It’s no wonder that the vice president of Electronic Arts approached the developers and offered to pay for the development of the game. It’s an incredible experience and has both players working together in a way gaming has seemingly failed to do in recent years. The British Academy Games Awards in 2019 awarded it the best multiplayer game ahead of the likes of Super Smash Bros. It’s flown under the radar but more people should pick it up and give it a try.