Last week I attended an EA event to play sections of A Way Out early, ahead of reviews. We were able to play around half an hour of the game, jumping back and forth through chapters (which made the plot a little hard to follow), which gave me a good sense of how the game actually plays minute to minute.
The most unexpected and interesting part was realising how much time has been put into mechanically varied experiences, giving each of A Way Out's different situations a touch of fun and excitement that is their own.
The core of the game is co-op (A Way Out has no singleplayer mode) and so situations are constructed around the fact that both players see different parts of the same environment. In terms of helping each other progress there are familiar elements to this: road blocks where one player needs to boost the other up a large cliff, for example, or situations where both players need to time takedowns of guards to cover each other's blind spots. But there are many more original ways of working together: one person leaping off a cliff, and another having to catch them as they fall; one cornering fish in the water while another spears them; one exploring an environment while the other sweet-talks a guard.
Generally each scenario will have both players exploring and progressing through a wide if linear environment. The points where both players have to decide how to encounter a given task are actually few and far between, which stops these bespoke challenges from repeating themselves or making the experience overall feel too gimmicky.
What does change is how you progress through those environments. In just half an hour I took part in stealth takedowns from bushes, drove a car on a high speed chase, took part in a QTE sprint from the cops, played a Connect Four minigame, took part in a wheelchair-balancing competition, and even took part in a side scrolling beat em up combat section. The game also plays with the perspectives, switching from its usual simultaneous co-op into an action-packed set piece where the camera panned between the two characters' situations.
These disparate styles and interactions could, in lesser hands, have led to the game feeling inconsistent and patchwork - but instead it feels polished. This is what really caught me off guard with A Way Out, both the variety of content and the standard it's hitting so concistently. A game like this, linear and narrative focused, could get away with a lot less creativity, but here the surprises crammed into every corner almost feel like the point. I don't know if this variety and polish is sustained in the full game, but keep your eye out for our review to answer that.
If you're curious, you can also see us tackle an escape room themed around A Way Out here.