E3 2017: Do Want: A Way Out

Another E3 in the books, and would you believe it, this is my 10th E3? Time truly does fly by, and E3 certainly flew by this week.  For those unfamiliar with this column, each year I pick one new IP that is being shown off at its first E3 and completely blows me away above all others.  Ten years is a long time, and I’ve scoured through many a game during E3 to select just one.  Some of these titles were great, some of them, not so much, some of them we still don’t know, some of them never came to be.

Let’s recap the last 9 years of this award:

  • E3 2008:  Alpha Protocol
  • E3 2009:  The Agency
  • E3 2010:  Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  • E3 2011:  Overstrike
  • E3 2012:  Watch Dogs
  • E3 2013:  The Division
  • E3 2014:  Cuphead (admittedly revisionist as I opted not to choose one that year, but in hindsight this was on my list and should have gotten the award)
  • E3 2015:  Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • E3 2016:  Agents of Mayhem

And now, your E3 2017 “Do Want” award goes to…  Drum roll, please…  A Way Out.

There were a lot of interesting contenders for the “Do Want” 0f E3 2017.  Ubisoft brought a strong argument with Skull and Bones, Bioware may have something real special in Anthem, but the one that stood out to me the most, when I kept thinking about the game I want to play the most this year, the answer kept coming back to a game that we saw on the first day during the EA press conference, A Way Out.

What made this game stand out for me more than any other this year was something that many of us take with a grain of salt these days, co-op gameplay.  In fact, co-op gameplay is the only way you can play this game, whether it be couch co-op with a friend or online with a friend and/or stranger.  I suppose you could have a stranger on the couch with you for this experience as well, but that’s really up to you.

Josef Fares, Creative Director at developer Hazelight (creator of the critically acclaimed indie darling Brothers), and the writer and director of A Way Out, was looking around with a friend for a co-op experience unlike any other, but he could not find what he was looking for, so why not make it?  With A Way Out, he seeks to deliver a story driven co-op game, but not one with drop-in/drop-out as we typically see.  This game, which has secretly been in development for the last 3+ years, will aim to connect both players at an emotional level.

The story of A Way Out begins in the early 1970’s in prison with two separate inmates, Leo and Vincent, who don’t know each other, but over the course of time while their individual stories progress, players will have to build a relationship based on trust as they break both men out of prison into the world beyond where their adventure continues further, though Fares is being rather tight-lipped about the what they were not showing at E3 he has offered up a chainsaw to the leg if people are disappointed in the game when it comes out, that’s a bold statement.

As mentioned, the game is co-op only, and Fares feels so strongly about this that he has mentioned that even if he was offered 20 million to add a single player mode he would not do it.  Fares has likened it to Portal 2’s co-op where there is no chance of progressing without your partner.  However, another unique decision really ties the co-op together is that when the two players are separated there will be a seamless split screen integration, to a very cinematic degree.

In some cases player 1 may have triggered a cut-scene while the second player is actively doing something in the world and both players get to see exactly what is happening to each other as everything unfolds, and if key audio is needed to be paid attention to one side of the screen that volume will go up while the other will go down so that you don’t miss any integral part of the story no matter which character you are playing as.

Ambition is key to this game, and from what we know, this game has a ton of just that, trying to pull off a Triple-A feel on an indie budget. Fares has not been shy in mentioning he’s done his own motion capture stunts and has also enlisted his brother to be both the voice and likeness of Leo so that he could get an actor in the studio for free.

In order to keep the game feeling fresh there are many sub-genres mixed in from time to time, but only where it feels right during the adventure, in one scene a player could be in a side-scrolling fighter game, and in another both players are engaged in a third person shooter and once those special moments have finished up you are brought back to the main adventure.

There is also some replay value in this, as you may want to do one play session as Leo and another as Vincent since all of the Non-Player Characters in game will have unique interactions with each of the two characters.

The game is due out sometime in early 2018 and right now looks like it might be for digital download only, which is normal considering this is an indie title, but it almost seems odd given the quality we’ve come to expect from Hazelight and the way this game flat out looks like it should be on the shelf with all the other Triple-A’s.