A Way Out Wants To Change Co-Op Games Forever

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A Way Out is set for release in Early 2018.
A Way Out is set for release in Early 2018. Hazelight Studios

Authenticity cannot be manufactured. This simple maxim was in full display during EA’s annual E3 press event, EA Play. Amidst the parade of gifs and gaffes and sleek Star Wars moments one presentation absolutely stole the show. Josef Fares, talking about his new game A Way Out, delivered a crackling, visceral enthusiasm that electrified the room.

Audiences watching on the stream noticed too. It’s hard not to notice Fares. He’s a tall, athletic, handsome dude with a killer accent who stands in stark contrast to the middling lumps of neckbeards (myself included) who mill about during E3. And during a demo session the day after the EA Play stream Fares is just as charismatic and optimistic in person as he is on stage. And with good reason. A Way Out is shaping up to be every bit the game changer Fares believes it can be.

"Play it start to finish and I guarantee you will experience something you've never experienced before in co-op,” he said.

If you’re not familiar with A Way Out it emerged as the only co-op ONLY game of E3. Yeah, you read that right. It’s co-op only. And while the notion of a multiplayer only game isn’t foreign to anyone who’s enjoyed an FPS or survival game in the last few years, a two-player co-op game isn’t something that comes around much. I have fond memories of Army of Two , but beyond that I’ve never experienced anything on the scale of A Way Out . Fares first walked me through a brief sequence where the two main characters, Leo and Vincent, decide to rob a gas station to make some quick cash after they’ve busted out of prison.

“This is A Way Out now, but it can be this or that or some other thing,” said Fares. “If you think this is A Way Out , no. It could be this, or you could be on a bike or in a car, it could be a lot of different stuff.”

The scene starts with a decision. Leo and Vincent have a debate about who gets to hold the gun during the robbery. Both players must vote on this, a system that Fares says is deliberately designed to encourage debate and discussion among the players. He wants you to understand the characters and their personalities, and A Way Out is full of little interactions players can do to inform this sense of identity.

“In the world, that's how you get to know your character,” he said. “This is not a Telltale game or whatever where you're just looking at it. You're in control, that's very important to me."

The scene plays out a little differently depending on who does the talking. Leo is a little more aggressive, and will bark profanity-laced orders at the gas station attendant being robbed. Vincent comes across a bit softer, and in a different portion of the demo Fares showed me a scene where he holds his child in the hospital. He’s a man with something to lose, and can’t be made to behave like a psychopath who just shoots his way out of any situation.

“If you want to go shoot people in the head this is not the game for you. It wouldn't make sense that this guy who has a baby is just going to go and shoot people in the head," he said.

There were several scenes showcased during the demo session, all of them drastically different in terms of mechanics and tone. Fares stressed over and over that the game is incredibly deep and complex. That the team at Hazelight is building gameplay mechanics that would otherwise run an entire game for one or two scenes. The goal of A Way Out is to make something truly unique, that is more an amalgamation of game designs instead of one distinct genre type.

"This is the perfect example of what I want A Way Out To Be," Fares tells me as he plays through a scene where Leo and Vincent need to escape the hospital after Vincent visits his baby. The camera follows Vincent as he climbs into the duct work and, as he crawling, swoops ahead and drops out to show Leo in a side-scrolling beat em' up that Fares said is "only in this part of the game."

“Over 300 animations used just for a one-minute scene, then not again. The variation is insane, to keep you on your toes all the time. Most games that are co-op are based from a single-player mechanic that just goes on and on and on," he said.

Think about games that do stealth combat. Normally in those games that's all you do, you take down dozens or hundreds of guards in a playthrough. A Way Out has a stealth combat mechanic too, but you will take out like six or seven guards "and that's it.” The same is true of a 3rd person shooting and cover mechanic.

“It is only in the story when it makes sense. From a developer perspective, this is crazy," said Fares.

Fares knows his game is ambitious, but so does EA. A Way Out is Hazelight’s project, not EA’s, and he is very clear on what the boundaries are and what will guide development until its release sometime next year.

"This comes from my heart. I say what I say. They are from EA they don't tell me what to say. I say what I want, and the vision and design that we are is what we are,” he said. "It’s only the vision that decides what this game is going to be."

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