Joseph Fares’s new co-op game stole the show at EA’s conference.
2005’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is one of my favorite games ever, in large part because of its unique and completely separate two-player co-op mode, which forced you and a friend to work together as stealthy spies as you infiltrated, espionaged, and choked out bad guys. I’d always hoped that Ubisoft would spin that mode out into its own fully fleshed-out game, but alas it never happened.
A dozen years later, A Way Out looks set to run with Chaos Theory co-op’s groundbreaking — and gutsy — idea. Rather than spy story, however, A Way Out is a prison-escape action-adventure set in the 1970s that requires two players, either via split-screen couch co-op or online play. It’s being helmed by Joseph Fares, the Swedish film director who made his name in the gaming world with 2013’s fantastic and emotional Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which could be played solo but forced you to control both brothers at once. So yes, you cannot play A Way Out by yourself.
Fares says he wants players to be communicating with each other throughout the adventure.
I played a small slice with Fares as Leo while he controlled Vincent. Fares says he wants players to be communicating with each other throughout the adventure. For example, when arriving at a gas station we intended to rob — the reason we needed money wasn’t clear here since I had no context for the larger story — you have to agree on who will hold the gun by pointing your thumbstick at the player you want to wield it. Upon exiting the car, you can talk to any of the NPCs milling about the pumps or inside the convenience store, either idly chitchatting with them or convincing them to leave (thus leaving fewer innocent bystanders around to witness your forthcoming crime).
You can back out of any conversation at any time, and there are also plenty of tiny environmental interactions at your disposal. Some just help you get to know your character, while others actively help your mission, such as the option to sabotage the phone so that no one can call the police once the robbery begins. When we thought we’d cleared the place, I, gun under my shirt, approached the cashier. I asked her to empty the register, which itself was nearly empty (as she’d warned). When we inquired about a safe in the back, she was wholly unconvincing in trying to tell us there wasn’t one, so Fares went to the back while I kept the gun pointed at the cashier.
Police sirens sounded and we booked it to our car…
A worker in the back grabbed Fares’s Vincent, forcing me to run back and punch our foe in the face…which in turn freed up the cashier I’d just abandoned to reach for a gun. I was able to stop her before she could use it, at which point I was given a choice to angrily demand the safe combination from her, or do so compassionately. I opted for the latter, with my Leo telling her she’s a smart lady who would be wise to just give up the combination.
When Fares opened the safe, the alarm sounded, and it turned out we’d missed one customer who’d been milling around near the gumball machine. Fares said we could’ve chased him, fired our gun in the air and caused him to lay down in fear on the ground. Instead, police sirens sounded and we booked it to our car and ended the scene and demo before anything worse could become of us.
The split-screen cutscenes give a wholly unique and cinematic flair to the game.
Fares passionately emphasizes that variety will be at the heart of A Way Out. There will be driving, there will be shooting, there will be stealth sequences — but he says you’ll never be doing the same thing twice, nor for too long. Meanwhile, the split-screen cutscenes give a wholly unique and cinematic flair to the game. I asked Fares and yes, the split-screen will still be in place even when playing online; Fares wants you to be able to see what your partner is doing at all times, and vice versa. If you’re worried, don’t be. It works, from what I was shown.
As far as I’m concerned, A Way Out stole the show at EA’s E3 press conference, and Fares’ enthusiasm — both on stage and behind closed doors during our demo — was both infectious and reassuring for the prospects of his unique new game. And I’m probably not the only person who thinks so; somewhere, I imagine the developers of Splinter Cell Chaos Theory’s co-op mode are smiling too.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s Executive Editor of Previews and Xbox Guru-in-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan, catch him on Unlocked, and drop-ship him Taylor Ham sandwiches from New Jersey whenever possible.