A Way Out Review: One Of The Best Stories Of The Generation
5. Story And Characters
On the surface, A Way Out looks like your run-of-the-mill prison drama. Taking cues from classics like The Shawshank Redemption, Prison Break and A Prophet, the early hours focus on familiar iconography and cover narrative beats fans of the genre may recognise, but it's all made fresh by its two central characters, Leo and Vincent.
The former is a longtime con currently six months into an eight-year sentence, while the latter is a freshly-incarcerated prisoner serving time for murder. At first they're pretty much defined entirely by their archetypal roles; Leo is younger, a hothead always getting into trouble and taking the easy route through life, whereas Vincent is far more calm and collected, and despite being convicted for murder, prefers to talk and bluff his way through situations to get what he wants. Initially conflicting strangers, the two find themselves bonding over a common enemy and teaming up to break their confines.
What's great about A Way Out's writing is how it sucks you in through these familiar archetypes, only to warp them more and more as the game goes on. There's a depth to the two leads that could have easily been lacking, and though the writing does like to pay homage to past genre giants, Leo and Vince are fully three-dimensional characters with deep personalities, great motivations and genuinely compelling backstories. They aren't just two crooks, they're real people, with real goals and desires who just happen to have fallen into the wrong line of work with men far more villainous than them.
Everything is so centred around the relationship between these two misfits that, quite simply, the title would have fallen down if the writing wasn't spot on. If you didn't care about the two leads, A Way Out could have become a soulless amalgamation of influences and cliches, but fortunately you care about these characters, the world they're in and want to see them get through the story.
The more the game reveals about their lives the more invested you become, helped even further by the fact you're always in control of your selected character. Although the story of the two are very much entwined, A Way Out is best played by sticking to one protagonist for the duration and connecting to them as an extension of you, something which is brilliantly facilitated by the pitch-perfect gameplay mechanics.