Couch-coop adventure A Way Out not only offers two highly engaging and entertaining characters, it also offers the possibility to play it either Leo’s or Vincent’s way. Of course, the third option is adapting the duo’s approach to any given situation, to give either Vincent or Leo control, whichever you and your buddy decide is best.
Two men, one goal
The game establishes early on that Vincent and Leo cannot succeed without one another. Both men have certain skills and contacts that they can call upon and they are also bonded on a more personal level. For on the outset of the game, Vincent, a somber, quietly competent former bank employee down on his luck, and Leo, a ruthless hot-head, sometimes joker and career criminal, meet in prison and find out that they have actually one thing in common: a drug lord named Harvey, who apparently screwed both of them over.
Though in Leo’s case, Harvey is not content with him being in prison, he also wants him dead. Luckily, Vincent is there to help him, if not for entirely selfless purpose, since he seems to know that Leo plans to escape. And Vincent, too, wants to get out and to take his revenge on Harvey. That common goal, the almost purely cooperative approach that defines the gameplay, the seemless switches from one character to another and, of course, the excellent storytelling, will quickly let you and your buddy feel like you really are Vincent and Leo.
What’s really at stake
Bringing Harvey down might seem like the primary goal. Yet for both Leo and Vincent this quest they embark on is not ultimately about revenge (or a priceless diamond), but finding peace and happiness with the people they love.
In Leo’s case those are wife Linda and son Alex, who he hopes to be reunited with once the Harvey-problem is dealt with. Linda is fully aware of who and what her husband is, yet trusts him unconditionally. They both try to keep the truth from sweet, innocent Alex, pretending Leo is in Italy helping his uncle and not, actually, in prison. See, Leo is all about family. Which is why he cares deeply about Vincent’s relationship with his wife, even offering advice when he realises how much that struggle is affecting Vincent, and that, to my mind, along with his deep love for his own wife and child, is his other redeeming quality.
Vincent’s family background is more complicated than Leo’s. It seems that his pregnant wife Carol cannot forgive that he chose revenge over her and their unborn child. She refuses to talk to him, does not even visit him in prison and when, after she has given birth, Vincent and Leo, who by then are already on the run, rush to the hospital despite the very real chance of the cops showing up there too, she is very distant. It is clear that Vincent longs to be reunited with his wife, to make amends and put the past behind them and to care for his daughter, but guilt is holding him back. The fact that Vincent apparently always has to be in control of himself and his emotions does not help either. It is at times very hard to watch his silent suffering, yet something about Carol’s attitude feels off. There is more to their conflict than is apparent, that becomes clear early on.
That gut-wrenching twist
So Vincent and Leo manage to escape the police, fly down to Mexico to put an end to Harvey and even retrieve the diamond that basically landed Leo in prison. Finally, they can return to their families and attempt to live a life of happiness. And then, everything is turned upside down. Once back in the U.S. and on the ground, their plane is surrounded by cops. Their pilot has betrayed them.
Me and my buddy were anxiously waiting for what was going to happen next, how they would get themselves out of this mess and were both ready to smash buttons. And then the guy in charge handed Vincent a gun.
Turns out Vincent is a cop who used Leo to lead him to Harvey and the diamond. Everything he said, did, was a lie. And Leo, the poor fool, fell right for his game.
That revelation was like a punch to the gut, for both my buddy and myself. And while during the chase that ensues I, as Leo, could certainly relate to his unforgiving wrath and therefore tried my best to first evade and then kill Vincent, my buddy kept on pleading with his character to let Leo go. Right up to the point where there is only one way out which, in this case, since he beat me to the gun, was for Vincent to shoot Leo. My buddy hesitated while I, still mad over that emotional sucker-punch, told him to go ahead and pull the trigger.
The way the game uses the split-screen to fade out on whichever of the two men dies on top of that roof is both ultra-sad and awesome, by the way.
No matter whether Vincent kills Leo or Leo kills Vincent, both endings are heart-breaking. In the first case, Vincent travels back to the trailer park to deliver the grim news to Linda. We do not know if he admits to his role in Leo’s death and, indeed, to his true identity, but Linda is, understandably, very upset by his visit. When he leaves we see her break down inside the trailer, all by herself, before Alex, who had been playing outside, rushes to her side. Next we see Vincent heading to his old home to hand Carol the letter he wrote to explain that she is the love of his life and he will do anything to be the husband she fell in love with and the father their daughter deserves. It remains unclear whether or not she accepts his apology. The last shot is reserved for Linda, alone, at Leo’s grave.
Vincent’s dying wish is for Leo to deliver said letter to Carol, which I, personally, found a little strange, since A) Vincent was never Leo’s “buddy”, B) the guy had just fatally shot him and C) any law-enforcement official could have done that for him. But, maybe, he thought that doing this would bring Leo closure, of sorts. As it turns out, it does not. Leo walks to Carol’s front door, hesitates, turns to leave then turns back to place the letter on the steps and rings the bell before he heads to his car. We see Carol, her newborn on her arm, pick up the letter then hear Vincent’s voice reading it out loud. I was close to tears then. Finally Leo, Linda and Alex, who have been reunited (yeah!) and are on the run (not so yeah), drive off into the sunset when Linda asks her husband if he’s okay. Cue to Vincent’s funeral and a grief-stricken Carol then back to Leo, who claims, that he’s fine. Do we believe him? Not a chance.
What are your thoughts on the endings? I’d appreciate your comments.
Keep on playing!