You won't beat 'A Way Out' without help from a friend

Think of it as 'Lethal Weapon' meets 'The Fugitive' but really, really fun.

A Way Out from Hazelight games is a dinosaur of a game and I mean that as a compliment. Set in the 1970s, A Way Out follows a pair of convicts -- Vincent, who is serving time for embezzlement, and Leo, a hardened jewel thief -- as they escape from a fictional California prison, go on the lam and attempt to rebuild their lives. But the disco era isn't the game's only throwback, the gameplay itself demands a decidedly old-school method of play: in-person co-op.

The game is exclusively two-player, relying on a split screen to show both halves of the action. The two players must not only coordinate their in-game actions, such as working together to subdue guards or traverse difficult terrain, but you and your partner must also reach unanimous decisions in how to proceed during crucial parts of the game.

For example, during the demo that Edgar Alvarez and I played, we had to decide whether to steal a cop car and crash through the police barricade or sneak across the underbelly of the bridge the barricade was set upon. Each of these decisions had the potential to change the course of the entire story narrative, so choose wisely. We went with running through the barricade and wound up barreling the vehicle off the side of a mountain before totaling our ride and subsequently being chased through a forest by police dogs.

The gameplay changes throughout the course of the game, which runs between 7 and 14 hours depending on how many side missions you and your partner are willing to complete. In some chapters, Vincent and Leo will be required to use stealth and guile to accomplish their tasks, such as sneaking through a forest at night, avoiding and eliminating prison guards. In another, we had to fight our way through hospital halls, wielding fists and a lamp base (Oh Dae-su-style) against a half-dozen security guards and cops.

The game's developers describe it as a "narrative adventure," and it certainly feels akin to other titles like The Last of Us. Its gameplay is linear, so you're not going to be running through a massive open-world simulation, but does offer a good degree of flexibility and plenty of opportunity to explore.

A Way Out will hit store shelves this Friday and will retail for $30 -- a surprisingly low price given the level of polish and engaging storyline we saw during the demo. What's more, Hazelight is offering a "friend pass" so that if you buy the game, your buddy can download a trial copy to play along through the full story. It will be available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

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