E3 2017 has come and gone. It was a tremendous event that featured powerful new hardware like the Xbox One X and massive titles like Assassin's Creed Origins, Anthem, Middle Earth: Shadow of War and Spider-Man. But for many viewers and industry professionals, it was a small indie game called A Way Out that stole the show.
Announced at #EA's annual press briefing, A Way Out is a narrative adventure game that tells the story of Leo and Vincent, two convicts with very different personalities that must work together to escape prison and avoid the authorities. It's being developed by Swedish studio, Hazelight, which was founded and headed up by Josef Fares, the famed creator of the critically acclaimed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. What sets this title apart from similar games is that it's specifically designed around split-screen cooperative play. This game cannot be played alone, only locally or online with a partner.
In a show full of massive, blockbuster games, #AWayOut struck a cord due to the incredibly unique gameplay conceit and compelling prison break scenario. Each person playing will control one of either Leo or Vincent throughout the course of the entire game. The two players will have to rely on each other to overcome obstacles while also witnessing the emotional story of two characters that don't seem to like or trust each other. Decisions will have to be made together, ones that may only benefit one of the characters. The journey will undoubtedly be full of tension and drama, not only between Leo and Vincent, but the players as well.
A Way Out is being funded and published by Electronic Arts as part of their "EA Originals" label — an initiative created in the wake of the game Unravel, for the purpose of seeking out, funding and releasing particularly unique and creative indie projects. EA Originals was announced at E3 last year alongside the reveal of a stylish little game called Fe. Not long after, a second EA Original was announced called Sea of Solitude.
While the first two games on the label seemed interesting, EA hasn't done a lot to inspire confidence in the brand as both games haven't been seen since their announcements. Not only that, there's a historical precedent for being skeptical of major publishers launching indie labels.
Ubisoft's UbiArt games and Activision's revived Sierra label are two such examples. Between the radio silence of Fe and Sea of Solitude and historical examples of such initiatives, it was difficult to be optimistic about EA Originals. That was until EA announced A Way Out.
This is a high-end indie release with some very real production value from an extremely reputable developer. It's also a remarkably risky project being co-op only which could be a major turnoff to many. That level of experimentation is remarkably un-EA-like.
I see A Way Out as proof that Electronic Arts is serious about its EA Originals label. I have a difficult time imagining them funding a high-end indie game from a sizable (by indie standards) and experienced team and trotting it out on stage at E3 alongside the likes of Madden and Bioware's new IP if they didn't believe in it.
Also worth noting is that before this game was introduced during the presentation, EA Executive Vice President Patrick Soderlund said, "This year's EA Original." That implies that they either have more games on the way or at the very least have the intention of signing more projects. It seems simple but it implies that the label has a future beyond the current three confirmed games.
Hopefully A Way Out is just the first in what will be a long line of extremely compelling indie projects from Electronic Arts. The very fact that a title like it exists and is coming from the company often seen as an evil empire of gaming bodes well.
A Way Out will be released in early 2018 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.