March 2018 had its fair share of high profile releases. Whether it was Sea of Thieves’ lackluster launch or Far Cry 5’s surprisingly refreshing take on the well-worn franchise, gamers had a lot to discuss as the third month of the year drew to a close. While TSG always awards Game of the Month based on industry impact, many of these “big” stories felt oh so familiar. Yet one game managed to stand out, even if it didn’t garner the widespread attention typically associated with our Game of the Months. With an invigorating, cinematic, and consumer-friendly outlook on the medium of video games, A Way Out from Hazelight studios takes our March Game of the Month.
A Way Out’s most publicized feature is how it handles the game’s mandatory cooperative story. Rather than needing two copies of the game, any player who owns A Way Out can invite a friend to join them online for the entire campaign. This consumer-friendly approach doesn’t feel like a marketing tactic or a simple “back-of-the-box” feature. More than anything it feels like an attitude, an assurance that players are going to get the kind of experience they paid for. It’s an effort to ensure that this artistic creation is experienced in its ideal form by as many people as possible. A Way Out puts players first, offering its narrative with no strings attached and with the wide-eyed optimism of a form that is still maturing. In this day and age, that’s a surprising and precious thing to have.
Of course, it also helps that the game itself is an expertly-paced and engaging narrative. Video games have long aspired to adopt more filmic qualities and, while this doesn’t work for every genre, A Way Out features some of the most impressive cinematic moments in any game. Every chapter of Vincent and Leo’s saga features something memorable, whether it’s an emotional reunion, a frantic chase, or a picturesque walk through nature. Each of these moments are framed with exquisite care as the split-screens widen, pan, and occasionally drop out to ensure that players are always aware of the exact detail they need to see. Cinematography can be a difficult thing to evaluate in video games since players often control the camera, but Hazelight Studios has left an indelible impression with A Way Out.
In an era of strenuous game development, Kickstarter disappointments, and abusive microtransactions, it can be quite hard to look at the video game industry and not feel some kind of cynicism. Maybe that’s why Hazelight Studios creative director Josef Fares and A Way Out feel like such a breath of fresh air. Is A Way Out a revolutionary game? No. Does it borrow heavily from other narrative mediums? Yes. Has the title changed the way we think about games moving forward? A bit. But more important than any of those “big” questions, A Way Out is a focused and emotional experience that arrests your attention and won’t let go until its intense finale. A Way Out makes us excited about the future of video games and, above all else, that earns it our March Game of the Month.