There is a lot of advice out there about how to maintain a healthy relationship with your significant other. Communicate effectively, set aside time to spend with each other, things like that. Having been in a relationship with my partner for nine years, I like to think we are pretty good at these things. Not much can threaten our relationship. And yet, that all went out the window when we played 2018’s two-player narrative game, A Way Out. What transpired in the roughly seven hours it took us to beat the game still haunts us to this day and I’m somewhat surprised it didn’t end our relationship.
For those not familiar with A Way Out from developer Hazelight Studios, the game is a co-op third-person action game that requires two players to complete a series of puzzles and combat encounters in tandem for the entirety of its story. It’s an impressive feat of co-op design, with the gameplay brilliantly woven into the enthralling, roller-coaster ride of a narrative. At the start of the game, you’re introduced to two characters within a prison, Vincent and Leo, who hatch a plan to find a way out (roll credits) of their incarceration. You must then decide who will control who for the remainder of the game. My partner chose the charismatic and headstrong Leo, leaving me with the more strategic and risk-averse Vincent.
It’s important to note that my partner is not as much of a gamer as I am (this is my job), but she is by no means a novice. She’s the only one in the apartment who’s actually finished Hades in its entirety, a fact she will proudly tell you. She’s also played through every Uncharted game, so she’s no stranger to puzzles and third-person action. Where some co-op games can fail at making both players’ actions seem important, A Way Out’s puzzle design let both my partner and me feel like we were doing something important while we communicated about how to solve the problems we were faced with. Again, we’re pretty good with communication since we’ve been together so long. And, indeed, the majority of our experience with A Way Out actually went surprisingly smoothly. The only hiccup was a chase sequence near the game’s end that my partner had trouble with, but I had patience and we got through it. We were having a great time! But right before the finish line, in the last few minutes of A Way Out, things took a turn for the worse.
Spoilers for A Way Out’s ending follow.
A Way Out has an eleventh-hour twist that pulls the rug out from under you. By this point, you’ve watched Leo and Vincent forge a bond, escape prison, and open up about their own rough lives. You’ve learned, for instance, that Vincent’s had a rough marriage, that his wife wants nothing to do with him, that he will likely have little to no contact with his newborn daughter. Leo, meanwhile, has a loving wife and child, but has known other hardships: growing up in poverty, being abandoned by his parents and left in an orphanage. The two outsiders seem to connect over the challenges they’ve faced as they try to make good on their escape.
Then, it’s revealed: Vincent is an FBI agent who’s deep undercover as part of a sting operation. He was only using Leo. To say my partner was upset by Vincent’s (and, by extension, my) betrayal of Leo (and her) is an understatement. But hey, the game never told us that I was a cop the whole time! A Way Out ends by throwing out cooperation and pitting Vincent and Leo against each other in a gunfight. Only one can come out alive. My girlfriend did not win the gunfight. We then watched as Vincent informed Leo’s family of his death. I was getting the death stare throughout the game’s final cutscene and credits.
Now, I have a confession—I wasn’t entirely honest with my partner when I suggested we play A Way Out. I knew from the beginning that Vincent was a cop. I kept that secret and lied to my partner just like Vincent lied to Leo. Why did I do this? Honestly, I thought it would be funny to see her reaction when we got to the twist. She was mad before, but when I revealed my own deception she was livid and proceeded to talk to me as little as possible for the next 24 hours. We played A Way Out way back in 2020, but when I brought the topic up recently, she had this to say:
It’s not that you were a cop. It’s that you knew you were a cop and you didn’t let me kill you when ethically, morally, spiritually, that is the correct answer. Your wife hates you, she has a baby that doesn’t know you, she’s going to divorce you. Meanwhile I’ve been poor my whole life and grew up in the foster system. My wife loves me, I love my wife. My son loves me, and I love my son. And you kill me for no fucking reason! It was ethically the incorrect choice and you still made it.
Somehow, she has found it in her heart to stay with me, even if she hasn’t quite forgiven me. But my only relationship advice is to not make the same mistake I did. Even if I do still think it was pretty funny.