The emotional rollercoaster ride that was A Way Out (developed by Hazelight Studios and published as an EA Original) warmed and broke the hearts of many as players teamed up with a friend to escape prison and survive in the free world amidst betrayal and the constant, looming threat of getting caught by the cops and getting thrown back into their cells.
As such, the game warranted two playthroughs to fully explore Leo and Vincent’s pathways, setting them apart from each other as they gave insight into how the two main characters of the game preferred to operate. Leo was less concerned with self-preservation and does what he had to in order to survive, whether that was knocking out the security guard in the hospital elevator, stealing a police cruiser to make their escape, taking the long way around through dense jungle to get to Harvey’s compound, or even electing to toss Ray off the roof in an epic “dream sequence” that truly highlighted the extent of Leo’s anger issues and the kind of person he became whenever he didn’t get what he wanted.
Meanwhile, Vincent was more meticulous and didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to himself, choosing more pacifist pathways compared to Leo’s more confrontational methods because his character was awfully complex as well. Compared to Leo, he preferred to avoid capture by sneaking under a bridge to safety, feigns sickness in the hospital, and frees the horses from the barn to keep the old couple occupied so that they could ditch their prison clothes.
It isn’t until the end of the game that we learn Vincent was an undercover cop who used Leo to get to Harvey under the guise of seeking revenge for being falsely imprisoned for murdering his brother.
And for the most part, he was telling the truth, except for the part where he hid his true identity as a cop.
It’s understandable that he wouldn’t have revealed his true identity to Leo since he did react negatively, as seen in the events leading up to the game’s ending, and while it was normal for Leo to respond that way, there still should have been another option besides a final fight that might as well be dubbed “May The Best Man With The Least Amount of Trigger Discipline Win.”
And now, it’s not to say that both endings weren’t emotional—they were an absolute train wreck!—but who’s to say that a third, perhaps more pleasant ending couldn’t have made the game even better? Many games have offered multiple endings—to name a few, this includes Dishonored, Fallout, Witcher, and the Stanley Parable—in order to give the player maximum autonomy about how their journey would end, especially in games where choices truly impact the story or the final outcome.
Sure, killing Leo or Vincent is a choice in itself but on the flip side, putting the players through a dialogue tree in the final battle that would allow them to both come out alive would give the players some true autonomy rather than fighting to the death or, depending on if it’s your first or second playthrough, allowing yourself to be shot for the sake of unlocking that second ending.
By shoving Leo and Vincent into a battle to the death where only one man can come out alive, the game stripped the player of the freedom to choose whether the final outcome would end in bloodshed or forgiveness.
Choices should have meaning and weight to them but A Way Out was reduced to a battle royale where the player with the most health remaining at the end of it all had increased odds of grabbing the gun and killing off their partner.
Wouldn’t it have been nice for Leo and Vincent to both survive and go their separate ways without holding any grudges against each other, especially since they took Harvey down and their journey together was officially over once they got ahold of the Black Orlov? The game has a heartbreaking impact on players that results from the culmination of getting to know the characters on such a deep level as well as learning about and interacting with their families, which makes it extremely difficult to decide which of the two deserves to live and who has to die.
The presence of Leo’s son Alex and and wife Linda as well as Vincent’s wife Carol and newborn daughter Julie makes it practically impossible to decide who is more worthy of having their husband and father come home and who has to deal with the loss of their loved one, especially when both families feel so real that there’s no easy way to say that Leo or Vincent deserved the bullet more than the other.
Leo might be a criminal but that doesn’t automatically mean he deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his life and while Vincent might be an officer of the law, his life isn’t more valuable than Leo’s simply because he “walked the straight and narrow” prior to going undercover as a prisoner. Whether he is willing to admit it or not, Vincent was also criminal for a while, regardless of the circumstances that earned him that label.
Ultimately, in a hypothetical third ending, Vincent could have overpowered Leo but at the last possible moment, rather than shoot to kill, the player controlling Vincent could select an option to order him to run away, giving him a chance to escape the country with his family.
Given that the game is set in the early 1970s, it would be relatively easy for Leo to achieve this and start over.
Similarly, Leo could have taken control of the situation by handcuffing Vincent to a pipe and going into hiding before leaving the country with Linda and Alex once it was safe, leaving his once-friend and partner stranded on the roof. By the time any of Vincent’s coworkers find him, Leo would be long gone but this would prove beneficial because it would give both of them the happy ending they deserve.
And while Leo’s association with Harvey is a point of contention and the whole reason why Vincent embarked on a journey to track down Harvey—to avenge his brother's death—but if you look at the bigger picture, Leo didn’t kill Vincent’s brother, Gary—Harvey did—but by letting Leo go free, it would be a true show of forgiveness on Vincent’s part and add another dimension of humanity to his character by forcing him to make a difficult choice that would help him come to accept the past for what it was and embrace his new future as a retired cop helping Carol raise their baby daughter.
Who’s to say that Leo and Vincent wouldn’t be able to forgive each other and forget the past several years down the road before joining each other in a game of Connect-4?
And ultimately, a third ending would give the game that heartfelt, happy ending it truly deserves.