Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (Also available on PC)
Since my first viewing of a John Wick film I thought it would make for a perfect video game series, the films themselves are basically laid out just like a game anyway. If you would have asked me what the video game version of it would be, I would have sat you down with my DVD copy and just pointed to the screen going “That!” The easiest and clearest choice would be to do a linear FPS and call it a day, but after playing through John Wick Hex I can tell you now that that would be doing the character a disservice.
John Wick Hex is an action strategy game from the studio behind Thomas Was Alone and it may very well be the greatest movie to game crossover ever.
The story of John Wick Hex takes place before the movies as a man named Hex has kidnapped Winston and Charon to kill them and send a message to the high table. With those actors returning to do the voices themselves. Chapters are played out as Hex recounts the underbosses Wick has made his way through in order to find the duo.
There are seven chapters in all, each with a different aesthetic. You will find yourself stalking through back alleys, night clubs, dockyards and more. The art style is by far my biggest complaint with the game. It is a cell shaded graphic novel style game, which isn’t bad, at a distance the game looks and plays really cool set in the style.
The problem for me comes in the form of the actual story bits of the game. The character animations seem to look lifeless and rough drafts versus a finished product, it’s a style choice, I know but one that I couldn’t wait to be done with to get to the better looking playable portions of the game. At the end of it all, the characters were recognizable versions of real life and was not an issue in me enjoying the gameplay.
The gameplay is phenomenal. This is a strategy game and being so every action is based on timing. Wick has a set list of actions and moves each taking varying lengths of time. In the normal playing mode you can see on the time track at the top of the screen how long each choice will take, walking farther obviously takes up a longer time than switching stances, even different guns require different lengths of time to get a shot off. This all comes in handy when trying to navigate levels with multiple enemies unveiled from the fog of war mechanic at the same time.
Each enemy that is revealed has their own timeline that appears beneath Wicks making understanding and mastering that timeline crucial to your survival. When I first started out I was not using the timeline at all and it showed in my countless deaths, once you start to grasp it, then you are well on your way to becoming the Baba Yaga.
In addition to managing timed actions, there are other factors you need to keep an eye on in order to execute a successful mission. First is your focus, focus is used to execute takedowns, perform rolls and other more physical actions, Refocus is a option which takes time and recharges the focus meter. Secondly is your inventory. You start each chapter with a custom pistol and 2 full magazines for it, reloading at any point before the magazine is fully empty will cost you the bullets still left in it. You can spend time picking up guns dropped by enemies, but you never hoard ammo, once that gun is depleted, its only use is to throw it at someone to briefly stun them.
Health is managed by bandages which are scarce and using them takes up by far the most amount of time. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be scrapping by with one or two hit points left at the end of a grueling chapter. Between missions you can plan ahead by using earned coins to stash equipment like pistols and bandages or upgrade your suit.
Coins not spent disappear once the mission starts so you have to pick and choose what you think you will need. There is a harder mode once you get the hang of all the systems at play that only allows you seven seconds to make a decision on what to do, this is intended for the push your tactical limits to the break and was decidedly not for me.
Do everything right and you will feel like Mr. Reeves himself has taken over your body, transforming you into the famous John Wick. I can’t think of this game being done any other way. It captures the spirit and energy of the films like no other video game entity has done before. If you loved the films like I have this is a great companion to those or just someone looking for a challenging action game. John Wick Hex is available now on PC and PS4 and well worth a look.