Keanu believe it?
John Wick Hex is a fast-paced action strategy game based on the John Wick franchise. The game was developed by British studio Bithell Games and distributed by Good Shepherd Entertainment. It follows an original story that takes place years before the first John Wick movie, before his retirement. The villain Hex abducts Winston and Charon (voiced by Ian McShane and Lance Reddick) as an act of rebellion against the High Table. As John Wick, you must dismantle Hex’s network of underbosses and enforcers across New York, Switzerland, and end Hex’s reign. The story itself was a little dull, but this isn’t the ultimate focus of the game.
The game has its tutorial throughout the first level, and felt a little frustrating and difficult as you get used to it. For me personally, it felt like took a long time to get into and was not initially an enjoyable experience. Admittedly, though, action-based strategy games are a little out of my comfort zone. As a complete rookie to the genre though, I felt the tutorial during the first level did a decent job of teaching me the mechanics of the game. Following which, the only thing that held me back was a lack of patience having to think my way through each scenario. It kind of felt like playing as John Wick’s choreographer, rather than John Wick himself.
Throughout the game, you work your way through progressively harder levels on a hex-based grid (pun intended). Everything you do is allocated an amount of time, and time only moves when you move, just like in the game Super Hot. This even includes walking and reloading, so plan your moves carefully! This is done with the aid of the timeline at the top, which shows how long each of your moves will take, compared to the enemies moves. You even have the option to wait, allowing the Hex’s goons to approach you before you spring out of cover to either shoot them or perform a takedown. I would definitely recommend utilising cover in each of the levels, I found out the hard way that my usual run-and-gun approach to gaming has no place here.
Ammo and bandages are limited in the game, so you’ll be forced to carefully consider your actions. This is a nice nod to the film franchise, as John Wick often finds himself ill-equipped and injured, but none-the-less it added to my frustration I already felt trying to learn the mechanics. To add to this, there also seems to be a shortage of checkpoints, so I found myself repeatedly having to replay most of the levels, as I died right near the end. It does serve well in raising the stakes though, and makes for a compelling experience.
The style is not what I would have expected from a John Wick adaptation, with its top-down camera view and cartoonish graphics. Being a comic book fan, I did enjoy the artwork, especially during the cut-scenes. Throughout the gameplay though the graphics felt a little unpolished, particularly the end of level replays which just do not work. Due to having to move via the hex pattern, I found myself watching John Wick jerking around all over the place, reflecting my personal indecisiveness. The repetitive takedown animations do not benefit from this either, and occasionally were out of frame! All this serves to highlight the issues graphically, and the game would have been much better off without this. Aside from these issues, the game itself ran smoothly on PS4 Pro and it didn’t crash or have any glitches for the duration I was playing.
Although I initially felt action-based strategy was an unusual style for a John Wick game, it does actually makes sense. The movies are famed for their stunningly choreographed action sequences, which I think you would struggle to replicate in other gameplay styles, although I could go for a VR John Wick/Super Hot mashup for sure. This game almost gives you the sense that you’re inside John Wick’s head as he plans his next move in a split-second. It is also particularly satisfying to watch this play out when you get it right. That being said, this is a tough and often tedious game that isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re not a fan of strategy games. It is however, good value for money with it’s low price point and provides a good few hours’ worth of entertainment