Published on January 20th, 2020 | by Michael Newman0
John Wick Hex
If I mention the name John Wick to those familiar with the franchise and ask for some words that would describe the action, undoubtedly words such as fast, frantic, gunplay, even ballet might come to mind. So, when I discovered that a John Wick game was being developed and that it would be turn-based it seemed an unusual choice for this venerable franchise.
John Wick Hex developed by Bithell Games and produced by Good Shepherd Entertainment, follows everyone’s favorite assassin in a prequel version to the films (although seeing the films isn’t a requirement to play the game, having some background with them is certainly a good idea). Featuring the voices of Ian McShane as Winston and Lance Reddick as Charon is a welcome addition, unfortunately Keanu Reeves doesn’t reprise his role as the pivotal character here (although we won’t have to wait long for some Keanu voice acting once Cyberpunk 2077 roles around). Winston and Charon have been kidnapped by a new baddie in town known only as Hex. Hex is not only the name of your main adversary, but also how the game is played out…on hex tiles in a somewhat real-time turn-based manner. It is up to John Wick to do what he does best, shoot, dodge, and incapacitate the many faceless adversaries as he traverses many of the film’s locations.
John Wick plays out in a turn-based manner but utilizes a timeline at the top of the screen to help the player determine how long an action will take, compared to how soon an enemy action will take place. John can move, dodge, shoot his way through each level, carefully timing his events to get the drop on his enemies. Things like reloading and recharging one’s focus (a sort of stamina gauge that dictates how much you can dodge/roll etc.) all take a specific amount of time. Gun shots have a certain percentage to hit based on your movement, how far you are from the enemy, whether they are moving etc., so carefully planning your move (and planning ahead of the enemies) can have you moving and dodging to avoid enemy fire while taking them out at the same time. The enemies are fairly generic grunts with guns, melee enemies, end bosses, etc.
Damage and ammunition are all carried over as you progress through the levels, so it always pays to be conscientious and not to use up too many bandages or bullets as you progress. John can pick up any gun or weapon that are dropped by the enemies but can only carry one at a time. In many cases it’s quicker and easier to drop the gun you have only to pick up one the enemy dropped that has more ammunition. While the persistence of the game levels ensures that the player carefully manages their limited resources it also means that poor planning can result in taking several attempts to clear the level successfully. I found myself early on in my initial play-through starting over because I had not been particularly careful with my use of bandages earlier on in the game. While there are multiple ways to clear enemies, you must always try to identify the method that will preserve what precious resources you have left since you may need them further down the road.
Graphically John Wick looks incredible. It maintains a very comic book approach, telling its story in picture slides in a very gritty and dark manner. Some of the actions that Wick take aren’t as fluid as a fan of the series would prefer, but the scenery and visuals more than make up for it. The soundtrack only adds to the mood with its guitar riffs and techno vibes immersing the player even deeper into the world of Wick.
While there are certainly areas where I feel there could have been more variety, it is still a blast to step into the shoes of John Wick. The turn-based combat does feel a bit clunky at times but does allow you to plan in advance and brings a welcome change from the standard run and gun/beatem’ ups that tend to rule these days. The use of a timeline to show not only John’s actions, but how the timing of those actions corresponds to the enemies is a unique method of simulating frantic gunplay, even when you have all the time in the world to sort it out. You’ll likely curse at yourself for using up the bandages when you didn’t really need to and restarting the game to make better decisions the first few times you play it, but as you learn the ropes, you too will learn to traverse the labyrinthian levels like a true assassin. John Wick Hex is available on the Epic Store for PC.
What I liked: Gritty comic book feel, Interesting use of time line
What I liked less: Generic enemies, Fairly generic weapons
4 out of 5 stars