JOHN WICK HEX
Such a good dog.
By JAY TEE
The timeline system is a brilliantly executed middle ground between real time and turn based strategy. Very inventive.
The voice acting is a nice touch, and the thumping music is particularly in keeping with the soundtrack from the films.
Prepare to be regularly humbled, as you’re constantly having to consider multiple elements in order to succeed. Fun!
The cel shading is an interesting choice, but ultimately the visuals are the weakest part. Everything is a tad bland.
THE LAST WORD
John Wick Hex is a faithful and inventive interpretation of gun fu action.
THE FINAL SCORE
We use a simple “out of 5” rating criteria for all reviews.
4 out of 5 is GREAT.
A positive, varied experience, with plenty of reasons to invest. Even if it’s just shy of perfection.
*Reviewed on PC.*
The BREACH ON ZULU badge is awarded for a game that consistently demands intelligent strategy / tactics.
The TROLLOLOL badge is for a game with sudden spikes in difficulty.
The CHALLENGE ME BRAIN PUZZLES! badge is for a game that is tricky, but rewarding, to master.
The O.B. badge is for a game that’s great fun even when you’re losing.
The POPPY SOUND badge is for a game where the music, sound effects, and/or dialogue are superb.
The YAR! BEARS! badge is for a game that is played (or should be played) by Adam Burleigh.
IS IT FUN?
*Yes, but prepare for a steep learning curve.*
You’re given a very friendly opening 20 minutes, before being plunged straight into more complex scenarios that require you to keep your head on a swivel. Once Hex throws multiple enemies, elevated positions, and boss fights into the mix, prepare for the challenge to increase exponentially. There’s a constant push and pull, as most actions have an associated cost to your focus meter, and you have to consider enemy movements and your own offensive choices. Things can get dicey very quickly. Fortunately, Mike Bithell’s team have gone out of their way to make this an authentic interpretation of the Baba Yaga’s moveset, with gun throwing, quick takedowns, shoves, parrys, and good old fashioned fists and firearms at your disposal. Just prepare yourself for some trial and error, as enemy behaviour has a degree of variance with each checkpoint restart.
*Absolutely. Combat is very satisfying.*
This feels like an authentic John Wick licensed game (the lack of Keanu not withstanding). Ian McShane and Lance Reddick reprise their movie roles, with Troy Baker bringing a slightly Marlon Brando meets New York hot dog vendor twang to his role as the villainous Hex. Its status as a prequel frees them up from a narrative perspective, but it also means they can have some fun with the story board style cutscenes and overall arch of the campaign. The ongoing narration is definitely a highlight, and more specifically from the gameplay itself, there were a number of moments where I commented out loud how cool it felt to see a well planned strategy come together. Taking two quick shots, followed by a dodge roll, and a gun throw knockout was great, and once you get used to the speed of selecting and executing actions, the mechanics quickly fall into place.
*Yes, and they feel like odd omissions.*
Given the array of choices at your disposal when it comes to dispensing the pain, it came as quite a surprise to find John Wick himself wasn’t particularly mobile. This may have something to do with the timeline system, but regardless, it’s a shame you can’t vault over objects or pull off more elaborate stunts. There were a number of situations where I’d changed my stance in order to crouch behind cover where it would be been incredibly useful (and beneficial to the flow of the game) for me to be able to leap over waist high obstacles. Presentation wise, the cutscenes do suit the graphical style, but they feel more like a symptom of budget limitations than a stylistic choice. With the voice talent involved, something more elaborate and animated would have upped the production value significantly. These are minor things, yes, but worth noting.
*Keep subverting expectation.*
The risk of going against the norm has paid off in spades, with John Wick Hex proving that action movies don’t necessarily have to be adapted as first or third person shooters in order to deliver an interesting experience. There’s something undeniably impressive about a big licensed property taking a big swing and hitting its target. I highly doubt this will be the last we’ll see of this budding spin off franchise. As the John Wick IP continues to expand in film and television (with Chapter 4 dropping in 2021, and a “Continental” TV series in the works at Starz), it’s more than likely that following Hex’s confident debut, we’ll get a few more video game adaption’s down the road. I’d love to see this style of game again, but part of me also wants to see what else this particular series has in store.
John Wick Hex is an unlikely spin off, a prequel that defies expectation by leaning into the strategic elements of the franchise’s signature action. This isn’t the third person cover shooter everyone expected to see; this has more in common with the likes of XCOM than you might think. At the same time, it refuses to be pigeonholed as a strictly turn based affair. The stop start flow can be jarring at first, but once you get your head around the timeline system, which notifies you of what’s ahead, and learn to balance your focus, you’ll string together combinations of movement that Keanu himself would be proud of. Everything unfolds in sort of real time, as you execute a variety of combat options and consider your positioning, all while dispatching goons with reckless abandon. It’s unusual, unexpected, but it works.
Enemies this close will attempt to melee attack, which can be interrupted with a parry, but you’ll also have to consider the other goons taking aim…
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Watch your back, Mr. Wick.