Upon receiving John Wick Hex as a review code and seeing the game I was slightly concerned. The whole game based on a movie is the same as the whole movie based on book ideology, they usually leave a lot to be desired.
But, the makers of John Wick Hex, Bithell Games and Good Shepherd Entertainment, have proven me wrong on that mindset. They have taken the narrative of the movie and created a wonderful, well thought out and enjoyable game that will keep you engaged, trying to complete the mission and see John Wick to the end. And then you will most definitely watch all the movies back to back! Lol
The Game itself plays out like a turn-based strategy/action game that also requires you to manage resources and upgrades with each level having multiple stages to complete to get to the end. There is a twist to the turn-based setting the addition of a timeline bar, which shows you the time it will take for you to complete your move sets, but also the enemies move sets alongside your own, meaning you can interact and interrupt movements with a bit of cunning or some brute force.
The timeline bar adds an authentic real-time strategy (RTS) style to the movement mechanics. Imagine if you will of merging X-com with Superhot; as you move the enemies move too, meaning your plans need to include the possible movements of your enemies and the enemies you cannot yet see.
This timeline element really mixes things up and whilst at times gets you thinking about how the hell you are going to do this move or level, it also takes a well-known genre and gives it a good shake.
After your introduction in Chinatown, you are given a chance to plan drops on a level, such as placing bandages or a weapon in certain stages or upgrading your suit for that level to help you out with bits like upping your max health, no penalties to movements, etc these upgrades and drops cost continental coins and be aware certain areas within a level are more expensive than others.
After completing each stage of the level, you get the chance to watch back the way in which you completed it, playing out your destruction into your own mini John Wick movie, which I enjoyed thoroughly and thought was a great addition.
Graphically the game john Wick Hex is a comic styled art landscape with harsh shadows and bright neon’s mixed with soft pastel colours.
The cut scenes are done in a comic book styling which Is very appealing to me and also contains the voice actors from the movie, Ian McShane (Winston) and Lance Reddick (Charon) with the addition of Troy Baker as Hex (the voice of Joel from the Last of us).
The soundtrack to the game fits it very well, quite simple dark electronic, not too overpowering but enough to keep a tempo going and also reminiscent of the club fight scene in John Wick 2.
The story you follow is one told by the words of Hex himself or at least set up in a “this is how it started” way and then you play out the rest.
Hex is the antagonist in a plot against the High Table, he has Winston and Charon and you, as John Wick, are sent out to deal with this threat.
I won’t give too much more away.
The action in the game is just incredible, from the flick reload of the handgun (which John Wick does in the movie) to the realistic takedowns.
Make sure to keep your focus up, focus is a stat that depletes as you use melee attacks and this also allows you to do things like takedowns if it fully depletes you will end up without a powerful tool in your arsenal.
The timeline is imperative to your plan as you go through the hallways and corridors taking out henchmen either armed or unarmed, working out your distances for attacks and who to attack first. A brief explanation of the timeline; at the top of the screen you will see a line a grey bar when you click an action, the bar will turn pink for the allotted time, for example, a strike lasting 1.5 seconds.
The same is shown for your enemies in view and in attacking range, grey for movement and whilst stationary, then pink for action. Using this you can time your movements and pick which move sets best suit the situation, giving you a choice and a way to plan out your next actions.
When stationary the world stops (in operator / normal mode) and gives you time to plan your next attack, as you move or take action the timeline starts to move again whereas in the harder mode you only get 7 seconds between choices to act or the world will start even if you are not ready.
The progression of the game moves quickly from the first mission and you are quickly swept up into the heat of battle being surrounded by enemies and having to make decisions that will not just help you at the moment but that will carry through into the later parts of the stage, you also find that even though this is a ‘turn-based’ game that once the action starts and you are being mobbed it does get quite tense, and I think this has a lot to do with the timeline element.
Boss battles; what good game doesn’t have a boss battle? The bosses work slightly differently to the grunts just shooting and moving won’t get you far, you need to break their focus first (their armour if you will) and then you can take away their health. But beware as bosses move around a lot and build focus very quickly.
Lastly on the game side, after you have completed a level in John Wick Hex you are given a breakdown of your performance, this is set out in time, accuracy, the number of heals, etc. Should you hit a high enough stat you will gain an accolade.
John Wick Hex lives up to the movies and stands alongside the movies not as a silly little cash grab for the sake of it but as a game in its own right.
Which is a huge accomplishment when you think of the masterpiece of an action that Chad Stahelski put together in the John Wick movies and once again I think the way the game utilises the timeline as well as the turn-based movements made the game feel like a living and moving object one that you had the feeling of planning in an ever-changing situation but also one that had consequences to your movements.
Attention to detail was great in this game, from the true to life takedowns to the gunplay the development of john Wick Hex seems to have been one that was well thought out and researched.
Resources such as ammo, bandages and the like are sparse, the game forces you to be smart and control the situation as much as possible and I really did enjoy that but don’t despair, enemies weapons are fair game too, once you kill an enemy they will drop whatever weapon they are holding.
Even without the choice of the cutscene of your movements at the end, the top-down/isometric view of the gameplay gives you the feeling that you are playing a movie. Add that to the John Wick movies themselves and you do feel as though you are inside the movie directing the flow of the action.
A couple of suggestions for areas of improvement;
-There is an option to wait, where you can choose to have a small amount of time for an enemy to reveal their location or for an enemy to take a step closer, sometimes you can hit that 5 or 6 times as the time slot for wait is very small. In my opinion, it would be beneficial to have the option to hold the wait button until the time that you see fit, so say hold ‘X’ down for and wait will continue till the time comes that you are ready to take action.
-The parry action has you wave your hand in thin air, and with all the detail paid to other areas, it would be great to see John parry away an attack being made at him.
-Sometimes and mainly in the mission replay, the camera angles get caught in walls or move a little erratically, this doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of the playback but can be a wee bit annoying when you do an awesome move and it is blocked by a wall.
Overall Score 9/10
The graphics in john Wick Hex are nothing out of this world but they don’t need to be, the game concentrates on the playability and the timeline mixed with the turn-based style is so well built, John Wick Hex had me coming back time after time and wanting to complete the game and get better scores. The game is a testament to the makers and to the John Wick movies.