As a big fan of John Wick, I couldn't wait to play this new strategy game based on the films so let's see if it lives up to the franchise.
I watched all 3 John Wick movies at the theatre and own all of them on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Needless to say, the films are just awesome and filled with the best over-the-top action in the history of motion pictures. Add in a subtly ultraviolent imaginative futuristic world and you're left with a winning formula. John Wick Hex takes this formula and applies it to a strategy game which is definitely not an easy feat. Its story involves John trying to deal with an adversary named Hex after he kidnaps Charon and Winston from the Continental. He'll travel through New York City as well as Switzerland in order to slay Hex's underlings and eventually free his friends. Unfortunately, there really isn't much more to the story than that and it's told via clumsy still-image cutscenes although the voice acting is decent. Skip!
Let's discuss the gameplay. John Wick Hex has you command John to move between nodes that are dotted around hexagonal patterns within each stage's intricate environment; which, by the way, look fantastically stylish and distinct. If you manage to sneak up on an enemy, you can perform a takedown which allows Mr. Wick to move to a surrounding node and it feels awesome to be able to chain takedowns together. Faraway enemies are dealt with via firearms (obviously) which is less satisfying but frequently necessary, especially when you're facing off with a few foes simultaneously. Anyway, each action requires time to execute so if you can attack before your enemies then you're golden. That's really where John Wick Hex's gameplay shines brightest: its clever and unique concepts.
That being said, although I appreciate the original concepts; John Wick Hex simply doesn't come together to form an enjoyable formula. For starters, the gameplay often feels cumbersome as you observe complicated timelines and watch John clumsily run in zigzag patterns around the stage. I would have rather played an overhead shooter where time only moves forward whenever you do which I guess would be a 2D version of Superhot. That would have been great! Additionally, the sense of excitement from the films is unfortunately absent here. I understand that John Wick Hex is supposed to be played with deliberate actions and careful planning but it still doesn't add up to what the movies represent. You can even watch replays of each level in real-time and it frankly always looks lame.
One aspect that I enjoy is the interesting progression system. You basically have to survive a series of stages then before starting the next batch, you can spend earned coins to purchase upgrades or stash weapons and heal items in the levels ahead. Even though there are no substantial RPG elements, this system offers enough of a boost without being too generous. However, I do find a lot of the challenge in John Wick Hex to rely on replaying tougher segments in order to memorize the dangers that lurk there. For example, the first time you play through, you may not realise that a bunch of enemies will ambush you at one point then once you play it again, you'll be more prepared. A simple rewind feature would have been better, wouldn't it? Replaying whole levels again simply isn't fun.
I thoroughly enjoyed John Wick Hex's truly clever gameplay concepts but the fashion in which it executes them could use a lot of fine-tuning in order for it to reach the heights of the top-notch film franchise that it's based on.
- + Clever gameplay concepts
- + Stylish visuals with cool environments
- + Interesting progression mechanics
- - Gameplay often feels cumbersome
- - Sense of action doesn't come anywhere close to what the films represent
- - Replaying levels gets tedious