John Wick is an orchestrator of death. He efficiently uses the tools and space around him in combat, flowing subtly between enemies and extracting them intelligently. John Wick Hex effortlessly replicates the smooth violence of the films, so you can embody the dreaded assassin in combat scenarios that are both challenging and satisfying to overcome. It also introduces a quick spin on traditional turn-based action, allowing you to think and act like the elusive Baba Yaga while looking as refined and controlled as he does. This is our John Wick Hex Review.
John Wick Hex Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac OS
- Developer: Mike Bithell, Bithell Games
- Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
- Genres: Turn-based strategy, Action game
- Release Date: October 8, 2019
John Wick Hex Review: Official Trailer Video
John Wick Hex Review: Gameplay
At the heart of John Wick Hex is an overhead timeline, which records actions that both you and enemies take. Each step takes a certain amount of time, clearly displayed in the timeline to give you a clear idea of when you are taking a photo or when you need to avoid an incoming photo, for example. After each turn, the action you have chosen is played in real-time and will only be paused if a new enemy enters your line of sight or if you take damage to adjust accordingly.
You always know how the action will play out when it starts moving again, allowing you to plan and position yourself for your next turn. However, the choices you make in battle are essential. Sometimes an enemy may be faster than you, forcing you to choose between a potential hit or throwing your weapon to stun them in time. This has its own set of consequences. If the enemy is too far away, you have now disarmed yourself with too much ground to cover for near destruction, or have left yourself vulnerable to the surprising appearance of another enemy.
Each turn is a new step in a moving puzzle, rewarding a careful balancing of positioning, sightlines, and resource management with a graceful flow of murder. Aside from health, you should consider both ammunition and a tool called the focus. John Wick is excellent with a gun, but Hex limits the number of bullets you can carry at a time to force you to experiment with new weapons you find. Knowing how many shots you have in the magazine for a fight helps you better manage how many enemies you think you can send before you need to find a new one.
This, in turn, helps you move efficiently from one kill to the next, where you collect dropped firearms in the process. It is a satisfying balance; I had to continually adapt to the shooting speeds and effective ranges of new weapons, which in turn changed the way I continued or withdrew from combat. Focus controls most of your actions outside of basic movement and shooting. Everything from performing an instant melee takedown to reloading your weapon requires several focus points, making it the backbone of most of your available repertoire.
While it can be refilled quickly enough, it is difficult to find room in a battle to do so without taking too much damage, encouraging you to bite off as much as possible and chew your enemies to avoid that you get overwhelmed. Your successes and failures are determined, but how well you can manage both ammunition and your distribution of resources, with Hex focusing less on hit rates and random throws and more on the choices you make and your ability to anticipate how things will go.
Levels are designed to challenge your understanding of movement and its inherent risks, taking you into long, tight hallways full of doors that enemies can spawn through at any time. Sightlines are hidden to let you guess who’s around the corner; a reckless throw can put you in the firing line of a group of previously hidden enemies. Each step you take to the exit of each level should be calculated, taking into account sharp corners of doorways and the benefits of elevation from overhead balconies.
When you take a step with this balancing act, John Wick Hex feels like it’s moving almost in real-time. Your decisions will feel instinctive, with movements playing as if you need a ticking clock. Hex is tuned to give you the feeling that you are always one step ahead. Because you have to respond to new enemies for a few seconds before they make their moves, you often feel that your reaction times are a fraction of a second – as long as you think carefully. But it’s just as brutal if you’re too cheeky. If you don’t learn how to break sightlines as you move, you’ll quickly find that your timeline is overwhelmed by enemy actions that you can’t quite tackle.
Hex is a power fantasy with the odds as small as possible to your advantage, but it is also a game that wants you to understand the fine margins John Wick operates in every battle. With such dynamic and compelling fights in the middle, it’s disappointing that John Wick Hex’s original story doesn’t live up to the same standard. It takes place long before the events of the first film – when John was the most dangerous weapon the High Table had in their service, and before he ever met his wife – with John looking for series loyal Winston and Charon, reprised by Ian McShane and Lance Reddick respectively.
While the story gives the game a reason to bounce from one location to another, it never takes advantage of the intriguing layer of knowledge that sits on top of the high-octane action from the movies. You won’t learn anything new about the High Table or their seedy, mysterious continental hotels, much less about John’s time before giving up his hitman lifestyle in search of something a little more relaxed. Hex’s revenge story also fails to make an interesting backstory or a lasting impression on the franchise, making the story feel pointless in the bigger picture.
It’s a disappointing thread connecting the exceptional gameplay, faithfully capturing the feel of John Wick in a strategic and pulsating formula. John Wick Hex review has turn-based gameplay at a pace you’ve probably never experienced before, and it intricately balances the systems to make you feel like an expert hitman, while also feeling deserved. It’s a slick and well-oiled game that manages to give you a new, exciting way to experience John Wick and his signature brand of chaotic action.
John Wick Hex effortlessly replicates the smooth violence of the films, so you can embody the dreaded assassin in combat scenarios that are both challenging and satisfying to overcome.