Review – John Wick Hex
John Wick has become the best action movie franchise to come out of Hollywood in years, with great fight choreography, characters, and world building. It was only a matter of time until John Wick made his video game debut and Hex might be the perfect one to introduce Wick to the gaming world.
John Wick Hex is set before the events of the movies, so there aren’t any spoilers as it won’t really delve into much of the world. Familiar faces and voices from the movies return; Ian McShane returns as Winston as well as Lance Reddick as Charon and are major characters. There’s not much in the way of new characters with the exception of the game’s titular villain, Hex. He has the two captured due to his grudge with John Wick, which gets explained throughout the game.
The story itself isn’t anything spectacular and being a prequel, you won’t be surprised by how the events unfold. It simply does its job to get John Wick from location to location whilst giving him an excuse to murder endless goons with style. Hex is a solid enough villain who feels like someone who can outsmart Wick, but not someone who holds up to the movie’s characters.
Played from an isometric perspective, John Wick Hex is a fast paced strategy game. You move through the world by clicking on a node in a hex pattern. When nothing is happening, the game will be paused so you can plan your moves. Everything that you and your enemies do will take time, shown by the timeline at the top of the screen. It’s all about about selecting the actions that will put you in the best possible position with time to react to something else. You can shoot, strike, push, parry, and perform take-downs to move you into a new position. Changing your stance to a crouch will allow John to hit his targets more reliably and get out of line of sight with ease. It does come with some drawbacks though, as Wick’s movements and actions become limited and he won’t be able to do normal attacks.
Every action has consequences and one wrong move can put you in a dangerous situation. It’s all about dealing with each action as it comes. In one instance, I was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a full health bar, when another goon came in wielding a SMG. I noticed through the timeline that I didn’t have much time to get out without being hit. My only realistic option was to throw my gun at him with only a split second remaining, then perform a take-down to get out of sight before things got messy. This allowed me to regain my focus and get a new flank on them. Moments like these happen often and when something goes well, it’s incredibly satisfying.
The action in John Wick Hex is smart, forcing you to think like John Wick just without the need for his superhuman reactions. Playing it as a normal tactical shooter isn’t as effective or fun. Constantly moving and reacting to each situation as it comes is when Hex is at its very best.
There are a few other things to be aware of. Doing special actions will take up some of Wick’s focus and takes a few seconds to recover; actions such as throwing your gun and performing take-downsa Plus An under-cooked mechanic that allows you to spend continental coins to buy upgrades or stash weapons in each node of the location. It’s a missed opportunity to have a fleshed out upgrade system.
Whilst the difficulty of Hex is usually fair with a solid difficulty curve, there are a number of spikes that feel a little too harsh. In the bank chapter for instance, one section has you opening a door and what is on the other side is pretty random and sometimes leads to a cheap death. These spikes are very few and far between, but they have a big impact on the game’s flow. Boss fights are also underwhelming, often reverting to bullet sponges. Completing the game start to finish took me roughly five hours and the game entices you to play through it again with a scoring system.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the art direction. Whilst I appreciate that it tries to do something different, it just doesn’t look right to me. Especially with the character models. Some areas don’t look too bad and can actually look somewhat pleasing. Then we get the replay animations that playback in real time once you complete a level. The animations are rough here and the cinematic camera doesn’t quite work well.
Sound design fairs a bit better. Whilst I enjoyed the narration and cut-scenes between McShane, Reddick, and Troy Baker (Hex) there wasn’t much else to look for. The soundtrack is nothing more than serviceable, whilst weapon sounds are as decent as you’d expect.
Hex is the ideal game for the John Wick universe. Its smart combat and strong level designs provide a great gameplay experience. Though the story and visual design are underwhelming, I would highly recommend this to all fans.
I could overlook the art style if the animations and character models weren’t really odd looking.
A smart gameplay system that makes you think like John Wick.
Ian McShane and Lance Reddick reprise their roles captivatingly.
Despite a few hiccups, I really enjoyed my time with John Wick Hex and would urge fans of the movies to try it out.
Final Verdict: 8.0
John Wick Hex is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of John Wick Hex was provided by the publisher.