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John Wick Hex

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Developer: Bithell Games

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.

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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'John Wick Hex'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on July 1, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

John Wick Hex is a fast-paced, action-oriented strategy game that makes you think and strike like John Wick, the professional hitman of Lionsgate's critically acclaimed film franchise.

I get the feeling that there were probably only two takes on John Wick Hex when the game was announced. Either people were upset that it wasn't some sort of traditional third-person action game, or there were people like me, who excitedly went, "Wait a minute; they're doing what with a John Wick game?". The title is a sort of real-time tactics game where you play as the titular John Wick as you shoot, strike, and roll your way through the levels while using some interesting gameplay mechanics.

At the start of a level, you're standing in place and time is stopped. What your first action will be as you traverse the grid-based map is up to you. Every action you perform takes a measure of time, whether that's moving to another hex, shooting an enemy, or reloading. Complicated actions, such as striking or shooting an enemy, take time in two different ways: the actions leading up to the act (raising your handgun to fire, pulling back your arm to punch) and the actual damaging act. It's represented at the top of the screen in a timeline that shows the previous two seconds' worth of actions in labeled chunks and the next two seconds' worth of actions yet to come.


For every enemy you're aware of, you also see their next two seconds' worth of actions. This allows you to anticipate what they're doing, and while time is stopped, you have plenty of it to figure out your next move. That guy on that right is raising his gun to fire at you; he'll do it in 0.7 seconds. You could return fire, but that will take 0.9 seconds, and you'll end up getting shot and taking some damage. You could also try to move or roll to be a harder target. These decisions happen dozens of times in each level, and there often isn't truly one right (or even best) answer.

You begin to treat time like another resource in addition to your ammo, focus and health. Reloading takes time. Picking something up like a gun or another bandage takes time. Bandaging takes time. You don't have a time limit to complete a level, and there are certainly times when you feel like you have all the time in the world. There are other times that feel more stressful, such as in the heat of a firefight, when you have two dudes shooting at you and another rushing in with his fists. Every action takes time: time before you can do something, and time that the enemies use to perform actions.

One of the burning questions I had for the developers was how they came up with such a distinct take on a John Wick game. For answers, I spoke with Nic Tringal, who is a co-designer. Lionsgate reached out to a few developers when they had the notion to pursue a John Wick game, and when the developers behind John Wick Hex initially pitched their idea for such a game, it was turn-based. They quickly found that such a style simply didn't work when it came to applying it to John Wick.


They also tried to follow the constraints that the movie set forth. It's not squad-based, and there are no other friendly characters. You play alone as John Wick, set in an original story in a time period shortly before John's retirement preceding the first film. Further details were very tight-lipped; they wouldn't even name the other guns in the build that we played (other than the standard 9mm handguns). They said we should expect to see more of the guns from the films.

The look of the game was meant to imitate a graphic novel, which is another departure from what I expected for a John Wick game. One cool feature that was disabled in the build I played was a replay system. It feels like you pulled off a bunch of cool actions in that level, and improbably, it took out a dude just before he got that shot off? The replay will let you play the action back in real time, and you can watch your own action movie unfold.

John Wick Hex intrigued me from the moment it was announced, so I was happy to check it out at E3 2019. Its unexpected take on a John Wick game works impossibly well: time-centric actions on a hex map that play out with the same physical, violent choreography that the films are known for. No release date was given, which is a shame because my time with the game only made me want to play it that much more.



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