John Wick Hex Review
John Wick Hex really clicked for me when, after clearing a level, I watched it back “in real-time,” versus the time-based strategic puzzle-combat gameplay. Watching the titular hero make his way through a street, punching, rolling, kicking, and shooting adversaries in under 10 seconds is a lot of fun. Of course, 10 seconds in “real-time” translates to about 5 minutes of gameplay, as the player tries to orchestrate all of Wick’s maneuvers.
The game — developed by bithell games — serves as a prequel to the movies and is told from Hex’s point of view, recounting Wick’s efforts to track him down. The game’s narrative is fine but ultimately serves as a backdrop to the gameplay.
I’ve never watched a John Wick movie. I signed on to John Wick Hex solely because I really, really like games that Mike Bithell makes. Indie darling Thomas Was Alone wrapped a touching story about wanting to belong around an inventive puzzle-platformer, starring various-sized rectangles. His 2015 game, Volume, evoked Metal Gear Solid’s stealth mechanics and gave a modern telling of the classic Robin Hood story. The “Bithell shorts” of Subsurface Circular and Quarantine Circular update the classic adventure game genre, telling interesting sci-fi stories.
If Mike Bithell is behind a game, I’m interested. Based on that alone, I had to check out John Wick Hex. And, you know: It’s not as good as his other games. It lacks some of the charms of TWA, and the narrative doesn’t hold a candle to the understated narratives of his earlier games.
The core gameplay of John Wick Hex is an interesting update on the turn-based genre. In each level, your goal is to wipe out your enemies and then move on to the next level. At the top of the screen, you’ll see multiple timelines: One represents your movements, and the others represent enemy movements when they’re on the screen. Every action takes a given amount of time, which you see represented on the timeline.
Everything is risk-reward: If you move, you’re harder to hit; or maybe you shoot because it’ll be quicker; or you wait to shoot so you don’t alert other enemies too soon. Will a shot take too long? Toss your gun at the enemy to daze him. Hitting the right sequence of events feels really good, but it’s also super difficult.
Each overarching level is broken up into sections. Headed into each new level, you’re given limited points to spend on buffs throughout the level: Place a gun on this floor; put some bandages on that floor, and so-on. It takes a while to figure out the best strategies for their placement.
I went into John Wick Hex wanting to love it, based purely on the pedigree of Bithell Games. It’s a fun game and a good remix of real-time strategy combat. Watching the replays at the end of each section — where it shows everything in real-time — has some cool action.
If you’re into the John Wick ethos, or if you love this style of game, John Wick Hex is definitely worth picking up. Just don’t expect a groundbreaking story or level design.