John Wick Hex is the new action strategy game from Bithell Games, the creators of Thomas Was Alone and Subsurface Circular. The game comes the closest to capturing the magic of the John Wick movies, but it might not be for everyone.
In the game, you play as John Wick before the events of the movies. John is on a mission to rescue Continental Hotel staff Winston and Charon after they have been kidnapped by the elusive Hex.
While the gameplay parallels other strategy games, but through a new system. Instead of taking turns, the game follows a timeline system. A level might take 10 to 15 minutes to complete but in real-time, the level is just a minute or two.
A Unique Twist on the Strategy Genre
Anything you do, whether it is moving, shooting or doing a judo throw, requires a certain amount of time to play out. Between moves, the game pauses to let you decide what to do and shows what moves your enemies will do as well.
For someone first coming to the game, it will look like someone made a new version of chess where one player has more pieces but the other commands a supercharged queen piece.
The timeline system shows your and enemies’ attacks on-screen. Even if an enemy is ready to attack, John can interrupt their move before it goes into effect. John can also crouch to hide from enemies’ lines of sight and roll to quickly move through the environments.
Along with ammunition for guns, the player must balance John’s focus meter to perform takedowns and dodges.
John Wick Hex Packs a Punch
This is the heart of the game, navigating environments and taking out enemies. Even though this does not seem too intense, the game is very difficult from the moment you hit go.
The difficulty might be a turn off for some players, especially those not used to playing strategy games. John Wick Hex drops a lot of systems and actions on the players at once, and it takes time to understand all the different ways to play.
Recent strategy games, like Into the Breach and Fire Emblem: Three Houses, have a rewind feature to redo a turn in case something goes wrong. John Wick Hex goes the complete other direction, giving you limited resources to advance through the levels.
Before you start each level, it does give the option to upgrade John’s abilities or add heals or guns to a level through the universe’s coin currency, but it never feels like you are growing as a character. The game also does not do a great job explaining that you can purchase items for the levels, so a majority of the game was spent playing with the limited resources as-is.
A Gaming Experience Like No Other
The difficulty can be a rewarding experience but is more than frustrating at times. When it completely falls apart, it makes you feel like a bumbling assassin barely getting by.
When it all connects though, John Wick Hex is a gaming experience unlike any other. Juggling between different enemies at once really makes you feel like John Wick and give you a better understanding of the character in the movies.
Also, the gameplay does not evolve for the most part from where the game starts. You will encounter different enemy types, but the gameplay does not advance much outside of getting more difficult.
Where this is most prevalent is the games boss fights. The bosses are harder versions of the characters you are already fighting, so they just involve a lot of repetition to take them down that does not feel fun to play in comparison to the regular fights.
A Lacking Story
The story does add more to the universe, the main story is lacking at times. Especially coming from Bithell Games which is known for their narratives, John Wick Hex’s story is more to connect the levels than anything else.
Even though Keanu Reeves does not voice John Wick, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick did voice their characters Winston and Charon which is a treat to listen to. Troy Baker does a fine job as well playing off of McShane and Reddick as Hex, I just wish there was more of him in the story.
What the game does the best at capturing from the movies is the style. It leans heavy into the comic book aesthetic, with vibrant colors and pulsing music accompanying your journey in death.
The style also plays into the gameplay in a cool way with the timeline mechanic. If it is raining, the rain will hang in the air when planning out moves then continuing down-pouring when the action resumes.
Replay Feature Lets You Sit Back and Watch the Action
After you beat each level, the game features a replay system to show off your moves through a more cinematic lens. This feature is amazing, however, most of the time the camera angles were clipping through a wall and the characters can look wooden when the camera focus on them.
Along with this, there are some bugs in John Wick Hex that vary in severity. Some issues range in visuals not showing in a cutscene to getting shot in ways that did not seem fair to the player.
John Wick Hex has seven different sets of levels, going from the back alley streets of New York to a posh Switzerland bank. Each set has between five to seven levels in each and can take an hour to two to beat each depending on your skill.
Verdict: Worth the Price of Admission
Even after finishing, there is a lot of replay value. Each set of levels has different achievements on playstyle, as well as a difficulty that only gives you five seconds to decide a move.
For $20, John Wick Hex is definitely worth the money. What is more important is how big of a fan you are of strategy games and the John Wick franchise.
When the game is hitting on all cylinders, John Wick Hex puts you in the mind of the assassin like no other game has. However, the lacking story and tough difficulty might not be what some players are looking for.
John Wick Hex feels like a game made for one type of player, someone who has been longing for a game to understand what makes the John Wick movies so special. It might not be the best, but John Wick Hex is the closest to getting there.
- You are John Wick
- Challenging but rewarding gameplay
- Vibrant and stylish action
- A lot of replay value
- No hand-holding
- Takes a while to get going
- Lacking boss fights and story