Some movies are just begging for a quality video game adaptation, and John Wick is one of them. The films feature insane gun play and over the top action sequences that would be right at home on a gaming console. That’s why we were excited to give John Wick Hex a go when it came out for the Switch. The publisher describes the game as a fast-paced action-oriented strategy game. Wait, what? Those gameplay mechanics often don’t gel well, so right away small alarm bells were ringing that this might not be exactly what we were looking for. That’s not always a bad thing, however, so we wanted to become John Wick and see what it’s like to play through his eyes.
The visuals might be the first thing that grab your attention, since the game is highly stylized with an almost comic book aesthetic. But it’s the gameplay that had us most concerned from the outset, so we’ll cover that aspect first. Each action takes a certain time to execute, which is shown via a time bar at the top of the screen. When an enemy spots you another bar will pop up showing how much time each action would take if you were to initiate them. You get to see what the enemy might do as well, so there’s quite a bit of strategy here to figure out which actions to take to best dispatch an enemy with minimum damage to yourself.
As enemies attack you will get to see all of the key information of the actions that will be taken so you can then plan your defensive or counterattack options. This chess-like gameplay starts off a little intimidating, but after some time with the game it becomes pretty easy to understand. Because of these start and stop mechanics, the game loses a lot of what the movies deliver: pure unadulterated heart-stopping action sequences. Sure, there are some mixed in when it shows off the moves, but most of the time is spent keying up your strategies. We can’t help but think the target market was heavily missed with this game.
Within the strategy side of the game exists a variety of moves for you to consider. Besides the mandatory walking and waiting, you’ll have other actions at your disposal. When you get near an enemy you’ll see a bunch of different options along with percentages of success. Do you want to hit your foe, shoot him, push him over, or maybe perform a takedown? As you move about the stage you can also choose different stances: standing or crouching, which in turn will have an effect on mobility as well as other attack and defensive options.
On top of that, you can plan your mission ahead of time by stashing weapons or bandages in key locations that your upcoming mission will have you fighting through. Placing theses in strategic locations will increase your odds of success.
For a strategy game of this type, the user interface is quite clean and easy to understand. At a glance you can see what gun you have equipped, how much ammunition you have, your health, and your focus bar. Some actions require intense concentration, so you’ll have to have enough points to pull off those maneuvers. While everything is clean and easy to read, when in combat there’s an awful lot of stuff on the screen and it can seem a bit cluttered at times.
The game in general can be entertaining and time consuming if you get used to the particular gameplay that it has. As a fan of board games, I can say that it has some of the same characteristics of classic turn by turn games. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your taste in games. As a John Wick game, we wanted to experience more action and speed — something more akin to Bayonetta. The gameplay is kind of risky for a franchise like this, but is not bad at all if you enjoy “brainy” games.
As mentioned earlier the graphics are low polygon visual novel style and not all that fantastic to look at. The animation is often jerky and the locations are rather bland and forgettable. On the audio side of things you have a pretty good soundtrack with some familiar voices from the movies, although Keanu Reeves is notably absent.
In the end I can’t help but be massively disappointed with John Wick Hex, a game that could have been so much more given the right team and budget. The strategy style gameplay is at odds with what makes the movies so fun to watch. That being said, tactical games like this can still be fun to play, but even here the game stumbles a bit due to enemies suddenly appearing out of the shadows, making strategic decisions almost impossible due to the uncertainty of it all. If you’re heavy into strategy games and have a fondness for the films, you should be safe to purchase this one. If you just wanted to mindlessly kick ass and shoot a bunch of enemies, stay far away from this game.
John Wick Hex Review
- Graphics - 4.5/104.5/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 4.5/104.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 5/105/10
Final Thoughts: MEDIOCRE
John Wick Hex had some major potential to be one of the best action games of all time, but instead the developers opted for a strategy game. With stilted animations, boring graphics, and middling gameplay, there’s not much here for those looking for a game based on the hit movies. Hardcore strategy game fans will find some enjoyment, but everyone else should probably pass.