Despite the misleading title, John Wick Hex is an excellent game that not only captures the feel of the films but puts you in complete control of the master assassin’s mind if not always his actions.
This is a hard game to explain without showing footage. In essence, you control John Wick a tenth of a second at a time. Badguys appear and you get a timing bar at the top showing how many tenths of a second it will take for them to fire at you and then get to pick your action based on how long it takes. For example, an enemy will shoot 0.7 seconds after seeing you, will you hope for a miss and fire back with 90% chance of success even though it takes 0.9 seconds or will you change stance for 0.2 and roll out of the way for a cost of 0.3? It is possibly the closest gamification of video editing there is. If that doesn’t sound very John Wick then you would be very wrong.
It would have been easy for the developers to make a Max Payne style bullet time to convey the skill the character uses in the films to dispatch the countless enemy goons but instead, you are in control of his decisions instead of his actions and believe me, you will not act like John Wick in your first few hours with the game. You will throw your gun at an enemy when you should be dodging, you will shoot enemies and attract more when you should be using your silent fists and more than a few times you will forget which stance you are in and roll about like Crash Bandicoot instead of the deadly Wick.
Persevere however and soon you will learn efficiency over style. The exit to the level doesn’t move so here is no point in not heading for it in the right situation. Years of gaming have taught you to clear every room but early on in Hex, you are faced with a shootout in a restaurant or walking around the outside to the exit. After a few tries of going through the restaurant, I tried the outside way and found the enemies got bottlenecked in the doorway giving me the advantage. This change of mindset from what looks good to what is efficient is the best thing that playing John Wick Hex does to you as pretty soon the enemies ramp up in number and variety.
The game plays a lot like Superhot in this way. In the beginning, you are throwing your gun at the enemies to stun them then rolling and shooting another before finishing off the first. When the difficulty increases and it is all about survival, you will be shooting them double-tap and counting your bullets and focus ability before tackling the next ones. Focus determines what actions you can do and in the heat of battle if it runs out all you can do is walk or hide. It is worth skipping a turn in battle to refocus or use a bandage to heal yourself before moving on lest you be caught out in a firefight. The levels are so short there are no checkpoints so mess up and it is back to the beginning.
The last stroke of genius is the replay cam at the end of each level. The cell-shaded graphics really pop off the screen when you see how you manage to make it through the level. No matter how useless you were, somehow thee replay makes it look like you were a legend and here lies the appeal of the game. Despite the calculations and mistakes, there will be a few times when you feel you did better than John Wick would and that keeps you hooked.