First Hour : John Wick Hex

Developer: Bithell Games
Platform: reviewed on PS4
Reviewed By: Stojan Jovic

Trying to encapsulate one of cinema’s greatest action movie heroes in a video game is a daunting endeavor. How can you accurately depict a calculating, strategic and brutal killer, place him in a video game, and feel about as powerful as the character the movies are trying to portray?

The developers at Bithell Games decided to do things a little bit differently than what you’d think in turning John Wick into a video game. John Wick Hex is almost akin to a real time strategy game, similar to the XCOM style of gameplay. The level you enter is in an isometric third person view point, and you move up only a few steps at one given point, almost like chess. As you are moving around the “board,” so are the enemies you are trying to dispatch. The game moves when you move, and depending on the difficulty setting, you are able to stop and plan your next move easily, since your enemies are frozen in time as you are. One other kicker to this is your vision can be partially blocked, especially in a direction you’re not facing. You can move the camera around the entire level, but any enemies and enemy movement is clouded, and not visible unless you are facing that direction. As you move, you plan your attack; are you shooting? Will you go in for a strike? Or will you risk using Focus points and perform a takedown, which incapacitates your enemy immediately? You could just throw your gun at someone too. Your decisions won’t always be easy, and will require chess-like planning, as you have to think two, sometimes three steps ahead of your enemies.

This isn’t my style of game, I admit. I was never into sim games, or real time strategy (RTS) games like this, because of the slow pace. But this intrigued me nonetheless, and it kept me interested and wanting to go more into the next stage with excitement, because it plays faster than your typical RTS game. The first few levels are a tutorial of sorts, giving you the run down of your abilities, the different enemy types, and the basics of planning your moves. Once those levels are done with, now you’re thrust into the meat of the game. You enter into a small downtown district trying to find one man, and you blast your way through alleyways, clubs, and offices to ultimately track him and take him down. The difficulty spike from tutorial to the first set of stages was definitely a jump, and each stage required multiple playthroughs just to get it right, of course without dying. However, I didn’t mind as much because it made my subsequent playthroughs that much better, and that much smoother. Dying isn’t failing in this game, dying is learning and becoming better. After beating each level, you can opt to view a replay, where it plays your gameplay in live action with action cinematics that immerse you into being John Wick (or trying to be).

This game isn’t for everyone, not by a long shot. I would imagine if gamers were to try and think of a John Wick-game concept, they’d make it similar to games like Uncharted, or Max Payne. Bithell went for something different, something more organic, and doing John Wick justice. John Wick is a strategist, and a man who seems like he’s always three steps ahead of those he comes after. So it’s no surprise that the developers Bithell Games chose to encapsulate John Wick into an RTS game. Regardless of your preferred genre, especially if you’re not into games like XCOM, Civilization, or Command and Conquer, I think this would be worth a shot, and take you out of your comfort zone, like it did for me. I enjoyed it, and will for my next playthroughs. It made me learn a new way to play, and taught me a few lessons in being patient, and planning ahead.