John Wick Hex is an isometric strategy game that takes it in a brilliant direction and it’s got a little bit of that Superhot formula with how everything moves in real-time but whenever you finish an action or something happens the game pauses and you can consider your next move. Beyond that most basic comparison, John Wick Hex is entirely its own beast. John Wick Hex is a prequel to the first film and starts out as a very overwhelming game. There’s a lot to go through initially with shooting, punching, dodging, pushing, takedowns, cover, and the Adobe Premiere timeline up top.
John Wick Hex doesn’t do the greatest job explaining all of these things either with a kind of half tutorial, half proper full mission that ends up being a bit of a trial by fire. This game periodically throws a PowerPoint show of tutorial tips up throughout the mission as you progress explaining concepts one at a time but still also kind of requires you to already know and be following all of those tips even the ones you don’t see until 15 minutes later to not get shot.
This works both ways because the optimist in life will look at this same system and probably have to pick their jaw up off the floor once they realize just how impeccably interlocked all of John Wick Hex’s different mechanics are. It’s impractical to just teach you one element at a time because the game requires all of them at just a baseline function. It’s an incredibly tight construct and once you get over the awkward 15 minutes of onboarding the game really does play out like a ballet of death.
The gameplay is all about threat management and as I mentioned everything is getting tracked in real-time on that massive timeline up top so often multiple threats are coming at you from multiple directions. They aren’t going to politely get in line and wait to shoot you as enemies in the game pretty much come in 2 varieties. Gunmen that are immediate and constant threats to your life and some melee punching bags that mostly exist just to put pressure on you so you can’t focus on the gunmen. Your goal is usually to pick off your opponent’s one by one while making sure that the rest can’t hit you back.
The moment you get surrounded and have to deal with 2 attacks at once you pretty much die immediately. John Wick Hex’s most basic options mostly consist of shooting things and punching them in the face but you’ll also be making hearty use of the focus system. Using your limited pool of focus points, you can dodge roll; shove enemies around, and most importantly take advantage of the all-important takedown which lets you move while putting the hurt on someone. The running theme with all these abilities are that they let you control spacing as you can take down an enemy and land behind a pillar cutting off another guy’s site.
If you find yourself flanked, dodge roll towards one of the flankers, beat his face, and then turn around and shoot the other guy. All of this impeccable gameplay makes up about 95 percent of what you’ll be doing John Wick Hex which is a bit of a relief because just about everything else has some major blemishes starting with the narrative. A prequel about the titular hero doing what he always does, tearing his way through an entire crime organization one gun shootout at a time.
The game’s villain is a mobster named Hex and he has kidnapped a few familiar faces from the movies and Wick is chewing through the Hex’s lieutenants one at a time to hunt them down. John Wick Hex narrative is paper-thin even by John Wick standards and if you’ve never seen the movies, you won’t even understand what’s going on but what I find truly difficult to swallow about the narrative is Hex himself who is an insufferable villain only capable of speaking in awful one-liners. There are also significant issues with the game’s replay system which plays back the entire level you just did but in real-time.
The game’s animation is mostly serviceable from an isometric viewpoint but immediately crumbles in a more cinematic presentation and the whole thing suffers from rapid camera cuts. It’s not a critical issue overall but that’s still an entire feature that was basically unwatchable for me. My final major gripe of this game is how it sometimes spawns in enemies. John Wick Hex has infinitely spawning bad guys that I have to assume are designed to keep shepherding you through the level and into danger and most of the time it works as intended but every once in a while you run afoul of one that’s a little too aggressive and I would never be able to advance.
The moment I killed one guy his replacement spawned right next to me and on these occasions, it felt like the mechanic was backfiring. John Wick Hex took about 5 hours to complete but I also had to restart a few missions along the way when early mistakes made their endings almost impossible. There are also challenge runs for not getting hit etc. so there is a bit of replayability whether you play it for just a few hours or really dig in and try to master it. It also helps that the game is entertaining enough to be worth mastering everything surrounding it aside I could go on all day about how great the actual gameplay is.
My list of complaints might make it sound like I didn’t enjoy this game and indeed those issues can be disappointing but on the contrary, I actually had a lot of fun with this one for one simple reason, this game does one thing really well and that one thing is what you’ll be spending 95 percent of your time doing. A vast majority of this game clicks and what would be major blemishes in most other games feel more like occasional annoyances in the background and for that reason, I absolutely still think it’s worth a look. There’s not much out there quite like John Wick Hex but if you get into it, it is a really fun game.
John Wick Hex has been permanently added to the PS NOW service.
Engrossing turn-based combat that allows the action to flow at a fast pace and the clever timeline mechanic lets you make informed decisions and monitor every move you make. Tightly spaced levels force you to consider your movement and position in clever ways. The story and the main villain are largely forgettable and sometimes the forced enemy spawns can mess up a level.