You would expect a video game adaption of the famous John Wick movies to be huge. Fast paced and full of action following closely what the movies set out to create. By now I would be highly surprised if anyone out there hadn’t heard of the title, let alone watched at least one of the movies. Released last year on PC you could be forgiven if you hadn’t heard of John Wick Hex before the recent PS4 release. It was a title that certainly flew under the radar for me at least. Perhaps is wasn’t a big thing as Keanu Reeves had nothing to do with it. No voice acting (sorry, annoying monotone drone as with every single one of his roles) by Reeves possibly put a lot of people off.
With its laughably bad cartoonish graphics, Hex has finally been ported to the PS4 and features the talents of Ian McShane and Lance Reddick from the movies as well as Troy Baker. Set before the movies, Hex follows an original storyline filled with comicbook-styled cutscenes playing between each mission. It has been redesigned for the DualShock 4 controller allowing your decisions to be ‘as quick as the man himself’.
The first thing to note about Hex is that it is a tactical action game rather than all out run, gun and kick ass. The press pack describes the game as fight-choreographed chess brought to life. Each level is built around a floor grid and the idea is to get John to the escape point or kill a specific character. I’m sure that most have played plenty of turn-based RPG’s and that is basically what this game boils down to. Making your way through back streets, restaurants and hideouts of the criminal population, each turn you get will allow you to move a limited amount of spaces. If when you are moving an enemy pops into view, the action will stop. You can then shoot the enemies if your hit percentage is high enough or, if you are close enough, you can take them down in hand to hand combat. The later of the two is a better idea if you can as ammo around the levels is hard to come by which forces the focus around the gun-fo action of the movies. Throwing your gun at an enemy will stagger them allowing you to move in for a close kill. Enemies do drop ammo when killed at times, but you do still need to be careful.
Looting weapons or ammo from a fallen enemy takes a few seconds and in that time other enemies can move in for the kill. Timers are involved in a lot of the action here which makes you think about your actions. If you are trying to reap what enemies have dropped another enemy’s timer can have dropped to zero and attack which will interrupt what you are doing forcing you to kill them before repeating the task. It can take some time to get used to the games set up and timing. Stand in the open applying a bandage, refocusing or simply reloading your gun and the chances are you will be killed.
Getting your head round Johns immediate options can be a little daunting at first. Once you do manage to wrap your head round the rules of engagement stringing commands together quickly becomes second nature. After you finish the level and take a nice deep breath, watching the replay of the level back is slick and great fun. Seeing all your chained kills come together on screen in the form of an animated movie sequence works nicely.
There will be a lot of trial and error to how you play the game and ammo, bandages etc carry over to the next level. It is very easy to find yourself out of ammo or bandages to heal yourself, especially when you are just about to face off against a boss and hand to hand combat is a struggle. There were a lot of times I had to restart whole levels to plan better.
The Neon soaked graphics aren’t brilliant if I’m being honest. They reminded me of a slightly polished version of Another World, but they do seem to work for the game in hand even though there are a few animation issues that I came across. The music by Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory (Journey, Flow, the Banner Saga series) does add to the tension within the game.
Its a simplistic looking game on the surface and playing on my PS4 Pro I didn’t encounter any issues. Delve deeper into the game and you will find that looks are very deceiving. It is a game that can take a while to master but when you do it is very satisfying.
There has been a lot of games of this genre to do it a lot better but that being said, John Wick Hex stands alone in its overall gameplay style and does it well. I don’t think that it will be for everyone however. The game does warrant a 7/10 for me. It doesn’t come close to being anywhere near as good as Mutant Year Zero but does still stand on its own merits. Bithell Games has done an overall decent job.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were provided with a review copy of the game. This has in no way influenced my views on the game as per our Review Policy**