[John Wick Hex]Become Keanu Reeves in the New Game ‘John Wick Hex’ ｜ GQ
The appeal of the John Wick movies is not in fantasizing about being a murderous assassin who kills hundreds of people (well, maybe it is for some of you, but that’s counterintuitive to my point so just go along with me here). No, must people find themselves returning to the Keanu Reeves-starring franchise to live out the fantasy of simple, everyday, plain and simple hyper-competence. John Wick is a professional. John Wick is the professional, and his abilities are constantly put to the test by some ne’er-do-well bozos who doubt his competency to murder hundreds of people.
John Wick Hex, a new game that serves as a prequel to the film trilogy, realizes that exact fantasy. It puts you in control of the John Wick (it would be incredibly disappointing otherwise) in a punishingly difficult action-strategy hybrid. As Wick, you move through environments on a hex-based grid, dispatching baddies one by one as you claw your way towards your target—the criminal overlord Hex, who is holding your friends Charon and Winston captive—through the armies of the criminal underworld. It has all the stylish aspects that you’ve come to know from the Wick movies: a moody, dark, electronic soundtrack, the seediest clubs imaginable, restaurants and city streets in which you can fight people, and countless folks in suits brandishing gigantic guns. The game is lacking any voice work from Keanu himself (though it does take advantage of his likeness for the character) but makes up for it by filling it to the brim with a very menacing Troy Baker, and the series mainstays Ian McShane (Winston) and Lance Reddick (Charon). (For the record, I will happily consume any sort of media starring Lance Reddick.)
The moment to moment gameplay is complex, and a little difficult to wrap your head around at first. You don’t control John Wick directly, but you move him around an environment from a top-down perspective. When you order him to move or execute an action—say, shooting at an enemy—time moves with you. But when you stand still, so does everything else. It creates an interesting tempo, one that forces you to think a few steps ahead all the time, sort of like chess, but, you know, with John Wick and more blood. The game does a really great job at communicating when and where things are about to happen. Both your actions and the enemies are displayed along a timeline, signaling when they’ll happen down to a tenth of a second. It looks exactly like the sort of timeline you’d see in video editing software, if video editing software could plot your death.
What you’ll quickly find is that you will need those pauses in time to think your actions fully through, or else you’ll find yourself dying… a lot. This game is difficult in a way that doesn’t seem unfair, necessarily, but John Wick Hex loves to punish you for your mistakes. Walk into a room without taking a peak inside it first? Whoops, there’s four people in here with guns drawn. Try to rush headfirst into a group of enemies? Even John Wick isn’t foolish enough to do that! It’s an interesting balance, one that makes you realize the fragility of John Wick (which I would argue is one of the greatest strengths of the movies), and the focus it takes to come out of these encounters unscathed. John Wick is a glass cannon; incredibly deadly, but still just a human like everybody else. It’s your responsibility as the player to try and muster that same kind of hyper competence and guide John Wick safely through these levels—because you wouldn’t want to see Keanu Reeves hurt, would you?
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