Movie tie-in games are always awful, right? Well…sometimes. It’s a little less common in 2019 where straight-up “bad” games are a drastic exception rather than a rule. Sometimes you’ve got pretty interesting takes on beloved franchises like Ghostbusters. Other times you’ve got something entirely out of left field that twists the source material on its head, like John Wick: Hex.
The plot? Well, it’s John Wick. You’ve seen the movies, right? Keanu Reeves is a badass assassin, he kills everyone and so on and so forth, this time doing so in order to defeat the evil Hex, who’s kidnapped his pals. This is a prequel, so no dogs have been killed and it’s a great place to start enjoying the John Wick franchise…well, sort of. It’s not especially similar to the films in one key way.
See, unlike the action overdrive of the movies, John Wick: Hex is more about brainpower and time management than running and gunning. You control Keanu as he makes his way through various environments, blasting and bopping baddies as he goes. The trick is that this is a turn-based game and each action takes time. Using a timeline at the top of the screen, it’s possible to effectively arrange your attacks and movements to turn the game into a seamless orgy of destruction…once the level’s over and you can watch your actions in real time, anyway. It’s a little like SUPERHOT if you remember that one, though I also found its bizarre take on an established concept to be a little similar to Hitman GO.
This makes for some cinematic moments where Wick flings a pistol at an enemy, uses their distraction to move in and knock them out, picks up their weapon and fires at reinforcements that are showing up. Properly rationing time, ammo, focus (spent on special actions) and health is key to victory and each level ends up feeling like a puzzle – proper planning means that you conserve resources, allowing you to survive in future areas where your stats are carried over. In a world where this could have just as easily been your standard run-and-gun game, Hex’s unusual take on John Wick feels refreshing and exciting.
It also looks alright, though animations can be more than a little goofy. Hex has a simple, cel-shaded comic book style that contrasts with the heady gameplay. It works for what it is, though melee attacks in particular are a little low-rent and uninspiring. The solution: shoot people instead! Throw guns! There’s always options, after all.
John Wick: Hex isn’t an especially lengthy game, but it does a lot with its unique set of ideas while it lasts. It might not be the John Wick game we expected, but it’s an interesting concept that’s done well enough – and that might not have been made without the attached license. It’s an easy buy for $20.