John Wick Hex Review - Killing Them In Sinewy Fashion
Publisher: Good Shephard Entertainment, Lionhead Games
Developer: Bithell Games
Platform: PC, macOS
Genre: Turn-based Strategy
I've been getting into strategy games a lot as of late and that's mainly thanks to these superb selections of indie titles as of lately. John Wick Hex is no exception, this brilliantly laced strategy game takes turn-based to a different level. Also while reintroducing stellar casts like Lance Reddick and Ian McShane of the John Wick films alongside Troy Baker. Within the initial playthrough, you're thrown into hectic scenarios requiring you to think like John Wick all the while breezing through the levels, you have to manage your ammunition.
If you check the publisher, you'll know they've published other titles like Hard Reset, Breach & Clear, and Phantom Doctrine. They've managed to release a steady line of games for the last couple of years and it's interesting to see that they've worked with a major movie studio like Lionhead to release a licensed game this time.
It's a pretty affordable game and if you're into strategy, this one is worth the purchase. But this mostly falls as an entry title so far and we'll probably see a sequel with more to offer soon.
The story kicks off as a prequel to the entire film series, where John is quick on the move to save both Winston and Charon kidnapped by the dangerous assassin, Hex. As you scour through the city, seeking his location, you find and battle against several people closely linked to Hex in order to rescue them.
Playing through the game, it's as straight-forward as any plot integrated. You're going to hear tidbits of anecdotes, high-society lingo and some other clever writings put into cutscenes. Though none of this provides much-needed substance for the bare-bones story, which you'll forget about once your mission is complete. There are no plot twists either, I mean this is a prequel of which the characters in demise survive, which isn't much of a spoiler might I add.
But, nonetheless, adds gravitas to the game's linear, overarching arc. I didn't seem bothered with and it was a good addition to an already solid game.
JWH is not your typical strategy game, each time your character moves, there is a bar on top that showcases John's actions alongside in comparison to the enemy's actions. It's like a video editor, requiring you to implement precise tactics in order to take down enemy A.I. If you prompt any action a few moments after your enemy's action catches up, you'll be injured, shot or worse, killed. And that's not how John Wick likes to go by.
Moving across the level is like moving on a chessboard, you have to carefully select where you move before encountering enemy foes. There are various types as you progress, some will attack you close range while others will shoot you in plain sight. Levels based on inside buildings will require you to watch out for doors where enemies could come out after popping the door open indicating that they'll attack once you're in distance.
Assessing your situation and playing out the odds is your best bet, you have limited amount of ammo and a single weapon to use. You can borrow enemy's guns in case yours is out, but your situation often requires you to even the playing field as even with a 10% chance of missing your shot, if you miss, your chances of triumphing get slimmer. You can crouch in order to get a better shot, much akin to the move that John Wick pulls everytime he shoots someone in the film. Not only that, but croaching stance allows you to dodge instead of moving, which eats your focus level. Timing is key, once you've cleared an area, take the time to reset your focus before your enemies come back.
If you die, restarting game will spawn enemies at different locations just so it provides variety within your playthrough.
There's no progression system, you don't increase your stat and sadly enough unlike the film version of John, you don't get to hold multiple guns. Though that's not what the game is going for as you're just playing as a hitman shooting guys with whatever you find, Agent 47 style. The game, however, lets you do pre-mission planning called Planning Phase where you allocate stash of health pickups and weapons within certain areas but not without costing continental coins depending on how much each of the missions provides.
Not only that but every time you finish a level, you get to replay all of it like a full set action sequence. This game is choke-full of replay value, enough to keep you coming back playing it even higher difficulty in order to emulate true John Wick style Gun Fu. The game will last you 8-10hrs to finish.
Visually, there's nothing much to chalk over other than the art designs and character models. Almost everything has this velvety hue or lighting. In fact, the game's thematical appeal is velvet(or magenta if you will). Everything so far feels minimalist from no lip movement to stilted walking, you could say it was built to appeal towards mobile gamers. But the worst for wear is the weird-looking clunky animation. It breaks the immersion but it wasn't much of an eyesore for me though.
The game runs butter smooth, I mean you won't need much of a system in order to enjoy this game. That's to be expected from one without a lot of focus on the graphical aspects of it. I've experienced no bugs, crashes or other technical issues of sorts. It's also a well-polished release.
The sound design is barebones, I wish there was a more added flavor to it. Everything goes from sounding casual to being almost abysmal than that. I guess that wasn't their main priority for an indie title so it makes sense why that is.
Another thing that feels underwhelming is the music, it's a more arcadey derivative of what you've heard from the John Wick films though it does pack a punch quite often even though it's a little generic at times. There are very few selections of it as well. But what am I saying, for an indie game of this stature, it makes sense to be a bit underwhelming.
I made a bunch of nitpicks over the production quality of the game even though it plays superbly well as a strategy game. It's just that there are 20 USD indie games that offers more in terms of both content and production than what this game did. Maybe if it was 15 USD, there wouldn't be much to pick up on. But I digress, it's a wonderful game that does deserve your attention, even with its shortcomings.
And it's not a bad start for a licensed title of a movie franchise either. But there could be more and I wish there will be once more budget is dropped into another game for a wider audience.
Also, I will add that the game is getting console release soon enough as it is reported that porting is now in the works.