Gamescom has been wonderful yet again, showcasing some of the best games developers from all over the world have to offer. Right at the very tippy top of that list (amongst some esteemed company) is John Wick Hex, the upcoming strategy/action game from Thomas was Alone developer Mike Bithell and his team.
There were a number of ways they could have gone with a John Wick tie-in but what they have done, although at first seemingly left-field, is very smart indeed. The player controlled titular protagonist moves across the game map from node to node on a hex grid, with time passing as he does so. When he is not moving or completing an action, time stands still, much in the way Superhot managed it’s combat. What this leads to is an intensely tactical affair, and one that is far more tension inducing than any FPS, which I’ve played at least, can provide.
Not only that, but the job of living up to such a fantastic action franchise is a huge one, and portraying it in exactly the same way as the movies would most likely be the way to madness. In total, we played through around five levels, and each offered a uniquely challenging and varied experience with a number of enemies and boss fights at the end of each section.
Although the length of the game from start to finish will vary massively depending on how you play, the real strength of this game type is its almost limitless replayability. Due to the number of actions one can take on each level, there must absolutely be (insert insanely large number here) of combinations and it’s all adaptive to how you like to play games.
For example, one of our party is very much known for not playing things tactically, essentially bumrushed the level, shooting every one before making his way to the end. I, attempted at least, to play things a little more stealthily, sneaking behind environmental objects and cars to break line of site and execute some takedowns. Equally, it’s because of this difference in how gamers play that this has so much potential for gathering your friends in the living room and beating up some meathead goons.
Another critical element to the tactical nature of the game is the resource management, with John having health, ammunition and focus. These, of course, can all be consumed fairly quickly and need to be addressed when they run low. The issue with that is that the actions required to solve those problems take time – time within which you might be shot/beaten to death. 3 seconds to bandage yourself up might not seem like a long time but, and trust me on this, it’s an insanely long time and one which will cause more than a few palpitations.
Full disclosure, there were a few bugs, but they were all vary minor animation glitches and the like. We were also assured that these have all been ironed out in the intervening period. Even with that in mind, it played beautifully and we can’t wait to review it when it hits the virtual shelves.