The Baba Yaga is here... but he's not that scary.
John Wick Hex has arrived, and let me tell you, it kind of left me wondering what this game could have been with a little bit more polish and maybe a couple of extra months of development.
The game's original story, credited to the game's designer Mike Bithell, is simple but effective even though it does little to push forward any kind of character development. It gets you from point A to point B and serves as a way to put John Wick against some very interesting antagonists, culminating with Hex himself. But that's all.
Ok, I already know what you're saying: you're not here for the story. You're here for the action. So let's just jump into it.
John Wick Hex plays like a mix of Superhot meets X-COM with a little of Frozen Synapse thrown in the middle. This is a thinking man's game first and foremost, and you'll be heavily penalized if you go in guns blazing. But even if you take your time, you'll still die quite often, so you better get used to seeing that end screen. Nevertheless, I never felt the game was being unfair. Dumb, maybe, but not unfair.
The AI usually feels kind of dumbed down with enemies not really being tactical at all. Most of the time, enemies just gang up on you, taking advantage of the sheer power in numbers, and not on any thought out or planned, attack strategy whatsoever. Many times I was frustrated by thinking I had cleared a level only to be surprised by a guy that appeared last minute from way back at the start of the level. Boss fights don't seem to change this at all. They just take a bit longer since most bosses are authentic bullet sponges, and they can be a bit tricky to figure out on the first go.
The in-game animations are stiff, the character models are basic, the weapons feel clunky, and the game's mechanics, while clever, can get in the way of your enjoyment of the game, especially at the start.
After each level you're presented with the option of viewing a replay as if it were a movie - The system will stitch together every action and present them to you with some flair. And this, like the game as a whole, kind of works but it leaves you wanting more. John Wick, as presented on the big screen, is a fluid killing machine. Here, well, no so much. Plus, these replays are filled with audio and animation glitches that can make them kind of annoying to sit through.
It's great that Bithell could get the talents of Ian McShane and Lance Riddick to reprise their roles, and the excellent Troy Baker never disappoints as the titular Hex. But apart from Troy that absolutely chews the script, the reading falls flat and is a bit one tone throughout the game's many cut scenes.
Having said all that, this is a game I really wanted to like more than I actually do, and that's a real shame. Although the game runs smoothly enough, I found many small imperfections that, when put together, really brings down the whole experience and makes me think that this just isn't a very good game. It's an interesting one for sure, and it's very clever on how it delivers the experience of being in John Wick's shoes, but it lacks a bit of polish to pull it off successfully.
John Wick Hex feels like a demo of what could be a very good game. As is, it's definitely undercooked.