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John Wick Hex

John Wick Hex - E3 Hands-On

Take up the mantle of the Baba Yaga himself in this slightly unorthodox strategy game.

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There are plenty of strategy games which succeed at making an enjoyable experience that's both challenging and intense. The difficulty is making games in this genre that have a sense of speed and pacey gameplay. Fortunately, once again, our lord and saviour John Wick has come to the rescue and solved the problem, using deadly precision and a style of martial arts so divine it's basically contemporary art.

Considering the scale of the John Wick franchise, it would have been fair to assume that an officially licensed game would be given to a major studio, however, Lionsgate, the studio behind the films, placed their faith in a small British developer, that being Bithell Games. In doing so, they decided that whilst John Wick is notoriously known for his 'Gun Fu' martial arts, they believed the best approach was to create a strategy game.

As for information regarding the storyline, that's being kept under wraps for now. What we do know is this game is set before the film franchise, back when Helen, Wick's wife, was still alive, meaning there is no dog in this game for you to use as fuel for your vengeance.

As referenced earlier, John Wick Hex is a strategy game but it doesn't play like a traditional RTS. Due to Wick-based content being notoriously fluid and fast, this game had to shift in a new direction, thus sparking the creation of the timeline feature. This system means the game is neither exclusively turn-based nor real-time - rather each action in the game, be it basic movement, shooting, fighting or even crouching, costs a specific amount of time, during which enemies are able to move or engage you in combat. This means instead of planning things turn by turn; you have to treat each and every action as though it is absolutely critical, as John Wick himself would.

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On top of this, the combat system is a great deal easier to understand than one in a more traditional strategy title. Whilst each enemy does have their own health bar, it is usually around three bars in length meaning they can be taken out either in one action or in a maximum of two. Using a firearm is the most effective methods for dispatching enemies as they deal the most damage and can be used at range. The challenge is that you need to be accurate and you can miss, plus on top of this, there is limited ammunition that carries on between individual levels, meaning conserving ammo is incredibly important. As well as this, each type of gun has a different usage speed. For example, the tactical pistol can fire faster than a regular 9mm, making it possible to eliminate an enemy without taking damage in an otherwise equally timed conflict.

At close range, John Wick can use a series of moves which can stun, instantly incapacitate or even dodge when under pressure. Our personal favourite of these, however, has to be throwing our firearm at an enemy so we can close the gap and take them down. As with shooting, melee moves take time, so it's wise to assume someone is trying to flank or place you in a bad position during each action, making your decisions critical once again.

John Wick Hex

The title is expected to contain a replay feature at the end of each level, showing your gameplay in actual time, which should make for an action scene even John Wick himself could be proud of. We are yet to see this feature in action since the demo build did not have it enabled, but it would be fair to assume it would work very similarly to the replay system in Superhot or Katana Zero.

To wrap everything up, we know lots of people would be interested in knowing whether we'll get to see Keanu Reeves involved, especially after the Cyberpunk announcement in the Xbox showcase ahead of E3. Well, we asked the development team and they said that whilst there is information stating Ian McShane and Lance Reddick will be present in the game, Reeves is neither confirmed nor denied at this stage. Although, we suggest you don't get your hopes up.

Whatever the case, we are definitely excited to play this game in full when it launches on the Epic Store in the future although, we're not quite sure when that might be since a release date has not been confirmed as of yet.

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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

"The combination of action and strategy make for gameplay both fast-paced and continuously enjoyable, all over an original campaign that really brings Wick to life."

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