It all clicked when I got really stuck. I wasn’t sure about John Wick Hex at first. I was put off by the lankiness of the art style, where shoulders are quarterback broad and the arms and legs seem to travel for miles. I was put off by the end-of-level replays that squish your brainteaser battles down to a few staccato seconds, with little in the way of cinematic zip. There’s John Wick, right in the middle of the screen, blandly double-tapping away as an endless collection of what look like fancy waiters and up-market estate agents pile in on him. Business as usual, but the whole thing didn’t truly feel very Wickian.
Why not? Hex borrows from games like Superhot and All Walls Must Fall: time only moves when you do. This means that the game is perfect for creating that kind of interior monologue of brutality as you work through the order of your actions, time and space converging. Firstly, I’ll shoot that guy coming through the door. Then I’ll tackle that guy lurking behind the bar. If I roll over to the far corner, I can probably tackle that one before she even sees me. Then I can take stock and reload.
All well and good, but that’s Jack Reacher rather than John Wick, I would argue. Reacher’s the planner, the strategist, brainying his way through encounters that add up to spatial, temporal puzzles, chess with a bit of kneecapping chucked in. Wick always feels much more flowing and wordless than that. We are never allowed inside the Wick headspace. The director calls the films reverse-first-person-shooters. They’re about skating from one encounter to the next, about dancing between shivvings with your mind gloriously empty. John Wick films are basically deadly musicals, aren’t they? Choreography and footwork, with a brassy tune from The Man of La Mancha slapped over the trailer. Hex, the calculating strategy puzzler, initially seemed a bit too thoughtful.
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