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John Wick Hex plays like XCOM via Superhot

I played three levels of John Wick Hex at E3 today, and I completed two and died during another. It's not a turn-based game. Instead, the action is continuous, but it pauses while you make decisions. At the top of the screen, a timeline of what's going to happen next allows you to make informed decisions on the fly. 

Is an enemy going to shoot you in 1.5 seconds? You might want to move to reduce the chances of John being hit. It's faster to perform a melee attack than to shoot your gun, which will factor into your thinking. And if you've got no bullets left, you'll have to think about how you're going to grab a dead enemy's gun without being killed.

Collectively, it approximates the feeling of a John Wick set piece, with enemies continually spilling out of doors until you've dealt with all of them however you can. All of this plays out on a hexagonal grid, with a fog of war that obscures enemy positions.

The levels in this build are basically extended set pieces of a few minutes each. Once one enemy goon appears, they don't really stop coming. John Wick Hex has been made so you're always forced to be aggressive, rather than defensive. To me it feels like Superhot more than anything else, right down to the fact John can throw his gun at enemies like he does in a popular moment from John Wick Chapter Two. That on-the-fly panic planning evokes a similar feeling of risk and reward, even though it's an isometric strategy game rather than an FPS.

Similarly, too, John Wick Hex will have a replay feature, which developer Mike Bithell can't talk about at the moment. Hopefully this'll cut your encounter together in the style of a furious set piece from the movies, and will be easy to share online. Even with all the pauses, it definitely captures the feeling of stringing together these improvisational kills as Wick does in the movies. Don't expect any high-concept set pieces like car chases or gunfights on horseback, though: this game will be played entirely on foot. To keep things interesting, different weapons and more difficult enemy types will be cycled into the game later on, and in my demo I encounter a few melee-only enemies, suggesting it won't all be gunfights. 

It's a prequel to the films, with an original story and close collaboration between the filmmakers and the developers at Bithell Games. The choreographers from the movies even created a new John Wick push attack that the developers filmed and then animated, to make sure all of his attacks feel authentic. When I ask whether Keanu Reeves will return to voice his character, developer Mike Bithell says he can't talk about that yet. It'd be weird if he was in Cyberpunk 2077 but not a game based on his own film series, but obviously this is a much smaller project. 

Also: because I ask the important questions, John Wick won't have a dog in this one, for the obvious reason that it's a prequel. It makes sense that his first dog is the dog you meet in the first movie (RIP).

John Wick Hex is a pleasantly unusual and tasteful translation of a popular movie series. I like that John Wick has crossed over into games as a light touch but tricky strategy game rather than a Max Payne knock-off.

Samuel has been PC gaming since 1993, beginning with the questionable Mario Is Missing on DOS. He knows that Red Alert has the best skirmish mode of all the C&C games, and if you disagree, he’ll attach a tiny balloon to you and send you back to mother base.