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The John Wick VR game sadly feels nothing like the movies

I've just gotten through the first two levels of John Wick Chronicles (opens in new tab), an HTC Vive VR game based on the movie series (opens in new tab) in which Keanu Reeves gets mad and shoots every man with impeccable style. I also shot every man, except I was sat on my carpet aiming at body-armored pixel blobs from across a parking garage, doing none of the cool stuff John Wick gets up to.

Chronicles isn't awful, but it captures none of the style or brutality of the films. You're stuck behind some cover shooting baddies who approach from one direction, then another direction, and then from up on the roof, and so on. The gif below gives you the gist. (Note that you're only seeing one eye's worth of John Wicking, if the perspective looks off.)


As predictable as they are, arcade-style shooters are still a cool use of VR to me. John Wick Chronicles is a passable one, but there are other VR shooting games that do the same thing better, such as Space Pirate Trainer and Raw Data. And after a couple levels, I'm less interested in playing John Wick Chronicles than I am imagining what a more creative John Wick VR game would look like.

Wick's blasé gun kata (opens in new tab) doesn't happen from across the room. He gives out bullets like he's scanning barcodes, coolly switching between close-quarters targets without hesitation. There's lots of that in the club scene from the first movie:

The grappling may not be reproducible, but there's a great rhythm violence game in there. I know it's doable, because Superhot on the Oculus Rift is already a more John Wickish VR game than the official John Wick VR game. 

In Superhot, you shatter ruby enemy avatars by shooting them, punching their heads off, or throwing anything you find at them. I killed one by punching it in the crotch, as well—a proud moment.

The catch, as you may know from all the coverage the flatspace version of Superhot (opens in new tab) , is that time only moves when you move. You'd think being able to stop time would make for a less-intense shootout, but that's not the case. Looking down the barrel of a gun is terrifying even when time is stopped. And dodging that gun's bullet, grabbing it, firing back and then chucking it at someone's head is an extraordinary feeling.

Which is more John Wick: struggling to hit a guy who's hiding behind a pillar 30 feet away, or flinging an ashtray at a dude's head, catching his gun out of the air, and then shooting another guy in fist?

There will be more VR shooting galleries, and some will probably be good, but virtual reality doesn't need all that many Time Crisis games. (Actually, I'd definitely play a VR Time Crisis game (opens in new tab), but that's not the point.) Uncreative arcade shooters, even if they're passable, feel extra bland in VR. The medium is new and exciting and calls for new and exciting things.

I wish Superhot VR were officially available for the HTC Vive—it sucks that there are VR exclusives—so I could recommend it to everyone with a headset. But if you want to play the role of John Wick in VR, that's the way to do it, not with this $20 ad for the movies that feels nothing like the movies.

Tyler Wilde
Tyler Wilde

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.