"John, is a man of focus. Commitment. Sheer will."
In the movies, John Wick is portrayed as a force or nature. A terrifying assassin with unrivalled stamina and frightening proficiency with every known firearm. He has brains to match the brawn, too: his vast experience working for the fictional Tarasov family has turned him into a brilliant tactician that's aware of every sight line and incoming threat.
Watching the bombastic set pieces, I often found myself wondering: how does Wick avoid being mobbed by 10 people at once? He can't dodge 10 bullets simultaneously, surely?
That question is answered by John Wick Hex, the latest game from Thomas Was Alone, Volume and Subsurface Circular developer Bithell Games. The top-down strategy title turns the films into a hyper-violent fusion of chess and Dungeons & Dungeons. Every level is filled with nodes -- denoted by white dots -- enemies and environmental cover. Your mission is to reach the end point and dispatch any lurking mini boss without being turned into a bullet-riddled pinata.
Survival comes down to time management. Every command you give Wick -- whether that's crouching behind a desk or firing a revolver -- takes a second or so to complete. At the same time, your enemies are moving and preparing attacks of their own. The complexity, therefore, is deciding when and how to act in every moment. Should I apply some bandages now? Roll behind that pillar, snatch the submachine gun, kill that incoming henchman and hope it creates a larger window of opportunity to heal up? Or keep pushing forward and hope I can reach the endpoint without taking any further damage?
A timeline at the top of the screen helps you weigh up these options. Every nearby character, including Wick, has a row that shows their previous actions and what, if anything, they've decided to do next. Nonlethal movements and attack preparations are shown in grey, while 'executions' -- the point at which someone deals damage -- are highlighted in purple. At a glance, the UI resembles a video-editing app like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere. It's large and easy to parse, giving you all the information you need at a glance.
Survival comes down to time management.
The game will automatically pause if Wick completes an action, has an action interrupted, or spots a new enemy in the level. The frequent stoppages mean you can weigh up different actions and whether you'll beat your opponents to the metaphorical and sometimes literal punch. If a henchman is about to 'strike,' for instance, you might not have enough time to do the same. A 'parry', however, is quicker to perform and instantly stuns the enemy, cancelling out their strike and leaving them open for a counterattack.
Similarly, a henchman might be aiming at you with an old revolver. It's awfully slow to fire, so if you're holding a machine gun you'll see on the timeline that Wick is likely to strike first.