I say 'likely' because some actions have a probability attached to them. If the enemy is far away, or behind partial cover, a normally guaranteed shot might drop to 40 or 20 percent. These odds aren't a new idea -- countless real-time strategy games, including Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, have an equivalent accuracy system. You can crouch to improve Wick's aim and counter any lackluster odds. Changing stance takes time, though, and crouching stops Wick from performing melee attacks. If you're trying to tackle a large group of enemies, it's a risky manoeuvre.
Success involves playing the odds. If you're holding a machine pistol with a full clip, it might make sense to shoot an onrushing martial artist -- even if the probability of hitting them is only 20 percent. The weapon has a high rate of fire, so there's a good chance at least one bullet will connect before he reaches Wick. On the flip-side, if you're facing a group with limited ammunition, a wayward shot could be the difference between an impressive escape and embarrassing death.
Another tactical consideration is sight lines. You can effectively cancel an opponent's shot by ducking around a corner of crouching behind cover. Your enemies, of course, can do the same and will regularly retreat into a shadowy part of the map -- somewhere Wick can't see based on his current position -- and regroup.
Breaking sight lines is particularly important when multiple people are preparing to shoot you. Even if you're quick on the draw, you can only dispatch one opponent at a time and will likely take a hit from someone else. In the latter stages of the game, it's often better to flee and find somewhere that you can take them on individually. Unfortunately, the cover and sight lines system is a tad buggy. During my playthrough, there were a few instances where a soldier hit Wick through a tree or granite pillar. These shots never triggered a 'game over' but were frustrating given how carefully I had planned Wick's movements in and out of cover.
To make the experience even tougher, some moves -- such as last-minute dodges and evasive rolls -- require focus points. These points can only be replenished if Wick takes a moment to 'refocus.' If you're not careful, it's easy to dive headlong into a group fight and realize halfway through that you don't have enough points to escape.
There's a lot to consider, but the game never rushes you to make a decision. You can play fast and instinctively -- often with dire consequences -- or spend 10 minutes deliberating each move. (If you want a challenge, there's a higher difficulty setting called Expedited that limits each pause to five seconds.) Either way, Hex plays out like a high-octane ballet. You eventually find a tick-tock rhythm that alternates smoothly between tense deliberation and exhilarating action. I haven't felt this 'in the zone' since I played the original Hotline Miami on my Vita.
I haven't felt this 'in the zone' since I played the original Hotline Miami.
The short campaign is broken down into seven locations, each of which contain a handful of stages. Before starting a new locale, you're given the option to spend some coins -- just like the ones featured in the movies -- on some useful upgrades, such as increased roll distance and a higher probability when shooting from distance. Alternatively, you can use the currency to stash bandages and high-powered weapons in specific levels. You can't see the stages in advance, so it's a slight gamble, but the menu offers a small summary or hint for each of them, such as "Exhibit: The gallery is closed. All that remain are Yoshiko's personal guard."
The locations include a bank, industrial harbour, art gallery and snow-covered mountain base. While a tad generic, these places are well presented in the game's comic book art style. They also provide some interesting geometry and environmental cover for Wick to weave through. One gallery stage, for instance, includes a large room filled with sight-restricting columns. Another, set on a harbour, starts with Wick on top of a large shipping container, which helps him approach and shoot guards on the ground. Some stages also end with an elevator. Once called, a final wave of guards will swarm in and force you to play defence until the doors open.