Video game tie-ins for feature films have always struggled to find their footing, whether due to their bad reputation or simply a lack of appeal to the average gamer. Often riding on the enthusiasm of passionate movie-goers, it's rare to find games that stick to the core values of the movies themselves.
Coinciding with the release of John Wick: Chapter 2, Lionsgate has partnered up with Starbreeze Studios to bring the assassin's endeavors to virtual reality. Available via SteamVR for the HTC Vive, the game takes full advantage of room-scale movement and motion tracked controllers.
This approach to a movie tie-in is relatively unheard of today, but with VR becoming increasingly widespread, it was only a matter of time. The John Wick series even has the potential to work in a VR environment – fast-paced immersive combat has been a staple of both feature films. However, taking the form of an action-driven shooter, the series manages to lose some of its charms during the transition to the Vive.
The series manages to lose some of its charms during the transition to the Vive
Stepping into the shoes of the world-famous assassin, John Wick Chronicles lets to wreak havoc across a range of locations. With both entirely new scenes and notable locations from the films, the game attempts to offer a similar experience to the movies, in the shape of a VR shooter. With a variety of weapons within an arm's reach, you'll find yourself quickly switching on the fly to adapt to the current situation.
Comparable to the movies, John Wick Chronicles minimal controls help hugely in creating a streamlined action experience. Unlike more elaborate VR shooters, where reloading is a manual process, all that's required is a simple movement down to the hip. This keeps combat flowing during more intense moments, without needlessly fumbling about with spare magazines. Each of the available firearms also feels unique, with their own handling and purpose on the field.
Starbreeze Studios' previous work on Payday 2 is also evident in John Wick Chronicles, with clear design influences from the bank heist simulator. Although not to the same level of quality, clear influences can be seen in both gun mechanics and level design. The game also lends music from the Payday games, adding to the tension of encounters.
Despite some great gun mechanics, John Wick Chronicles biggest shortcomings come from its lack of dynamism in gameplay. As a wave-based cover shooter, where you'll spend a majority of your time crouched on a floor, the game fails to capture the rhythm that made the movies so unique.
Wave-based cover shooters aren't hard to come by in virtual reality, being one of the most popular genres explored with room-scale motion controls. By adapting this overused and now somewhat stale formula, John Wick Chronicles struggles to shape its own memorable experiences through its three chapters of campaign content.
That's not to say that John Wick Chronicles is a bad virtual reality experience, but as a tie-in, the game diverges too far from the core themes of the movies. Regardless of appearances from iconic locations and characters, such as The Continental Hotel and its manager (with motion capture from Lance Reddick), the game lacks the distinguishing traits which gave the movies their charm.
Although John Wick Chronicles introduces some interesting ideas in terms of gameplay, it also struggles to justify its price point of $19.99 at launch. While I enjoyed my experience across the game's three chapters, these only clocked in at a couple hours.
Arcade wave-based shooters still have a place in VR, but among the recent releases for the HTC Vive, it's hard to recommend John Wick Chronicles at full price. Between its fairly safe approach to shooter gameplay and general lack of content, there are more complete shooter experiences available, with much better value for money. However, if you've just revisited the first movie or managed to see its successor, John Wick Chronicles is a great route to return to the action-packed world of assassination.
- Streamlined but effective gunplay
- Great to see VR movie tie-ins
- Lack of content for $20 price tag
- Loses what made the movies so unique