Most gamers of any age will likely know that videogame movie tie-ins are ropy at best. Whether it’s a film created from a game or the other way around, there’s been a constant struggle to get the two entertainment worlds to successfully coalesce. The world of virtual reality (VR) is no different with this month seeing the release of John Wick Chronicles, coinciding with Keanu Reeves’ John Wick: Chapter 2 in cinemas. So has this been a successful partnership, well yes and no.
Created by Starbreeze Studios in collaboration with several other developers, John Wick Chronicles is what you’d expect, a gun filled, bullet flying, extravaganza of carnage and action. The infamous Continental hotel serves as the hub for the title, with the lobby and concierge accurately reproduced for that air of authenticity. It’s this attention to detail that can be seen across the entire production, whether its the graphics, gameplay or gun mechanics, John Wick Chronicles has been built to AAA standards.
You’ll be able to start off nice and easy, heading to the training room to get acquainted with shooting unlimited rounds of ammo at targets. This is all standard fare with duel wielding pistols, SMG’s, a shotgun and a sniper rifle with which to hone those aiming skills. After which you’ll want to get straight into the action and begin the first level, pitting you against waves of enemies armed to the teeth with guns, grenades and anything else they can throw at you.
It’s here where all that polish starts to come a little unstuck. That’s because John Wick Chronicles is a wave shooter, nothing wrong with that per se, but with such a high profile title using a gameplay mechanic so widely used in VR its certainly feels somewhat lacklustre that you’re essentially nailed to the spot. Using the HTC Vive’s room scale system does allow for duck and cover mechanics which certainly aid immersion, although this can be somewhat hampered depending on real world floor space.
Each level does its best to switch up the gameplay by having enemies appear all the way around you, at different levels and distances, requiring inventive use of the resources that are available. Do you stick to just pistols and try to take out long range enemies with a very good shot or switch to the sniper and then back again which can cost valuable time and life. This can involve some hectic fraught decisions during the intense gun battles but opponents generally come from one area at a time, so you’re not having to consciously keep track of every area. This is made even easier with the concierge continuously saying ‘check left’, ‘check right’, and so on. While helpful it can get annoying.
But the biggest issue with John Wick Chronicles is that of content. Aside from the training area there are only three levels available, which most players will probably get through in under an hour if they have a good run through – the second level is certainly tricky – making it feel somewhere between a tech demo and a fully fledged experience.
If John Wick Chronicles had been released in the middle of 2016 it could’ve been a showpiece for VR, expertly produced with taught gameplay and beautiful design. Coming out now though its almost having to play catch up, without offering anything new. With the likes of Raw Data on the market – which allows for movement and multiplayer options – for HTC Vive, the experience seems somewhat lacking. You’ll play it and enjoy it the once but that’ll be it, only starting it up again to showcase VR to your mates.