The franchising of the very popular Keanu Reeves-starring puppy-centric actioner “John Wick” continues apace, with a much-hyped sequel on the way early next year, buzzing rumors that studio Lionsgate is already prepping a third film in the series and a brand new virtual reality video game in the works. That game — a first person shooter called “John Wick Chronicles” from Starbreeze — hit up New York’s Comic-Con this weekend, revealing an early look at what players can expect when it arrives in February (just in time for “John Wick: Chapter Two”!).
The character of John Wick has already dabbled in the video game world, thanks to an introduction in Starbreeze’s own 2013 game “PAYDAY 2,” and “John Wick Chronicles” looks to only further expand out that little nugget in terms of both style of game play and actual storytelling. At Comic-Con, Starbreeze and Lionsgate offered up an immersive preview, presented on the HTC Vive and marketed under the title “John Wick Chronicles: An Eye for an Eye,” that allowed fans to get a taste of what the full game will provide its players.
“John Wick Chronicles” puts players into John Wick’s shoes — well, technically, his gloves — and sets them loose in a world that will likely prove very familiar to fans of the first movie. The game is ostensibly a standalone outing, and is not specially tied to the action of either the first or second film. Instead, it simply casts its players as the world-famous assassin and sends them out on various missions that involve, appropriately enough, a whole hell of a lot of shooting.
IndieWire had the opportunity to test out the game in a snappy seven-minute increment at a special event held at NYC’s own NoMad Hotel, a worthy stand-in for the luxe Continental Hotel, the fictional assassin-friendly residence where John Wick lives. Although hampered by plenty of limitations — space and time, of course, plus the added weirdness of Reeves himself standing mere feet away from the game set-up — the sampling we got of “Chronicles” was certainly entertaining and almost embarrassingly immersive.
The HTC Vive headset is a comfortable one, easily adjustable and hardly unwieldy. Gameplay is controlled by a pair of handheld VR controllers — once you pick them up, it appears as if you’re wearing a pair of black leather gloves, which is both jarring and very stylish — that are light to hold and intuitive to operate. With less than ten minutes to play in the world of “Chronicles,” backstory was at a minimum, but the preview gave us a brief look around the constructed world of the Continental before zipping us to the hotel’s rooftop to battle back an increasing array of baddies.
The aim of the “Eye for an Eye” segment was precise: Just shoot people! Guns could be “picked up” and “dropped” by a twist of the controller and a squeeze of its trigger. Reloading was almost too easy, as players only need to bring their gun-toting hand to their side and pull back up to get a fresh magazine. A full selection of guns were made available on the rooftop, and all were simple to operate — the best, perhaps, was a huge sniper rifle that allows its user to get a better look at their opponents through a nifty attached scope. Weapons were responsive and intuitive to shoot, though even the most wild of shots seemed to land, and nearly every bullet that hit a bad guy appeared to totally annihilate them.
Although the location of the preview is pure John Wick — and reps available on site made it clear that the final game will provide plenty more chances to fully explore the Continental, which operates as both a training facility and living space for Wick — the gameplay itself is exceedingly general. Point, shoot, point, shoot. And you’re also John Wick right now, but good luck really feeling as if you’re embodying the beloved character. Still, the technology is immersive and fun, and within moments of sliding on the headset and grabbing a gun, you can’t help but find yourself shooting and shouting and crouching and cackling with the best of them.
And when asked if the game would include any cute, fuzzy puppies to avenge/fight alongside, a rep could only demure that it’s not likely at this time, though that may change. Wait, what’s a “John Wick” game without a cuddly pup to fight for? Know your strengths, people!
You can find out more information about “John Wick Chronicles” at its official website. You can also pre-order “John Wick Chronicles” over on Steam in anticipation of its release in February of next year, which will also include the game “PAYDAY 2” along with a special “PAYDAY 2” John Wick Weapon Pack. Players in the U.S. can also pre-order the game and get a copy of “John Wick” the movie alongside of it (and the “PAYDAY 2” goodies).
“John Wick: Chapter Two” will hit theaters on February 20, 2017.