John Wick Chronicles feels like one giant metaphor for Keanu Reeves’ acting career. The man has starred in some of the best films Hollywood has ever birthed, such as The Matrix, Point Break, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and of course the John Wick series. I’d also throw in Hardball as a personal favorite, but it’s not for everybody. In addition to these, he has starred in some real stinkers as well and some films that would have been far better had anyone else taken the main role instead of him.
You see, the problem is that he’s just not a very good actor. His performances are wooden and lacking real character and his delivery leaves much to be desired. But at the end of the day he does a great job of looking and acting like a badass. Luckily, he fits the John Wick persona perfectly. And just like Reeves himself, John Wick Chronicles is a VR game that does a passable job of feeling and looking like a badass experience, but when you dig beneath the surface, it’s lacking enough substance to really make you feel satisfied.
The premise of John Wick Chronicles is that you take control of the titular assassin as you embark on a killing spree of your very own. There are lots of guns to use and enemies to kill in this 1-2 hour action romp that will leave you sweaty and sore from all of its pulse-pounding intensity. Things start off with a Training scenario that runs you through the game’s basics and teaches you to take stock of your surroundings in full 360-degrees, but it’s quite a bit more active than the training scenarios in most other games.
At its core, John Wick Chronicles isn’t much more than a standard wave shooter. Enemies will funnel in towards you from all sides until the game has determined you’ve killed enough of them. It doesn’t number the waves, but it’s still just a wave shooter at its heart. Imagine something along the lines of of Time Crisis, but in the John Wick universe.
Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, but after playing the game it’s clear to me that this was originally designed to be featured in location-based entertainment settings and marketing activations at events. The action is spot-on, the production values are leagues beyond the vast majority of VR content, and the gunplay feels fast, responsive, and smooth. You’ll have to really get up and move around your play space, ducking behind cover, and even crawling on the ground. It’s one of the more visceral shooters on the Vive so far, no doubt. But it just ends far too quickly.
With only three real missions (each ending in a boss fight) and a 2nd “mode” of play that’s only slightly different than the standard game mode, it feels like it’s missing content. I struggled to muster up the desire to revisit levels after completing them and there’s just nothing to do really after you finish it once or twice.
You don’t have any progression systems for unlocking new items beyond playing the training mode, there are no ways to improve your abilities, alter the gameplay, or do much of anything other than shoot through the levels. It’s fun while it lasts, but it feels like it ends right after it’s getting started.
To get the most pleasure out of the game, I’d highly recommend taking breaks between missions and spacing it out as much as possible to elongate the length of the experience. Some guns and mechanics that feel novel and interesting at first are underutilized, making you feel a bit cheated.
John Wick Chronicles feels like it’s exactly what the teams at Starbreeze and Lionsgate intended to create. You feel like a badass while playing it, the overtones of the universe are there, and the action is fun enough to keep you pushing through to the end. In terms of gameplay mechanics, it was fun. But just as you get into it and feel the intensity reaching a point of true adrenaline, it’s all over. There is little reason to come back and the floor is left littered with dead bodies and under-utilized potential. As a result, just like Keanu Reeves himself, it lacks depth.