We Distracted The Director Of John Wick Hex While He Played Its Hardest Mode

Yesterday I invited John Wick Hex director Mike Bithell to come into Kotaku headquarters’ streaming studio, where he answered my increasingly specific questions about his difficult game while playing its hardest difficulty setting. See how he did in this video archive.

Bithell regaled me with the story of pitching the producers of perhaps the most third-person-shootery film franchise alive on, of all things, a tactics game. He discussed the involvement of the film’s directors and stuntmen in the game’s design process. He answered many of my questions about what Ian McShane is like.


John Wick Hex struck me, the first time I played, as a perfectly cohesive work of game design. Every system supports every other system. So naturally I asked Bithell to walk me through the timeline of its development. It all started with what he calls a simple, no-frills clone of XCOM. Given that John Wick is a master gun-shooter and expert dude-killer, Bithell and his team found it a ridiculous proposition to have John Wick “level up.” It would clearly be insulting to Keanu.

So rather than complicate their no-frills, one-guy XCOM with a rich skill tree or expanding moveset, they laser-focused on the logistics and repercussions of even the tiniest action. I wanted to know when the “focus” meter and the “refocus” mechanic (which I call the “deep breath”) entered the picture. We talked about Into the Breach. We discussed roughly 47 specific details per minute.


I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was the John Wick films’ director—former Keanu Reeves stuntman Chad Stahelski—who suggested the game’s unique, dynamic approach to fog of war. (And he did it without even knowing what fog of war was.)

Based on the chapters I’ve played so far, John Wick Hex is both a great work of design and a great video game. Before meeting and talking to Bithell, I had massive respect for what I perceived as the result of a wildly complicated series of design decisions. After meeting its director, I still had that massive respect, though I also had obtained audio of him telling the world his game is “Exactly like the Goose Game[...].”

(Watch the video for the full details on that “[...].” Spoiler: It’s a dumb joke, and it’s my fault.)

Also, as of October 8th, 2019, I now possess just one degree of separation from Ian McShane. Dad, if you’re reading this: Yes, yesterday I talked to a guy who has met Ian McShane. I’ll have you a signed Deadwood Blu-Ray box by Christmas 2023, at this rate.


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There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

I make videos for Kotaku. I make video games for myself and my friends. I like writing fiction. Someday I will publish a novel. Who knows!