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Four Ways John Wick Feels Like A Video Game

Four Ways John Wick Feels Like A Video Game

One of my favorite movies from last year was Hardcore Henry, an experimental action movie that was shot entirely in a first person perspective. It’s a dizzying movie with a number of “how’d they do that” moments, a serviceable plot, and some really fun acting by Sharlto Copley.  While we have never had a great movie based on a video game, this was a pretty great movie that looked and felt like a game.  I was reminded of it last weekend when I went to see John Wick 2, another pretty great action movie.  I think the reason I like the John Wick movies is that they, like Hardcore Henry, incorporate a lot of elements of video games.  Here are four (awesome) ways John Wick feels like a video game.

We’re a long way from Bill and Ted here.

He Takes A Lot of Damage (And Totally Recovers)

Much like most any video game character, John Wick fights an awful lot of people.  Wick always wins, and he almost always suffers to do so.  From the opening sequence to the end of the movie, you’re going to watch Keanu Reeves take a lot of punishment as he kills a staggering number of people.  He wins but he’s limping and bloody and wincing by the end of it.  Obviously, this technique is a common trope in movies and I think it serves to keep Wick sympathetic despite the high number of people he’s killing.  Fortunately for him, Wick seems to heal faster than Wolverine from both knives and bullets (if only his broken heart could heal as quickly) and that’s where the similarity to video game heroes really shines through.  He’ll end one sequence bloody and nearly unconscious, but he’ll be ready to fight again before the next level.  I’m not sure how the movie makes the damage seem so punishing given that he will always just shrug it off by the next sequence, but I get how the hero can do that.  I’ve seen the same thing in almost every action game since Halo.

He takes quite a few beatings in the movie. But he keeps on shooting.

The Movie’s Structure Feels Like Game Levels

John Wick movies feel very much like video games.  Both movies have extended action sequences in which Wick fights a ridiculous amount of enemies (and takes a ridiculous amount of damage).  Between these sequences are the slower, dialogue heavy parts that set up the next action sequence.  Watching the movie feels like you’re playing one of the old Ninja Gaiden titles with intense action gameplay with extended expository cinematic peppered between them.  I’m not sure if non-gamers will appreciate the structure, but for gamers, it’s satisfyingly familiar.

How much longer do I have to wait until I get to see Ian McShane in a video game?

The Assassin’s World

One of the more intriguing aspects of the John Wick movies is the fact that he seems to live in a world that is similar to ours but not quite the same.  In his world, hired guns roam the city streets but can access an alternative world of armories and armorers that exists in plain sight.  Wick is not the only hero out there; there are enough other adventurers that entire industries exist to support them.  Most of the time, he encounters these other adventurers in the Continental Hotel, which exists as a kind of hubworld for contract killers.  The hotel feels like Destiny’s Tower or The Division’s Base of Operations.

These two could really make a go of it in the Wasteland.

The Dog Sidekick

Like many cool video game heroes, John Wick’s most loyal and constant companion is his unnamed dog.  Seeing Wick and the dog make their way through New York will remind you of your time with Dogmeat in Fallout or Shadow in Dead to Rights.  Much like the best dog companions, the unnamed dog in John Wick 2 is also immune from the action

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