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John Wick in VR Was the Surprise Hit of GDC 2016

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Playing Everest VR on the HTC Vive earlier in the week allowed me to see just how well virtual reality can remove a player from its comfort zone and place that person in a brand new world. Standing at the top of a mountain was both mesmerizing and terrifying. What helped that experience stand out so much was how it did its best to adhere to the rules of the physical world. The lack of anything unorthodox made it believable. So, when I heard about the opportunity to play as the badass John Wick, I started to wonder if this demo could employ the same rules to make it work.

Coming to life via a partnership between Lionsgate and Starbreeze (Payday’s publisher), John Wick puts players, quite literally, into the shoes of the eponymous protagonist. Although it takes place within the realm of the first film, the developers were able to build upon the wonderful background created allowing for the use of characters that fans would have only briefly seen if they watched the movie. Recognizable locales, including the Continental, help to place players into the world as well. But, with everything looking just right, there is a bit more that is needed for a proper John Wick experience: action.


From the moment I put the headset on and was transported into the lobby of the Continental, I knew that the developers were very serious about their attention to detail. Ringing the bell at the concierge’s desk brought Charon out to instruct me, which was an awesome touch. It was cool to look around and mess with my briefcase as I waited to head up to my room.

When I finally did hop on the elevator, things started to get real. I was taken to my very own room where some amenities were laid out and the option to play a movie was sitting on my desk. There I was watching a trailer for the film on a huge screen when suddenly I was getting sniped at, this was the moment of truth. Would I hit a button to avoid damage? Would I have to run? How would this feel real? Easily, actually, I just had to throw myself on the ground and crawl about as the lasers tried to locate my body. Needless to say, the adrenaline started to kick in as I frantically looked for a way out. It was official, I was in John Wick, and I needed to get out alive.

john wick

After locating a hidden escape button and crawling my way to the elevator, the first part of the demo was complete. The team decided to split up narrative and action to provide a solid feel for each. The escape already had my heart racing, so narrative proved to be successful, but all of that adrenaline had my trigger fingers itching to light something (or someone) up. It was time to head into the training room.

To my right were some handguns and grenades, while my left housed some assault rifles. Pistols are always fun to shoot in games (at least to me) so I grabbed two of those bad boys and assumed my best John Wayne stance as I looked around. The demo took place in a 360-degree firing range.

To get the action started, there were some stagnant targets that would pop up one by one. With no aim assist, it was necessary to use a steady hand to pull off headshots or, at the very least, graze the cardboard cutout. It turned out that my version of John Wick wasn’t a well-trained assassin, so I needed to get the hang of things fast. After a few more simple targets, it was time to test my abilities.

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