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The new John Wick game needs to take notes from The Division

John Wick franchise distributor Lionsgate is interested in producing a new John Wick game, which could be great if it looks toward Ubisoft for guidance.

John Wick mod in Sifu and a screenshot of Tom Clancy's The Division

Keanu Reeves is set to reprise his role as the Baga Yaga soon, as the John Wick 4 release date creeps out of the shadows. Yet, the adventures of John Wick could transcend the big screen, as distributor Lionsgate Films has shown interest in developing a brand new big-budget John Wick game. The possibilities are endless for how it could shape up, but if it has any chance of success, then I think Ubisoft’s The Division is a perfect framework for a John Wick game to start with.

Though many names have been thrown into the hat by fans, like Remedy Entertainment for its work on the Max Payne franchise, I believe that the John Wick game should take notes from The Division. For me, the most thrilling aspect of the John Wick movies is the superb lore that presents itself in bigger doses with each instalment. Whether it’s the notion of fulfilling blood oaths with markers or adhering to the tenets set by the overarching organisation the High Table, every inch of the John Wick universe has something new to be explored. The Division isn’t quite as meticulous with its narrative, but the open-world thrill of navigating a desolate New York City proves that a John Wick game needs to adopt a similar direction.

Live service games are under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons as of late, with games such as Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League highlighting the genre’s fatigue. Yet, The Division manages to strike the right balance of content, without forcing players into multiplayer scenarios. Players can explore New York City at will, choosing various quests that contribute to the game’s base of operations, making it stronger with valuable resources. Those looking for a challenging fight can enter the Dark Zone, a PvP hell-pit that will leave you beaten and scarred with no hesitation – just like the world John Wick inhabits.

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Location-wise, The Continental Hotel is a prime location to recreate and assert as a hub for taking on the world. We’ve seen before in John Wick Chapter 2 that vendors such as The Sommelier offer weaponry services, while external vendors such as The Tailor and The Cartographer provide tactical style and location intel too. Although I’m sure we’d all prefer microtransactions to be left off the table when using their services. Fortnite did a great job at bringing The Continental Hotel to life, but we deserve an experience with more depth than the limitations of a battle royale game.

The thought of an open-world John Wick game does bring an air of negativity to my mind, as a GTA clone is ill-suited to the character. However, placing players in a New York City where danger lurks at every street corner – now that’s the ticket to pay the price of admission for. Mindless exploration and killing pedestrians aren’t the way of the Wick, but contract work and bounties are his bread and butter. Worldbuilding is only 50% of the battle though with the Baga Yaga’s gaming foray, as mastering his tools of the trade is where the proposed project from Lionsgate will live and die for many fans, myself included.

Now, I’d thank all the stars above if playing as John Wick felt like the best third-person shooter ever made: Max Payne 3. The Division isn’t quite on that level of refined combat, but it does come close. Both games offer a sense of weight, making each clamour for cover the most important decision in the heat of the moment. Keanu Reeves, while an extremely skilled practitioner of stuntwork, isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore. We need to feel the desperation of survival in each reload – an element that the movies don’t shy away from either.

2019’s John Wick Hex revelled in a gorgeous cel-shaded aesthetic, choosing to focus on turn-based shootouts, as players navigate the chess board of Wick’s endless threats. There is gratification in constructing each move with precision, but stepping into the finely pressed suit of John Wick begs for something with a more explosive sensibility.

Deploying combat stances such as John Wick’s favoured CAR (Centre Axis Relock) could offer a tangibility beyond just simply shooting our enemies. Wick is a mastermind of the battlefield after all, so employing an array of different methodologies would be essential to make his formidable reputation convincing for fans and those potentially unfamiliar with the movies. The Division’s combat is sharp, with handguns particularly standing out as satisfying outliers to win a confrontation. Unleashing The Division’s retractable shield is the closest feeling to finding safe harbour within John Wick’s kevlar-lined suit.

It is evident that the need for the grazed-knuckle intensity of John Wick fights is yearned for by fans. Games like Sifu and Hitman World of Assassination have seen fan-made mods bring the character to each game, offering kung-fu mayhem or stealth success. I for one have modded Sifu to play as Keanu Reeves’ other iconic character, Neo, as my endless need for a Path of Neo successor grows with each day.

Whether the John Wick 4 release date marks the end of Wick’s on-screen tenure remains to be seen, but spin-offs like Balerina and The Continental TV show prove the universe is still reeling in audiences. Reeves himself has started to lean into the possibilities of gaming, lending his appearance and voice to Cyberpunk 2077, his first proper foray into game-focused voice acting alongside Unreal Engine 5 demo The Matrix Awakens.

Lionsgate has got a hefty task ahead of them, but whatever form a John Wick game takes, like The Continental’s manager Winston once said: If you want peace, prepare for war.