John Wick Pro + Premium (Stern 2024 v0.81 code) Detailed Thoughts after Flipping On Location + Show

At the recent Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show 2024 (see: https://playgamesmore.com/attending-northwest-pinball-and-arcade-show-june-7-9-2024/) they had 20 John Wicks to play, 10 premium and 10 pros, and there were plenty of opportunities to flip them over all three days. Other places locally already have John Wick pros setup on location, and had previously played it.

Decided to do a write-up with thoughts on both Pro and Premium models using a similar format as I did for this: Pulp Fiction SE (2023) Detailed Thoughts after Flipping On Location. Please keep in mind when reading these thoughts are based on the code available at the show (v0.81), which obviously is very premature and early.

For TL:DR; this really hurts this game overall. Some games can be released with early code, but John Wick is not one of them.

As mentioned in the summary at the end, I’ll return and update as I play John Wick with future code updates. Just because I’m not a huge fan of a game initially, doesn’t mean it won’t grow on me in time. Not sure how many other pinballers are like that, but I am.

SIDENOTE: if you want to see my rankings for all Spike 2 machines, except Jaws and John Wick, see: 2023 Ranking All 22 Spike 2 Stern Pinball Machines. At the end of 2024, I’ll rerank every Spike 2 and 3 (if any Spike 3s are released in 2024, that is) here. My plan is to re-rank every year based on continued play. Rankings change.

Let’s get to the JW detailed thoughts with code version 0.81.

DISLIKE – Theme
Pro & Premium

Personally, John Wick isn’t a theme this author cares for/about. Saw the first movie only around the time it came out (2014, like 10+ years ago, yowsa). It was a very average assassin action flick to me with a main character that was cool, yes, but not that memorable. The franchise spawned multiple sequels, similar to Stern’s much better theme with their last release, Jaws. No idea if the John Wick sequels are better movies or not, but the theme does zero for me.

That said, the movie is popular and a lot of people like Keanu Reeves. At some point I’m going to go back and check the franchise out in more depth and it might resonate with me more on a second pass(?). Don’t know. PGM Member Skullbox686 gifted me his digital code for all the John Wick movies (thank you again!), so they are waiting for me to check out.

Do you like the John Wick movies? Several other PGM members have commented that they really like the John Wick movies, so perhaps I’m in the minority on this point of view. Still, a theme isn’t everything to me with pinball. Plenty of pinball games I’ve enjoyed through the years that didn’t care much for the themes.

Playfield Design, Mechs & Toys
Pro – MIXED
Premium – DISLIKE

Both – the playfield design itself is OK, with the skyline and black car, case and somewhat pointless opening watch on the left. Some of the shots are tight, but there are some satisfying ones. The ramps are merely boilerplate design, stuff we’ve seen many times before. The skyline, despite being visually cool, isn’t used as anything to interact with the game. Disappointing, as it feels like missed opportunities creatively everywhere.

Pro – much prefer the kickout on the car vs. using as a bash toy. Was more fun hitting that car with the kickout. Didn’t care that much about the added features. Like most pros, this plays faster and made me enjoy the game — at least at current code — more.

Premium – normally, I’m all about the premium features, but the car as a bash toy is less fun than the kickout of the pro. The stopwatch opening for fingerprints is more visuals than something that impacts gameplay. The chest door opening and closing? Not that exciting, but does make it easier to trigger the chest bonus because the edge sticks out way more. The ball lock is cool, yes, but not a game changer. The target that pops up blocking access to the red pop bumper in the upper left corner is annoying more than fun, because it makes the ball go straight down the middle (SDTM). Not a fan at all of most extras offered on John Wick premium and presumably the LE model (have not played the LE, but playfield feature set is the same).

LIKE – Translite, Side and Playfield Artwork
Pro, Premium and LE

First, that stained glass like John Wick LE yellow translite looks amazing. Artist Randy Martinez — that I met personally at the NW Pinball & Arcade Show 2024 — is both a great guy and super talent. His artwork is spot on and eye catching for the theme.

I prefer the LE side art and translite the most, followed by pro and least the premium, artwork, but all are well done and grab your eyes.

LIKE – Plunger / Skill Shots
Pro, Premium

This one doesn’t have progressively difficult skillshots, but there is a soft plunge into the crate hole, also a VIP skill shot further up the lane that’s satisfying. I like these.

MIXED – Gameplay Flow
Pro, Premium

The flow on the table is OK, it’s bricky in some spots and smooth in others.

As mentioned before, a few too many shots are bricks, but that might be more a result of not playing the game enough to learn the angles. It’s not inviting me to play a lot more in its current code incarnation, however, which is problematic for earning more plays in the future. Am sure the code will get better, it always does, and here, I’ll need that new code to inspire playing this more.

photo credit: Sternpinball.com

One of my most favorite shots is up the left to the big red pop bumper. You can really score some decent points having the ball bounce around in this left corner area. Up to the left of this is the ball lock area, shot via a different ramp on the premium which is also a satisfying shot when made.

I found the middle shot easier than others have mentioned. Hit it from just when the right lane rolls onto the flipper and it is smooth. A satisfying shot. The shot to the crate on the far right reminds me of Jaws far right gear collect lane. I didn’t have much trouble with that one.

MIXED – Medium level scoring
Pro, Premium

Getting to 1+ billion on John Wick is not likely with the current scoring system. Am much more a fan of a billion being a “good game” in current scoring, which admittedly is subjective. Others might not care about how much one can score. I’ve written more on my thoughs on scoring and ranked the Stern pinballs based on average scoring tiers here: Ranking Stern Spike 2 Games by Scoring Tier +Took 900+ days to score over a billion

After three days of playing at the show, from all attendee players playing 20 different John Wick machines, see the highest score was 442 million with 103 million breaking the top 50:

MIXED – LCD movie assets and callouts
Pro, Premium

Not nearly enough Winston (Ian Mcshane) callouts. Both my son and I are like, “we can’t hear enough Winston!” The video movie assets are plentiful and mostly well done. The graphics and overlays on the LCD are colorful and good. This feels like an area that is still somewhat incomplete, especially with the leveling and achievements. They always add more of these as the code improves.

*MIXED – Music/sounds
Pro, Premium

There is an original score composed by Charlie Benante of Anthrax and Pantera, but everywhere played so far, the sounds have been turned down too low and we couldn’t experience them well. This is an operator issue, not necessarily a knock against the machine. And at the show it was so loud overall, it was nearly impossible to make out the sounds and music well.

*I’d like to play this in a quieter setting to be able to better gauge the music and sounds. As such, current feelings for this rating are incomplete and possibly unfair, and very likely this is or could be better. What we could hear from the sounds and music is good,

MIXED – Lighting
Pro, Premium

It’s not bad, but it’s not great. Just seems like the lighting has a mailed in feeling.

It’s standard Stern fare, which isn’t as great as other manufacturers. I mean, check out Elton John or Pulp Fiction and then compare to John Wick. Even Jaws doesn’t have as good as impressive lighting. This is an area of improvement for Stern. Maybe with their Spike 3 machines coming in the future, the lighting on their games will be improved. I didn’t feel like Jaws is as good as it could have been, either at launch but that was improved in modes like Night Swim. John Wick doesn’t have any of these type modes (yet). Pinball lighting is an important part of the experience. Hoping this improves with code updates.

DISLIKE – Additional Game/Video Modes
Pro, Premium

No additional minigames exist in John Wick, at least the current code which feels and is very incomplete. This is a huge disappointment. I look forward to additional video play modes like Shark Hunter in Jaws. John Wick should have a shooting minigame, shouldn’t it? I mean, why have a game that begs for an LCD shooting game … that doesn’t have any shooting game? I know, I know, the guns thing on the artwork, but they could have included something, yes/no? Maybe by 1.0 complete code they will. In the meantime, it’s a big thumbs down. Boo.

MIXED – Released with Incomplete Connected / Social Features
Pro, Premium

Yes, Stern offers Insider Connected, but they boasted of A.I enemy features and (almost) none of these can be found in the current code. They also talked about upcoming contracts that will be sent through Insider Connected, but aren’t implemented yet. This sounds like a cool feature, but until it’s implemented, jury is out.

As for the enemy-changing A.I? The only thing I could determine in early playing that was implemented with the early release code was the target that pops up in the premium to block access to the red pop bumper area. Surely, there is more than this, yes/no?

DISLIKE – Pricing

Stern follows up Jaws — a much, much better game — with this at the same price? A clearly unfinished game with less popular theme? (don’t get me started on how much more popular Jaws is than John Wick). They should have dropped the price by thousands for this one instead of just sticking with current pricing and hoping early buyers will wait out the final code release.

SHOULD BE (or less priced!): Pro $5,999, Premium: $6,999, LE $7,999
ACTUAL: Pro: $6,999, Premium: $9,699, LE $12,999

Maybe once the code is finished, Stern could overall justify more, but releasing games in this state is only going to make the secondary market dictate the true worth of these games.

Overall early feelings – Would not buy, am not interested in playing with current code
Pro: MIXED
Premium: DISLIKE
LE: Haven’t played yet

Premium:
Grade: D

Pro:
Grade: C-

The current John Wick condition as of this writing is, at best, marked as “premature release.” It’s not ready to be out there for pinballers to evaluate. It needs the contracts, more of that innovative (?) A.I, more modes, better scoring, the list goes on. A disappointing follow-up to Jaws with the lone exception of the artwork, which IMO, is top notch. Randy Martinez is the best thing about John Wick and, unfortunately, artwork doesn’t make a great pin by itself. We play these games. They aren’t only art pieces. Well, for most of us anyway.

I will update this review below or via new article as/when more code releases are made. So, fans of John Wick in its current condition, put down the pitchforks, it’s entirely possible once this game reaches 1.0 code I will like it much more than right now.

In current state, unfortunately, it’s not going to rank very good on the 24 Spike 2 rating list being compiled for the end of 2024. Still almost half the year for Stern to improve the code, and thus my feelings on the game should (will?) improve. I have mixed feelings on how Stern releases their pinball machines when the code is so far away from “complete” like here with John Wick. I’m not sure it does games with themes that aren’t as great like this one any favor. Wait for that pie to bake fully, Stern.

Have you had a chance to play John Wick yet? Or maybe you’ve already preordered one and anxiously are waiting? Maybe you already have one in your home or business? Whatever the case, what’s your interest level in playing? Share your John Wick pinball story — good, bad or indifferent — in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “John Wick Pro + Premium (Stern 2024 v0.81 code) Detailed Thoughts after Flipping On Location + Show”
  1. You have a lot more real pin all experience than I do and have more to compare with. I flipped Wick and Jaws Pros for about 3 hours and enjoyed Wick a lot more. Maybe some has to do with it being “new”. The Wick I played was very fast but controllable. jaws actually felt slow after playing wick. Because of the speed, will admit the only time I found myself looking at the DMD was after a drain, so whatever is going on there was lost in me. Having seen 3 of the 4 wick movies (better than the jaws sequels), the table does capture the spirit of the movies. Pinball has been around for a lot of years, as far as innovation, starting to get a little tougher since limited by real world physics. To me all things aside (code/art/etc), when you walk away, can you say you enjoyed the machine or not. I walked away from wick enjoying it and hope to get back to the arcade soon to play again.

  2. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment, Ed. It’s interesting that you have much more familiarity with the John Wick IP than me. I’m admitting never seeing — and not wanting to, really — the sequels. I don’t care for the Jaws sequels that much either. The first one, however, is legendary. It put Spielberg on the map, literally and Benchley’s novel is amazing (and interestingly, the novel differs in several ways from the movie). I can’t even tell you who directed John Wick, much less who the writer was, all I know/recognize is the actor: Keanu Reeves.

    That aside, the game is missing to me doing things play-wise like the awesome cityscape. Why can’t there be some physical interaction with that? The A.I that was advertised doesn’t seem to exist yet to have any real impact on the gameplay. Those contracts they advertised and teased — not here yet. Those sound cool when they release, but what’s the point in raising expectation for features you don’t have yet? That’s my main disappointment with John Wick: that what they hyped up isn’t fully realized yet.

    They didn’t do this with their last release, Jaws. They didn’t show us a video mode — Shark Hunter — in 3D that we couldn’t play yet. They didn’t tell us about a “new A.I” that doesn’t appear to actually be in the game yet. When this stuff gets added, I’m sure I’ll enjoy JW more.

    Glad to hear you liked it. I wonder if you would feel a little bit differently if you were looking forward to features and functions you didn’t experience when playing? It’s definitely colored my first thoughts.

  3. Todd were lucky you have easy access to all the great Stern Tables, I’m looking forward to your re-review of the Spike 2 Sterns at the end of 2024,

    1. Wish more businesses would have these newer Sterns. Yes, we’re blessed in this area to have so much modern pinball available. I keep tweaking that list as we continue to play the Spike 2’s more. Some are moving up, some down, a couple are moving way down at the moment 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting, my friend.

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