Upcoming Xbox One title D4 was designed for use with Microsoft’s Kinect sensor. Game director Hidetaka “Swery65” Suehiro made it a point to stress this during our Tokyo Game Show meeting. D4 can be played with a controller, but his personal preference is that you play it with Kinect.
When we saw all of the weird things you can do with your hands in D4, this makes perfect sense. D4 looks fun to play with Kinect controls.
D4 (Dark Dreams Don’t Die) is a TV show-like murder mystery where you play as a strange and cocky investigator, trying to uncover the details to explain your wife’s murder, with the letter “D” being his only solid clue. Oh, and there’s a game mechanic that lets the protagonist use found objects to time hop. Weird, right? It’s got that cult hit vibe that Deadly Premonition had with its odd humor and funky production values. There’s a sort of charming clunkiness about it.
Swery65 (pictured above in a pose he gave for us following our meeting) gave us a live demo of D4 at TGS this week. In our meeting he said he wanted players to be able to sit and relax while playing D4, so while you’re using your arms often, it’s fine to take a seat. Most of the play involves using your right hand to manipulate the game’s scenes. Swery says that hand shapes can be identified with Kinect, so open-handed movement works for movement, while closed hand moves work as a selection. Think of the motion as sort of virtually grabbing what you’re looking to interact with.
Our first peek at the interface had the protagonist, David Young, in an airplane bathroom. We saw how swiping a hand left or right had the player’s view changing, allowing him to look around the bathroom. By moving his right hand to move a cursor, he could explore and interact with objects. For example, reaching his hand out and closing it over the toilet’s button allowed him to flush it.
The entire demo was packed with scenes where contextual hand motions were required, so while you may be able to sit, you’re going to have to do some moving. They can be as simple as moving your hands upward to wash your face, or pointing forward to move your character to an interest point. You’ll look for clues with your hands, using motions to do things like open up luggage compartments and sort through them. One neat move has players touching their heads with their finger tips like some superhero to initiate Head Vision, a system that highlights points of interest. The moves become a bit more exciting in the action-heavy combat sequence we saw.
There is combat in D4, though it’s not quite what you may be expecting. David ends up on this plane looking for a marshall that is somehow tied to his wife’s murder. This marshall is with a known (and cracked out) drug dealer that completely loses it. The drug guy kicks the marshall to death, and then takes after you, complaining that someone messed his eye while he was sleeping. He screams, “My beautiful eye is fucked!” Yeah, I don’t know. This game is weird.
This ends up being a hilarious circus of a brawl in the cabin of the plane between the two. You’ll dodge kicks and punches via Kinect prompts, with misses taking a segment off of a life bar. Executing the proper movement will give you an advantage in the fight, but misses will show you getting your ass kicked a bit.
It starts easy, with timed hand swipes allowing David to blocked flying purses and luggage. It becomes sort of a dance when he gets into it, though. Kinect movements have you pulling people out of the way, flipping over them, and even doing a quick waltz with one passenger, all while putting the hurt on the drug dealer. For all of these movements, a rhythm game-like scrolling meter at the bottom of the screen shows you that some required movement is coming. To put your mind at ease, these moves are less like quicktime events and more like reactions, if that makes sense.
Some of the fight had you pulling off what they call Synchro Stunts. The first one had the drug dealer picking up a softball to be used as a projectile against David. David picks up a mannequin leg to use as a bat to defend himself. The game quickly prompts you to take a batting stance. Swing properly and the ball flies back to hit the drug dealer squarely in the face, popping one of his (fake) eyes right out of his face in slow motion. Funny stuff.
My favorite Synchro Stunt had David pinning the drug dealer down in a seat with a megaphone in hand. Players had to scream aloud to get David to yell in the megaphone to hurt the drug dealer’s ears.
The fight devolves into a slap fest, with the player doing the hand movements via Kinect. It ends in a Synchro Stunt where a fighting stance is required for punches, but that only lasts a short while until David ends up being kicked in the crotch, sending him crawling to a nearby airplane seat. It looked as if neither won the fight.
These Kinect controls make more sense when you see them in action. And unlike some other Kinect-controlled games, I’m glad to say that they’re not a drag in D4. The required movements for navigation and exploration looked completely natural, and the ones for combat looked to be a lot of fun. All looked to be very responsive, too.
Beyond this exploration and combat, D4 has another attraction point with its quirky charm. The characters we ran into in this demonstration were so weird! One flirty flight attendant that was a dead ringer for David’s late wife falls into him following some turbulence, spitting her bubble gum directly onto his mouth. Gross! She starts out flirty, but ends up being quite scary, noting that David shouldn’t even be on the flight. David ends up chewing that gum for the rest of the episode, by the way.
The oddest encounter was in the plane’s aisle with an over-the-top fashion designer named Duncan. He carries around a mannequin named Sukey that he seems to be in love with, and spews forth judgement on anything that he doesn’t deem “avant garde.” Duncan and his Sukey have matching green hair and distinctive sunglasses.
I wasn’t sure what to make of D4 when it was revealed earlier this year, but I had a feeling we were in for something pretty interesting when hearing that Swery65 was involved. My feeling was right. From this demo alone I was drawn into pulpy, peculiar world, wanting to see who David ran into next. The game rides that rare line that Deadly Premonition did, so if that kind of game speaks to you, this one will too.
And then there’s the Kinect bonus. I’d normally call Kinect controls in an action game unnecessary, but they’ve found a way to use them to make D4 more interesting. I was continually impressed to see controls that didn’t seem gimmicky, and even more impressed to see that they worked properly.
With this, D4 has shot to the top of my list of desired Xbox One games. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. In front of it. Whatever.