TGS 2013: D4 Preview - Plane Crazy
Written Thursday, September 26, 2013 By John Robertson
Being the Japanese game geek that I am, the behind closed doors demonstration of Access Games' upcoming Xbox One exclusive D4 was probably the thing I was most looking forward to at this year's Tokyo Games Show. Written and directed by Hidetaka 'Swery65' Suehiro, the brains behind the so-bad-it's-bloody-brilliant Deadly Premonition, expectation for D4 is that it's going to be bat-shit crazy and exhibit a complete disregard for the rules that most other games follow.
From the 30 minutes I've seen, those expectations are going to be met.
D4 (full name: Dark Dreams Don't Die) is an adventure game of sorts that will be released episodically, although there is no confirmation yet as to how many episodes there'll be or when the first one is going to hit. The idea is for things to play out as cinematically as possible, Swery65 explaining that the idea is for anyone watching someone play to be as entertained as they would be if they were viewing a television programme. It's a tall order, and the statement of intent will surely be used against the creative team if D4 ends up failing. What they can't be accused of however, is playing it safe.
Detective David Young is the protagonist, and he can travel through time. How? By inspecting Mementos, of course, clues which act as the catalyst that kicks off each episode. The episode I witnessed is set on a passenger jet and sees our hero face off against a drug smuggler, although the higher-level plot linking each chapter is an investigation into the death of your girlfriend.
The whole thing is designed around Kinect. Controller support has been added, but Swery65 makes it very clear that he wants you to be playing using the motion controls the gameplay has been crafted for. However, don't worry, this is about as far away from Dance Central as you can get. The demo was driven by a guy that was on a couch for the entire performance, using a series of hand gestures, leans to the left and right and voice commands to drive the action.
Things seemed to work surprisingly well, Kinect able to recognise the difference between open or closed hands and various voice inputs without issue. This being an adventure game, the majority of the interaction is akin to that seen in the likes of Telltale's The Walking Dead; inspecting specific points in the world, selecting people to talk to etc. Therefore, the bulk of what Kinect is being asked to do is not all that complex and the slower paced nature of the gameplay gives the system plenty of breathing space to work out what you're asking it to do.
It seems that D4 might just work in the motion-controlled adventure space where others (looking at you, Heavy Rain) failed.
Dialogue options can be selected by reading an option out loud, a feature that impressively managed to interpret the heavily accented English spoken by our Japanese host. Moving your head up, down, left and right moves the camera around to allow you to locate points of interest without moving through the environment, while leaning side to side causes your on-screen avatar to do the same. There are a whole bunch of other, extra-curricular interactions - including, but not limited to, flushing the airplane toilet by reaching out and pushing the button and washing your face in the sink by bringing your hands up to your face.
Moving around the plane, talking to passengers, opening overhead compartments and generally fiddling with anything that can be fiddled with, had an aura of the surprisingly normal about it... so long as you ignore the fact that you travelled through time and arrived in the bathroom of a jet midflight, of course. Things soon got delightfully wacky, though.
After our drug smuggler friend has laid an overwhelmingly violent beat down on the US Marshall escorting him, Young takes it upon himself to apprehend him and hopefully unlock a clue as to his girlfriend's demise. Predictably, Mr Smuggler is not in the mood to come quietly and a lengthy QTE sequence is triggered which sees you two square off amongst frightened passengers.
It's complete carrot on a stick fare, each QTE linking into the next over-the-top moment. The fight sees you comically kicking each other in the nuts, dancing with flight attendants trying to calm you down and destroying the mannequin 'partner' of a fashion designer dolled up to such an extent that he makes Lady Gaga look like an 18th-century nun. The winning blow is struck when a baseball is hurled at you, only for you to use the mannequin's leg as a baseball bat and knock the thing straight into the smuggler's face. As is completely realistic, the force of the blow sends one of his eyes flying out of his face.
I'm not a huge fan of QTEs (although I'm not necessarily against them), but it's impossible not to be entertained and charmed by the way these examples are constructed. Not least that's because the gestures required to perform them seem basic enough to allow you to enjoy the action yourself, rather than be consumed by waiting for the next pop-up.
Being an episodic title, the pricing and release schedule of D4 is going to play intimately into its success. Annoyingly, neither Microsoft nor Access themselves would comment on how that kind of nitty-gritty is going to work. Get that right and D4 could well find itself with a winning formula.
D4 is coming to Xbox One sometime soon.