D4 on Xbox One Preview

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D4’s title (Dark Dreams Don’t Die) is enough to confuse most people. A labour of love from cult game developer SWERY and Access Games that Microsoft has decided to include as part of its Xbox One post launch release schedule.

In typical SWERY story telling, D4 makes absolutely no sense from the start. It tells the story of a time travelling detective, David Young, who receives his gift on the same day that his wife is shot dead and he somehow survives the same ordeal – even thought he was also fatally shot. It’s clear from the start that D4 is more of an interactive experience akin to the highly popular Walking Dead video-game.

The first half of the demonstration was spent getting acquainted with the different Kinect controls. It seemed to take a little while to get used to, but the idea of using different finger gestures to move and interact with the environment eventually sinks in.

There’s a fair amount of interaction within the short demo. This included being able to do minor actions, such as making the character see how he was looking on the bathroom mirror. It may seem pointless but such interactions made it possible to feel part of the story. Fans of SWERY’s work will no doubt know how well similar quirky interactions worked in Deadly Premonition and the same applies to D4.

Walking out of an air plane’s bathroom makes it possible to interact with some of the crew and passengers. Each comes with unique physical and personality traits that will make these encounters memorable. From the grumpy agent, Derek, to the fabulous designer Duncan and his life sized mannequin Sulky. How did Duncan manage to get Sulky on-board? It’s one of the many questions those who experience D4 will no doubt ask themselves. Interacting with these characters is very simple. It’s so easy that it is even feasible to do so with Kinect’s voice recognition feature. More proof that it is possible for a core video-game to work with the improved Kinect 2.0!

There’s also various “memento” items scattered around. These will work as a means for David to literally go into memories related to the story. It was mentioned that these items make it possible to jump in and out of any new memories unlocked. There’s even mementos that have no purpose in moving the story forward – but still provide those eager to explore with optional scenarios.

The final part of the demo will no doubt bring back memories of days gone by where rhythm games, like Elite Beat Agents, were highly popular on the Nintendo DS. It basically consists of David running after a criminal within the narrow space of the airplane aisle. This is a scene most are no doubt familiar with from the trailers and other media exposure. But how does it feel to actually play the fight?

It’s all happening very fast and it’s necessary to pay close attention to on-screen prompts. Initially the prompts are very simple one hand swipes. It continues to get harder until both arms and even special gestures are used. However, what truly matters is that the Kinect is highly responsive to any player actions. It worked so well that it made the fight a pleasure to experience. The icing on this hands-on fight sequence was the use of props like a baseball bat. Even performing such motions didn’t spoil the flow of the fight – since the player is given a few seconds to get into position by mimicking the pose associated with holding a baseball bat. The demonstration ended with the character getting kicked in the crotch. A fitting conclusion to what is possibly another wonderfully bizarre concoction from the house of SWERY.

What was incredible throughout all of this was the fact it was played completely whilst sitting down. No more need to worry about distance or having to stand up. If there is any software that has the potential to prove just how far Kinect has come, then this is it.

The improvement in visuals from Deadly Premonition is also a nice bonus. Especially if it still manages to captivate players in the same manner that Deadly Premonition did. The only small downside found was how linear it felt. Hopefully, it will open up once more area are revealed. D4 is certainly looking like another unique offering from SWERY. Most importantly is how it will benefit Kinect and make it more like part of the Xbox 360 experience – rather than an add-on that won’t get as much use.

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