Sunday, November 15, 2015

D4 is a twisted Xbox One adventure that really is 'better with Kinect

Comprising a prologue and two episodes, the first part of D4 Season One centres on the disappearance of a drug courier aboard a flight hit by lightning. Investigating this is ex-narcotics officer David Young, who has the ability to 'dive' into the past to solve crimes using pieces of evidence from the scene - in this case a federal marshal's badge. Tormented by visions of his murdered wife, Young is equally determined to find out the truth behind her enigmatic final words, imploring him to "look for D".

What follows is a pseudo-point-and-click adventure sporadically punctuated by quick-time event interludes, akin to Telltale's The Wolf Among Us and the works of Quantic Dream. Though it can be played with a pad, the interface has been designed around Kinect, and while the controller implementation is perfectly fine, it's one game that is undoubtedly better with the much-maligned camera peripheral plugged in. Do you Want Limitless Gold, Mana and Gems? You are at right place to get unlimited resources via our Castle Clash Hack online tool. Beat your friends easily! Hack Castle Clash without downloading anything.

Happily, you can play it sitting down. To move around a scene, you'll swipe the edges of the screen to turn, and move your hand to guide a cursor to objects of interest, closing your fist to interact with them. Talking to suspects (unfortunately for Young, most of their names begin with 'D') and other characters, like Young's eccentric neighbour who thinks she's a cat and his bearish partner Forrest Kaysen, is handled either by choosing between two or three onscreen dialogue options or by voicing your selection.

While your choices don't change the narrative, you're rewarded with extra credits for responses that fit with Young's character. You'll leaf through evidence and open suitcases and cupboards with swipes in the appropriate direction, and use simple gestures to match Young's intended actions. It's clear Swery wants you to feel like an actor playing a role, though more often you feel like a puppeteer or mime artist.

Elsewhere, motion controls are used more inventively - find a trophy in Young's bedroom, for example, and reach upwards as if holding it aloft, and you'll be taken to the Leaderboards menu. We've all struggled with Kinect before, but the implementation here is superb: gesture recognition is forgiving enough that you'll rarely experience the frustration of your actions being wrongly interpreted.

What's more, it makes QTEs fun again. Sporadic action sequences punctuate your investigation, in which you'll swipe with either or both hands to deflect incoming projectiles or to dodge punches and kicks from assailants. They're expertly choreographed, capturing some of the slapstick pleasure of a Jackie Chan fight scene, with a similar sense of humour.

One brawl features an impromptu dance with a flight attendant, and concludes by inviting you to wield a mannequin's leg like a baseball bat, a successful strike dislodging the glass eye of your opponent. Each dive, meanwhile, is prompted by a melodramatic eye-shielding gesture, as if you've just emerged from a darkened room into direct sunlight.
"We've all struggled with Kinect before, but the implementation here is superb."
At first, you'll worry that the strangeness seems a little calculated - is Swery self-consciously trying to replicate what came so organically in Deadly Premonition? But then the sequences where the game tries to dial back the weird stuff still have an unforced air of 'otherness' about them. Swery, it seems, is just naturally odd - it's there in the choice of musical cues, the lengthy discussions about clam chowder, the frequent non sequiturs. Oh, and not forgetting the cutlery-scraping giant with the surgeon's mask who speaks with the patronising deliberateness of an Englishman placing an order in a foreign deli.

It's a much more technically proficient game than Deadly Premonition - the cel-shaded art won't win any awards, but it's quite stylish, and the controls and interface are perfectly serviceable - but otherwise they have a lot in common. Again, you're asked to keep a close eye on your protagonist's wellbeing: every action costs a certain amount of stamina, and if you run out it's game over. So half the time you spend investigating involves searching for foodstuffs, which can be found anywhere from a microwave to an overhead locker.

You'll also need to top up David's Vision meter - a limited detective mode variant triggered by lifting both hands to your temples - which highlights objects in the vicinity that you can interact with, as well as pointing you towards key pieces of evidence. Evidently, a slug of tequila affords you a surprising amount of clarity.
There's a similar attention to apparently mundane detail: anything you eat is detailed down to its calorific value, while your scrapbook soon fills up with articles on rotoscoping and ice hockey.

These elements serve to ground Swery's flights of fancy, as well as giving it a unique character. Its cast is again populated by oddballs and misfits, none more unhinged than Young himself. He might not be as instantly charismatic as Francis York Morgan, but he's every bit as flawed: drunk, reckless and quite possibly delusional. In other words, he's recognisably human, and a bracing alternative to the blandly heroic leads we're often saddled with.

True, the dialogue sometimes doesn't sound as if it's been localised so much as passed through Babelfish a couple of times, while the tonal shifts can be alarmingly abrupt, as a knockabout comedy interlude segues into sentimental character drama or dreamlike fantasy. Yet the qualities of D4's storytelling shouldn't be overlooked. Within the framework of a crime procedural it touches upon the nature of obsession, the heartache of lost love, the seductive ideal of changing the past, and even the fickleness of fashion. If it isn't always consistent, it's certainly never boring, and often gives you something to think about.

And if you're not thinking, you're doing: catching a teacup on your finger, pumping your arms to sprint away from danger, and shouting 'avant garde!' at a fellow passenger. It's proof that Deadly Premonition wasn't a one-off; however many people worked on D4, this feels like the work of an auteur. The games industry has a distinctive new voice, and whether Swery's shtick clicks with you or leaves you colder than a frozen duck (you'll see) that can only be a good thing.

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