123 D4

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft De­vel­oper Ac­cess Games For­mat Xbox One Re­lease Out now

Xbox One

Sadly, D4’ s out­landish cliffhanger end­ing looks op­ti­mistic. Di­rec­tor Hide­taka ‘Sw­ery’ Sue­hiro has said that fu­ture episodes de­pend on sales of this open­ing sea­son, yet leader­board num­bers sug­gest it’s un­der­per­form­ing even by mod­est stan­dards. That’s no shock, be­cause D4’ s tim­ing is lousy: it’s a Kinect­con­trolled odd­ity ar­riv­ing at a time when Mi­crosoft is pitch­ing its au­di­ence big games and no gim­micks. You can’t help but won­der what went through the minds of Mi­crosoft’s ex­ec­u­tives when they saw the in­tro­duc­tion: an up­side-down ‘Mi­crosoft Stu­dios presents…’ slowly ro­tat­ing the right way up as an owl’s head does like­wise.

This is your first in­di­ca­tion that Deadly Pre­mo­ni­tion wasn’t a happy ac­ci­dent. D4 might be a very dif­fer­ent game in form and con­tent, but it’s suf­fused with the same strange­ness. It has a sim­i­lar dream­like am­bi­ence, and shares its cre­ator’s ob­ses­sion with os­ten­si­bly mun­dane yet oddly cap­ti­vat­ing de­tail, from the calorific value of the food­stuffs you con­sume to the mag­a­zine ar­ti­cles on cats, an­i­ma­tion and the Stan­ley Cup.

At first glance, PI David Young would ap­pear to be a more con­ven­tional hero than Fran­cis York Mor­gan. Yet soon he’s blow­ing pink bub­blegum and pour­ing tequila on his ce­real, de­liv­er­ing lines in a Bos­ton ac­cent that his Dur­ing the game’s var­i­ous di­a­logue se­quences – in which you can voice your replies if you so wish – you’re re­warded for pick­ing the re­sponse from the three pre­sented that’s most in keep­ing with Young’s character voice ac­tor never quite nails. The re­cent mur­der of his wife has given Young the abil­ity to time travel, us­ing key items to solve past crimes, though you’re left in doubt as to whether this is merely a delu­sion.

Young’s first dive back in time sees him in­ves­ti­gate the mid-flight dis­ap­pear­ance of a drug courier. What fol­lows is an ec­cen­tric twist on the mod­ern point-and­click – think Tell­tale Games with a sur­re­al­ist edge – with Kinect-pow­ered nav­i­ga­tion. The aim-and-grab in­ter­face is sim­ple but un­com­monly ef­fec­tive, and the con­trol scheme comes into its own dur­ing QTE ac­tion se­quences, which are well paced, en­er­get­i­cally di­rected, and in­ten­tion­ally com­i­cal. In­stead of ‘press X to Ja­son’, it’s ‘lunge for­ward to catch base­ball’, and with neg­li­gi­ble pun­ish­ment for fail­ure and gen­er­ous ges­ture recog­ni­tion, Kinect has rarely been used so well.

Mean­while, the nar­ra­tive lurches wildly from dark drama to screw­ball com­edy, with top notes of wist­ful melan­cho­lia. It’s all held to­gether by the cast, a troupe of car­i­ca­tures and grotesques who nonethe­less feel recog­nis­ably hu­man – the para­phil­iac fash­ion de­signer, the neu­rotic pas­sen­ger, the tac­i­turn mar­shal and the hot-tem­pered felon. It doesn’t al­ways work – one character’s de­liv­ery is slow enough to test your pa­tience – but th­ese idio­syn­cra­sies are all part of a sin­gu­lar, non­con­formist vi­sion. It would be a pity if this er­ratic, won­der­fully off­beat ad­ven­ture ended here.

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