While the original Kinect featured a low resolution camera and increased latency forcing players to commit to large sweeping movements, the new Kinect is far better at detection. Grand exaggeration isn't necessary, but it's a narrative about the device that players haven't really been presented due to the lack of dedicated software.
When he revealed the game at E3 2013, Swery described his desire to create an experience "just like watching TV, with your popcorn." Swery said he wanted players to play it casually, focusing on its story about a time-traveling detective.
That philosophy still powers the direction for D4: "I've been designing this game so people can just relax on the couch. Sitting with a popcorn bucket, eating and playing. That's the vision," Swery tells me.
Once the line thinned out and it was my turn to play D4
, also known as Dark Dreams Don't Die
, I decided to kick back and play it as casually as I could to see how well Kinect could detect my subtle motions. For the most part, slouching and flicking my wrists at the television worked. Sitting back with popcorn certainly seems like a possibility.
"I've seen two different kinds of players [playing D4
]: Ones that have never played Kinect before and those who have. Those who have used [Kinect], know how it works. They know how the controls work and [what the onscreen commands mean], those who haven't [used Kinect] may take more time to learn, but [it comes to them]." Swery adds that people tend to exaggerate the motions initially, but he's seeing both types of players ease into the game over time.
Swery is aware not everyone wants to play a game with Kinect and a new wave of Kinect-less Xbox One players are on their way to the market. For that, the game features controller support. In his personal time with the game, however, Swery says it's a 90-10 split between playing with Kinect and with the Xbox One controller. Kinect is the design core of the experience.
The game itself is as irreverent as you'd expect from a Swery piece. The lead character, a former detective named David, wakes up in his bathtub. He stumbles out of the room thanks to my swiping controls. I wave left and right to change the direction he's facing and reach out and grab to move forward. You can explore David's apartment, sit down at the table and thumb through the file that details the murder of his wife. David is a damaged soul, given the ability to travel back in time to solve murders, but not the one that impacted his life the most: His lost love.
A knock at the door brings in the crazy. Amanda [above], described as a freeloader, bursts through the door and attacks David, a living rat placed between her teeth. I swipe her arms away to dodge her moves. Using both my left and right hands, I catch thrown plates my way. Frustrated she hasn't landed a hit, Amanda spits the live rat in my direction. Rather than swipe it away, I ignore the on-screen prompt to see what happens: Disturbingly, the rat flies right into David's mouth.
The entire encounter is played off as a gag. It isn't a vicious attack, it's a comical encounter that plays out in different ways, depending on whether or not a player is successful at executing gestures. Failing the rat gesture didn't result in a level failure. Catching the rat in David's teeth, while horrifying conceptually, is a funny moment.
Even a quick glimpse at Swery's next game tells us fans of his work are in for more of the same: Off-the-wall characters in a world as bent as their own psyche. It's as weird as Deadly Premonition, which is exactly what Swery fanatics want.
D4 is expected to launch exclusively for the Xbox One sometime this year.