D4 Deftly Delivers Daring Drama

Dark dreams don't die.


During the D4 demo, David Young, the game’s protagonist, used a severed mannequin leg to hit a baseball into a drug dealer’s face, dislodging the dealer’s glass eye. To be fair, Young was acting in self-defense since the one-eyed dealer was attacking people by throwing baseballs. Did I mention this all took place on an airplane?

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself, let me start over. D4 is a third-person adventure game from developers Access Games and Hidetaka Suehiro, the same creative minds behind Deadly Premonition. Both games are about investigating a murder, and both take their otherwise grim subject matter in some very, very strange directions.

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D4, or "Dark Dreams Don’t Die," stars David Young, a man investigating his wife’s murder. Among the few clues he has to work with is a cryptic message from his late wife which reads, "Look for 'D.'" It’s not much to go on, but our hero has an ace up his sleeve: time travel. Of course, this time travel doesn’t happen all willy-nilly; it’s only possible by way of mementos: key items which take Young back in time to meet with people who are somehow connected to the murder.

The demo opened with Young appearing inside of an airplane restroom. He had just jumped back in time using a sheriff’s badge belonging to Derek Buchanan (note the 'D') and was now looking to interrogate its owner. From here, the game branched out into three simple activities: examining the environment with a point-and-click interface, conversations with dialog options, and combat with quick time events. All three were easy to understand--what really took this game off the rails was the plot.

After Young exited the bathroom, he rolled up on Buchanan with a barrage of questions. Understandably, Buchanan fired back with some of his own and by choosing the most appropriate responses Young’s sync rate would increase: a metric which will impact your overall score at the end of the game. Before their argument could get too heated, however, a hyper-flamboyant fashion designer and his "wife" (the mannequin I referenced earlier) jumped up and started a monologue about how they would redecorate the plane.

As this was happening, a drug dealer who was, presumably, being transported by Buchanan slipped out of his handcuffs, kicked the sheriff to death, and tore through the cabin tossing suitcases and people all about. This triggered the combat portion of the demo, which was handled mainly through gesture commands using the Kinect--though Suehiro did note the game can be play using only the controller. It’s important to note that a missed command doesn’t mean instant failure, but does take away some of Young’s health.

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Ultimately, the pair ended up in that same baseball standoff scenario, and Young emerged the winner. The entire sequence was just one insane act on top of another. But it was the little details--like when Young caught his attacker’s suitcase, twirled, and slid it neatly into an overhead compartment--that made the comedy work. It felt as if all the characters knew, on some level, they were inside a video game and were just hamming it up for our enjoyment.

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