E3 2011: Inversion Hands-On Preview – Dancing on the Ceiling
Written Wednesday, June 22, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
A cursory glance at Inversion might lead you to think that the game is about as generic as a third-person shooter can get, but that would be a foolhardy snap judgement. Granted the game has a cover system and superficially it does look like the majority of shooters out there on the market, but like developer Saber Interactive's previous shooter effort Timeshift, Inversion has a game-changing mechanic of its own, granted to the player via the medium of the 'Gravlink', your all-purpose gravity manipulating device that can both lift and bring down certain objects.
Taking the role of cop and family man Davis Russel with his partner Leo Delgado, you'll use the Gravlink to aid you in making your way through shifting environments as gravity flips and forces you to switch planes, meaning that enemies walking on vertical walls can attack you while you're dealing with bad guys in front of you on the horizontal ground. It's a bit like Dark Void then, we thought. Rest assured though that Inversion is not quite like Dark Void and the Gravlink makes for some interesting gameplay scenarios.
With Russel's daughter missing and a once peaceful city under threat, you'll step into the breach to save the day, utilising a combination of gravity-defying tactics and conventional weaponry. Our hands-on begins with Russel and Delgado pinned down behind cover, fighting against bulky, heavily armed enemies and emaciated miners wielding shovels and pickaxes. Why we're being attacked by such foes, we don't know, but evidently some exposition and story will help answer our questions in the full game. Interactive objects glow white, so you know exactly what you can and can't throw around or interact with. Plucking a giant boulder from out of the air, we hurl it towards a rooftop flanking the edge of the narrow canyon that lies ahead, taking out the larger enemies, then use the assault rifle to pick off the other smaller ones running towards us.
Inversion's controls are intuitive and easy to pick up like any third-person shooter worth its salt, yet there's sudden changes in gravity to keep you on your toes, so one second you'll be engaging in straightforward gunplay and the next you'll be trying to control your inertia, floating around while still aiming and shooting. As far as the mechanics go, everything works nice and fluidly in Inversion, and Russel is capable of diving to avoid incoming attacks and thrusting objects all over the place using the Gravlink is enjoyable. Killing enemies is also as satisfying as it should be, with blood aplenty and severed limbs floating around in zero gravity. You can also grab bodies and throw them around too if you get fed up of throwing rocks, barrels and other flotsam and jetsam around.
Other junctures in which the Gravlink comes into play includes smashing our way through a blocked passageway, chucking and shooting explosive canisters, and if you reverse its gravitational pull, you can increase the force, bringing objects down to earth. Changing the Gravlink's output is just a button press away and the unit's screen on Russel's back switches from the default blue to red, indicating that you can bring stuff down. During a shootout, we use the secondary function to weigh down some heavy crates suspended above our head, creating some quick makeshift cover as more enemies run in and snipers attempt to zone in on us from a rope bridge up ahead. Acquiring a scoped weapon of our own, we're able to dispatch the snipers and make a move before our cover is chipped away and destroyed. That's right, Inversion has destructible environments, so you'll need to keep moving between cover. Couple that with attackers coming at you from all sides and shifting planes, and you have a shooter that demands you keep your wits about you.
Glowing paths trailing up certain walls indicate designated parts where you can turn the level that you're standing upon, so one minute you'll be standing facing one way and the next you'll be flying up the wall and standing on it, shifting your perspective, ready to face the enemies that were previously attacking you, seemingly stuck to the walls. It's mind-bending gravity-defying stuff and it keeps things interesting, that's for sure. You can pick up bad guys too and hold them up for Leo to shoot them, or you can shoot them yourself, so that good old Gravlink is a versatile tool enabling you to manipulate gravity at will. It's Inversion's X-factor, in essence.
Inversion is shaping up to be an enjoyable third-person shooter with a solid cover mechanic, destructible environments and a gravity manipulating twist that should help in keeping the gameplay fresh. Whether Saber Interactive can spin out the Gravlink mechanics for the entire duration of the game is really the test as to whether Inversion will be able to cut the mustard though, and it'll be interesting to see what other tricks, puzzles and unique gameplay moments the developer can come up with to justify the gravity flipping madness. It's possible that there'll be only so much object hurling, plane-switching and floating you can do before the Gravlink grows tired, so we hope to see some inventive uses for the device in the full game. Nevertheless, with co-op support for the campaign and competitive multiplayer, Inversion may be able to offer something a bit different in what is a genre crowded with great games, albeit ones without crazy, constantly changing gravity.
Inversion is preparing to float into stores on February 7th, 2012.