Inversion [Preview] – Third-person gravity bender
The last time we previewed Inversion was way back at E3 2011, when we witnessed a romp around an underground magma chamber while bastardising the rules of gravity to suit our destructive needs. During that preview we essentially categorised it as a Gears of War knock-off with gravity bending strapped on for a touch of diversity.
However, take those gravity rules (or lack of) into multiplayer and you’ve got something that is quite different from the norm. At first things look distinctly normal; action is played from the familiar over-the-shoulder third-person perspective, guns and characters are brawnier than a post-gym Hulk and maps have that same glow and gloss so readily associated with sci-fi shooters.
A few moments in and the ability to control gravity soon opens up the possibilities beyond the familiar cover > shoot > change cover > reload and repeat. Each player has a GravLink which can either lessen or exaggerate gravity, a click of a button changing which of the two settings you want to employ. Firing the Gravlink sends out a blast (blue for decrease, red for increase) that affects only the radius of impact – meaning two adjacent areas could house opposing gravity fields.
Of course, being polar opposites means the two options have completely different tactical uses. Decreasing gravity causes anything in the vicinity to raise off the floor and float until the effect wears off. Any rocks, crates and the like suspended in mid-air can be grabbed and thrown at enemies as a tidy extra to your normal ammo and/or a handy distraction to give yourself time to get out of danger.
Its best feature, though, is that it also causes any players caught within it to float. Said player/s cannot escape the gravitational field until it expires, but they can still shoot, switch weapons and reload. However, in our experience so far, the sudden change is so disorientating that by the time you’ve identified the attacker that blasted you they’ve already unloaded a clip of lead into your face and dispatched of you before you can retaliate.
Where low gravity was consistently most helpful was when we were being attacked by a player intent on constantly taking up the same sniping position on top of a high building. Instead of sneaking around the back or beating him at his own game, the best tactic was to fire a low-gravity blast at his general location and watch as he floated up from cover. A sniper rifle is far less effective when you’re dangling seven feet in the air and struggling to face in the right direction.
High gravity has the opposite effect, pinning players to the floor and rendering them unable to even crawl to safety. Attacking from such a position is slightly easier than when trying to deal with low gravity as you’re not dealing with a third-dimension of movement, but there’s no escaping the fact that you’re a sitting duck for guns, grenades and melee attacks from behind.
Upon starting a match your GravLink is limited to a single shot (that’s high OR low gravity, they both use the same ammo), meaning matches remain very much in shooter territory rather than devolve into random spamming of sensory-overloading gravity changes. Pickups are littered throughout the level that increase your GravLink ammo but (on the map we played) they were few and far between and the tight layout made them difficult to obtain without crossing paths with at least a couple of foes.
Namco told us that some maps allow you to completely shift the gravitational pull entirely, transforming what was the ceiling or wall into the new floor. How exactly that will work will be very interesting to see, especially in terms of how each surface is designed with cover and interesting layouts in mind. If done properly, these kinds of switches could see each interior map play out as four maps with the floor, ceiling and two walls providing very different gameplay scenarios.
If you read our E3 preview then you’ll know gravity is the key theme that runs throughout the entire game, not just the multiplayer. Our multiplayer session was filled out with a romp through the game’s opening couple of chapters in which we learn aliens are attacking the planet, they’ve brought the gravity weapons with them and it’s our job to save the world while looking for our lost daughter. Subtle stuff.
Epic, is probably the world that best describes the opening moments as you watch entire buildings crumble in the face of sudden gravitational switches and terrified civilians running for their lives from the invaders. Those invaders look very much like a cross between Gears of Wars’ COG members (further emphasising the ‘Epic’) and the cast of Mad Max; complete with bulging necks, tree trunk sized biceps and a post-apocalyptic dress sense.
The early game is more concerned with teaching you the ropes than it is with letting you run wild with all manner of sci-fi weaponry and GravLinks, but it still packs a decent punch and demonstrates some good use of destructible cover and a range of environments. One such example of both is a scene inside an apartment building whose plaster walls are very quickly destroyed in a mass of bullets, turning what was a series of rooms into one big open space littered with debris.
Our demo ends shortly after we’re captured and sent to a prison camp in which humans are being put to work as slaves and forced to mine the area for whatever it is the invaders are looking for (that much isn’t clear yet).
Inversion has come on a long way since we saw it at E3, the graphics have been polished up to the point where the game looks as good as pretty much any 360 third-person shooter, and the gravity abilities seem to be balanced to the point where they’re a nice extra but not essential for victory (in multiplayer, at least). How the single player manages to balance all of its elements, while consistently offering new challenges and gameplay scenarios, will be key though.
In short, I’m much more impressed with it now than I was nine months ago. The game’s developers, Saber Interactive, have messed with the laws of the universe before in the time-bending TimeShift. Unfortunately, the results there were decidedly mixed; so here’s hoping gravity is better suited to standing the test of time.