Inversion preview

Inversion is Saber Interactive's latest shooter, a gravity-bending affair scheduled to arrive on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in February 2012. My previous look at Inversion only gave me time to form a first impression; however, I recently had another opportunity to play the game first hand, giving me a stronger sense of what Sabre is up to with its next title.

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Inversion's story focuses on a young cop, Davis Russel, and his partner, Leo Delgado, who are on their way home after a tough day of crime fighting. Then, aliens invade the planet along with gravity-bending technology, causing worldwide chaos and destruction. Russel finds that his wife has been killed and his daughter has gone missing, just before he and Delgado are imprisoned by the aliens. The two escape from prison, and players embark on a quest to find out what's happened to Russel's daughter. While relatively standard faire, Inversion's narrative gives players a clear-cut motivation for all the alien corpses they'll leave behind.

At first glance, Inversion may seem like just another cover-based shooter that borrows heavily from the Gears of War design ethos. Sabre Interactive doesn't shy away from this comparison; however, they quickly clarify that what sets Inversion apart from its brethren is that it gives players the ability to manipulate and interact with gravity in a handful of fun and interesting ways. While the portion that I played at the Ignite event was set in an urban environment, the most recent level that I played showed off a cavernous, lava-filled area that the aliens had taken over for habitation.

Early on, players will get access to a device that allows players to tweak gravity in various ways. This so-called Gravlink device is Inversion's bread and butter. In the recent demo, the Gravlink could be toggled between high and low gravity settings, each with its own set of associated powers. One of the low-gravity abilities available was the ability to create a large anomaly with reduced gravity that everything caught within it (including enemies) to float. This proved very handy in removing enemies from cover. Low-gravity mode can also be used to tether and throw objects or enemies, which is also handy when deaing out the hurt.

I also encountered a couple of enemy captains in the latest demo, who are elite alien soldiers that will use their own Gravlink devices against you in combat. These captains were able to use the Gravlink's grapple and throw abilities to hurl debris at my player. Hunkered down behind cover that was slowly disintigrating under enemy fire, I was pleasantly dismayed to note that these elite enemies could also unleash their own low-gravity anomalies on me, causing me to float helplessly skyward as I returned fire while trying to dodge incoming bullets.

I only got to experiment a bit with the Gravlink's high-gravity mode, which can be used to cause suspended objects to fall. In the heat of combat, it can also be used to create a high-gravity anomaly, which brings all enemies inside its radius to their knees for a brief time, making for easy pickings.

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Gravitational curiousities also permeate Inversion's level design. Vector shifts, which can turn an area's wall into its new floor, come in both static and dynamic varieties. Vector shifts are represented by glowing nodes in the environment. When stepped on, the player is reoriented, standing on a floor that was previously a ceiling. Battles occasionally began with the opposing force standing on a wall, but stepping on a nearby node can reorient the player to the same gravitational plane as his enemies.

Zero-gravity anomalies also make an appearance. They're basically large areas in which gravity has been permanently reduced. Though I didn't get to play through any of these levels firsthand, the action forces the player to float from cover to cover while engaging hostiles.

My hands-on time with Inversion has done a lot to dispel the concern that the various gravity-based mechanics are simply gimmicks. In practice, the game's clever implementation of gravity mechanics, in both the level design and minute-to-minute combat, made the various battlefields less predictable than in other cover-based shooters, and added some interesting flavor to the alien altercations.

Inversion isn't due out until February 7, 2012 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but we'll be keeping an eye on this one as its release draws closer. We've been told that more details about Inversion's cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes will be revealed at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.