Third- and first-person shooters seem to be coming out at a torrential pace this generation, and unless you’re one of the big boys (the Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Uncharteds of the world), it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle. Does Namco-Bandi’s new gravity defying shooter Inversion have what it takes to break into the upper echelon of the genre?
Well, the jury is still out on that one, but I enjoyed my time with the game during the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con last month.
In Inversion you play as police officer Davis Russell. One day you and your partner, Leo Delgado, are on your way back to the station when suddenly and out of nowhere your city is invaded by an unknown and technologically superior force known as the Lutadore. They bring with them a weapon that allows you to control gravity itself, the Gravlink. During the initial invasion Russell’s wife is killed and his daughter is kidnapped, and now it’s up to Russell and Delgado to rescue the girl, discover exactly what the Lutadore are up to, and maybe even save the world.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here; the basic gameplay of Inversion feels similar to that found in Gears of War. The control scheme and cover system function almost identically to Epic’s blockbuster. The wrinkle in Inversion is the ability to manipulate gravity, and from what I’ve seen, that just may be enough for it to separate itself from the pack and carve its own little niche in an over-crowded genre.
In the demo I played, there were two different varieties of gravity powers available to the player- light and heavy. The light gravity makes everything in its impact radius weightless, allowing you to use the Gravlink to pick up and throw various items (rocks, exploding barrels, even enemies). The heavy gravity makes everything in its impact radius super dense, allowing you to pin enemies to the ground or pull down heavy objects to make new cover spots.
Using these two powers in conjunction opens up a lot of different and fun options while in combat. For example, let’s say there’s an enemy behind cover that you can’t quite get at. You can hit the cover with light gravity to pop him out and then you’re free to do with him what you will. You can pull him toward you and finish him with a brutal melee finisher, throw him at another enemy to take out two birds with one stone, or just toss him off a cliff; the choice is yours.
Then there’s the heavy gravity in Inversion, which may not seem quite as useful at first, but it proves itself invaluable in certain situations. If there’s a group of enemies giving you problems, hit them with a shot of heavy gravity to pin them down, and then toss a grenade toward them while they’re powerless to escape.
I think my favorite use of gravity powers that I’ve seen has to be when it’s used on liquids. Shoot light gravity at a liquid to gather it up in a ball to launch at the opposition. Now that may not sound very useful if you’re thinking “liquid” only means water, but when you realize you also have gasoline and lava at your disposal, it opens up all kinds of face-melting good times.
However, you have to be careful because your foes have the same gravity powers that you do. It’s fun to use your light gravity to float someone out of cover. It’s considerably less so when you think you’re safely behind cover and suddenly get hit the same power and are forced to float around until you’re out of the affected area.
There are also some destructible structures you can use to your advantage. Pick up and chuck something heavy (or even better, explosive) at a guard tower or bridge to take out anyone unfortunate enough to be standing on it. You can also take out bridges to cut off enemy reinforcements.
Combat takes place in 360 degrees in Inversion also. You can step into a “vector shift” to change gravity’s orientation, and using these shifts, what was once your floor can suddenly become a wall or a ceiling. This only affects you, though, so you can run into situations where you’re standing on solid ground shooting at enemies on the ceiling above you. It can put you in some “Where the hell am I getting shot from?!” moments, but it also leads to some hectic and fun scenarios that you can’t really get elsewhere.
The entire Inversion campaign is playable in co-op both online and offline. Along with that, they’re also offering up full-on 16-player online multi-player. While they haven’t announced any concrete details as of yet, it’s very easy to imagine how these gravity powers could be used in a deathmatch or capture the flag space.
I can’t help but root for games like Inversion. It’s the little guy just trying to find its foothold in a land of giants. While it doesn’t have the blockbuster name recognition of its contemporaries, it’s doing things just differently enough that if everything comes together, it could end up being something special. I’m not completely sold yet, but it’s shown enough to grab my attention. Everyone loves the underdog, right?
Inversion floats onto the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on February 7th, 2012.
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