Inversion quick play preview

Inversion is a game that doesn’t so much defy your expectations as - literally - turn them upside down. What looks like a straightforward third-person shooter in the Gears of War mould turns out to have a distinctive twist.

Using advanced, alien technology you can harness the forces of gravity, sending enemies drifting helpless in the air, crushing them under their own weight, and even battling up the sides of skyscrapers. In Inversion, the laws of physics can be treated more like guidelines.

Name:

Inversion

What platform is it on?

Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

When's it due out?

February 2012

What other game is it like?

Gears of War, Vanguard, Prey

Does it use any new tech like 3D, PlayStation Move or Kinect for Xbox 360?

No

The pitch

Don’t just defy gravity. Command it. Learn to maneuver and shoot in an ever-changing state of global gravity, including weightless gameplay in zero gravity. Control gravitational forces using your Gravlink device to either increase or decrease the amount of gravity on a given target. Command gravity to crush objects in your way, float enemies into range or even pick up cars to use them as mobile cover. With bullets flying, seek cover objects in the environment or manipulate objects to create cover for yourself.

Inversion has been specifically designed to allow for maximum destructibility using the “Havok Destruction” module. Blast through the environments, target your enemies’ cover blasting it to bits or even knock down overhead objects to crush the enemy below.

The storyline

Take on the role of a young father and husband, Davis Russel, who finds himself thrust into war when his peaceful city is invaded by an unknown enemy. With his daughter missing and conventional weapons and tactics all but useless, this ordinary cop and his partner Leo Delgado will rise up to heed the call of duty, master the fundamental forces of gravity and save the world.

Trailers, demos and video

Our first impressions

At Gamescom we had time for a lengthy demo of an early part of the game, followed by a chance to sample Inversion’s gameplay for ourselves. The initial impression was of a solid but rather cliched Gears of War clone - think meathead heroes, nasty aliens, big guns and a whole lot of duck-and-cover shooting, all very much in the vein of Epic’s hit series.

However, we knew there was more to expect from this one. Saber Interactive’s last big game was the underrated TimeShift - itself a slightly generic first-person shooter made more exciting by a cool time-control mechanic. Saber seems to be repeating the same trick with Inversion, but here it’s all about the gravity.

Sick of those Locust-a-likes hiding behind that crumbling wall? Smack the right-bumper on your 360 gamepad, and you lob a kind of gravity grenade at the cowardly custards, levitating them into the air so you can blast at them with impunity. Run up to a bunch of ‘em, click both bumpers, and you send them flying off in all directions. You can use your gravity powers to draw weapons towards you and grab them - handy if you’re low on ammo - or to lift objects and use them as projectiles, or even as a means of mobile cover. Later on, we’re assured, you’ll be able to lock onto larger items and unlock a high gravity mode, which makes objects and enemies two or three times their normal weight. The bigger they are, the better they crush.

That’s not all, however. It turns out that your alien foes also use their gravity powers to get around on vertical surfaces, or even upside down. As a result, Inversion’s levels send you on a head-spinning journey up the side of skyscrapers, crashing through glass ceilings as if they were the floor, and dealing with snipers assaulting you from just about every direction imaginable. In one sequence we played we made our way up, through and over a building, before joining in a firefight between marines and aliens on the streets below. It’s a little disappointing that the paths seem pre-determined - you can’t leap from floor to wall at any time - but it is quite spectacular, mind-boggling stuff, bringing to mind everything from the original Prey, which had it’s own wall and ceiling-walking, to the classic spinning hotel sequence in Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

And Inversion also goes big on mass destruction. While the graphics engine is Saber’s own, the game uses a new version of Intel’s Havok physics engine to maximise the mayhem, so that you can wreck whole environments then drag out chunks of scenery to hurl at your enemies. Unfortunately for you, your alien foes are similarly tooled-up, so no piece of cover is safe. And if the wall you’re cowering behind isn’t blasted to smithereens, there’s still a chance that you’ll find yourself being floated out from behind it.

The whole game has been designed for two-player co-op, either split-screen or online, and Saber expects players to find plenty of fascinating strategies where one uses gravity while the other blasts away. We can also expect some 16-player competitive action, with which Inversion’s rich toolkit promises to be a blast. We still need convincing that Inversion has the weapons, the enemies and the distinctive design to be a truly great shooter, but at the worst it looks like a smarter-than-average clone with a genuinely clever twist.

Please note

Gamescom is a fantastic chance to see the latest games due out over the coming year or beyond, as well as letting us get a glimpse into what is going to be the big titles and the ones to avoid like the plague.

The big problem however, is that for most of the titles that glimpse is, well, just that. At the show you'll get to play a level here or a multiplayer map there or even have a product manager walk you through a specific level.

So, with that in mind, we present you with our Quick Play.

What we've done is broken down the key facts you need to know and then given you our first impressions based on around 15 minutes of gaming. For us, that 15 minutes isn't enough to do a First Look review, and especially not a review. How can you rate a game that offers over 30 hours of gaming based on just 15 minutes of play? However, it should hopefully give you an idea, a feeling, a notion of what to expect come launch day.