Inversion is Namco Bandai's "not gimmicky" third-person shooter that combines bullets with gravity. The game's protagonist, Davis Russel, is armed with a Gravlink that alters the levels of gravity around him and sends out low-g forces. The way gravity is used isn't always conveyed with slow-motion walking like you would imagine walking on the moon. Instead their interpretation of gravity as a weapon is more like BioShock's telekinesis or Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun.
Inversion begins as an unknown enemy force, presumably aliens, have invaded somewhere, we're not actually positive it's earth. The enemies are using gravity against the people they are attacking. Davis is trying to get back to his family but tragically gets home too late; his wife is dead and his daughter is missing.
In the presentation they showed us some intense battle scenes. One sequence had Davis fighting through a level without any solid ground.He just floated from one piece of floating cover to the next, grabbing on and shooting the equally weightless enemies near by. In the next sequence they showed us Davis used his gravity defying powers to summon cars and send them hurling at enemies. There will be different levels of gravity throughout the game including zero-gravity and low gravity. Only low-gravity was available in the demo I played. The enemies will also be armed with similar gravity manipulation powers but these enemies were also absent from the demo.
When I finally got my hands on the game I was told I wouldn't be able to perform such feats as throwing cars just yet but would in the final build of the game. Davis will start out with very minimal gravity abilities and his Gravlink will be upgraded as he progresses through the game. The hands-on demo was a more traditional third-person shooter map, plenty of solid ground for me to walk on. Davis, a blond guy who clearly hits the gym, is traveling with a similarly fit group of soldiers who are being attacked by the enemies, a group we don't know much about. I was encouraged by my team mates to flank the enemy on the turrets from the building ahead. I entered the building and a wave of gravity shot through the room sending both myself and enemies into the air.
Shooting enemies with a shotgun while floating has unsurprisingly the same effect as shooting an enemy with a shotgun on the ground; the only difference was the body parts kept floating. As I progressed to the turret I realized the clearly war-stricken buildings around me could be used to my advantage. Instead of shooting the dozens of enemies in front of me I shot the beams of buildings, collapsing them on top of the baddies. A much bigger enemy emerged from the rubble, at least six times the size of Davis. He was far away and I was still on the turret, hardly a fair fight.
After this part of the level, I moved onto more close range combat.
This portion of the demo played like a typical third-person shooter and to be honest, reminded me on multiple levels of Gears of War. Your weapon hub looks similar to the hub used in Gears of War with your weapons assigned to a different slot on the D-Pad. The grenades are on top, too. The gun's sight, the sound of bullets, the movement of the enemies all seemed familiar. Davis can curb-stomped enemies in the presentation. I even asked one of the developers assisting people with the game if it was built on the Unreal Engine, it wasn't. Inversion is actually built on its own engine from Saber Interactive, that hasn't been named yet.
Half-way through the demo you're introduced to gravity vectors. There are two types of vectors in the game, at least there are two we know about. Dynamic Vectors are when a surge of gravity is sent through the level altering the entire level. Suddenly side of building I was standing next to was the ground I was standing on, and it happened in real time. Visually vectors look like a cloud of blue electricity; it's hard to miss. The other kind of vectors are Static Vectors; they're when this shift occurs before you got there so you don't see the change happen.
The final part of the demo has you sniping an assortment of enemies from across a ravine. Since you're not armed with a sniper rifle just yet to you must find and then summon one using your gravity powers. The enemies were conveniently near glowing red barrels; I've played enough video games to know what red barrels mean. This sequence showed off just how destructible the world around you is. Instead of simply shooting enemies in the head I went out of my way to shoot scaffolding, beams, and barrels to cause as much chaos as possible.
Multiplayer promises to never let two players have the same experience. Gravity can alter the level around you, and since both you and your enemies have the ability to change what floats in the air there's no telling what kind of experience you'll have each time you play. There weren't any details about multiplayer given out but you can bet we'll see more as the release date gets closer. Story mode will be playable with co-op mode as well.
The cutscenes needed a few seconds to render for the textures to appear but for a game that's still a year away that's hardly a complaint. The first three seconds of the very dramatic cutscenes had the soldiers wearing texture-less onsies, a look I preferred. The most important thing I took away from the Inversion demo was you can't avoid gravity, use it to your advantage. Inversion is still in its pre-alpha stage but from what I saw it's well on its way to being what it promises, a game that will change the way we perceive shooters.
Look out for Inversion on February 7, 2012 on the Xbox 360 and PS3.