It may not be fair to call Saber Interactive’s third-person shooter Inversion “Gears of War with gravity play,” but it’s also an accurate description based on what was shown at our E3 2011 demo. Your fighters are a bit more agile than Marcus Fenix and his beefy companions, but there’s a sticky cover mechanic, a roadie run, and an abundance of enemies to make your life miserable should you spend too much time in their direct line of fire. Thankfully, it’s not a perfect replica. A lot of your precious cover will crumble under sustained fire, buildings and other parts of the environment can be blown apart, and the world has gone topsy-turvy following an alien invasion that’s left Earth’s gravitational field feeling a bit under the weather.
Gravity is actually a key gameplay component, thanks to Inversion’s cool Gravlink gun, which is with you throughout the game. While the weapon initially has just one setting, it’s not long before you unlock the ability to switch between low-gravity and high-gravity firing modes. One blast from this puppy will alter the way gravity interacts with its target. Low-gravity mode, for example, is often used to clear debris from a blocked path or temporarily throw off enemy by lifting the shooter off the ground. There are more novel uses as well, thanks to the weapon’s grapple feature. Fire a low-grav burst into a pool of lava, for example, and then capture the ball of molten rock that floats upward with your grapple. Find a nearby group of enemies and give them the gift of a flaming ball of death.
High-gravity mode has its uses as well. Weaker enemies will simply be crushed alive while the stronger alien soldiers will still be knocked off their feet. Suspended crates seen dangling by a rope during our demo could be knocked down to the ground with a high-grav blast, creating a cover point where there wasn’t one before. Saber wants players to experiment with the Gravlink’s unique features, so expect a lot of flexibility.
The gravity play isn’t just restricted to your toy, however. The invaded planet Earth has been pretty much ripped apart by the alien weapons, some of which are similar to (or the same as) your Gravlink. As a result, gravity tends to fluctuate on a minute-to-minute basis. It’s not uncommon to find yourself fighting your way forward along the side of a demolished building, while enemies fire at you from the walls and/or ceiling. To them, it’s just the ground. You’ll reach points where these “Vector Shifts” are triggered as you progress through each level, and it’s a cool effect to see in action.
While there are certainly elements of Inversion that felt a little bit cookie-cutter in our E3 demo, the unique gravity play features kept it feeling fresh. The game will support drop-in/drop-out coop and competitive multiplayer for up to 16. The gravlink is there too, along with some fun uses of the game’s unique features. We didn’t see it in action, but Hourglass is a King of the Hill-style match type in which the gravity orientation of the map shifts whenever the capture point moves.
Whether these elements will be enough to set Inversion apart from other third-person sci-fi shooters remains to be seen. The best that can be said for now is that the E3 demo for this new IP managed to provide memorable good time amidst an ocean of other games. Look for Inversion in stores for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on February 7, 2012.