Inversion Co-Op Hands-On Impressions -- Defying Gravity is Always Better with a FriendBy Adam Rosenberg - Posted Oct 11, 2011
I really want to be excited about Inversion, the third-person shooter from Saber Interactive built around gravity play and cover-based mayhem. The game is out in February 2012 and I've played it twice now, once at E3 using the full range of unlockable powers--it was chaotic, to say the least--and again last week, in co-op play and with a more restricted set of abilities.
The story charts protagonist Davis Russel's search for his captured daughter in the aftermath of an alien takeover of Earth. Russel's wife dies in the initial assault as he and his cop partner Leo Delgado are thrown into a prison camp. The two break out together and quickly link up with the human resistance, helping to bring the fight to the alien menace while slowly unraveling the clues that will hopefully lead to the missing girl.
It's probably important to note at this point that the aliens are big on gravity weapons. It's a central game mechanic, in fact. After Davis and Leo break free, they get their hands on Gravlinks, which are alien weapons capable of spitting out waves of high- and low-gravity force. They can only store up four shots at a time; the first two will automatically regenerate after a little while, but to completely max out the weapon's power, proper ammo drops must be collected. The high-gravity features of the Gravlink were disabled for my recent demo, offering a welcome simplification of the game's controls at this early-ish point in the game. I partnered up in co-op with a Saber rep and off we went to shoot aliens with guns and gravity beams.
At this particular point in the story, our two heroes are headed to meet with Banks, a hardened resistance soldier who may have some information concerning the whereabouts of Davis' daughter. First, however, we need to fight through a crowd of angry aliens armed with Gravlinks of their own. Cover is key in Inversion, much like it is in the Gears of War games. In fact, the icon that pops up at the bottom of the screen indicating when you can perform contextual actions with A button presses (on an Xbox 360 controller) is identical to the one used in Gears. Stand out in the open for too long though and you will be brought down, forcing your partner to come and revive you.
The Gravlink has limited firepower when all is said and done. It's much better for stunning enemies momentarily by setting them afloat, though they'll eventually get their bearings and start firing in mid-air. You can also use the low-grav shot on objects within the environment. Barrels and other rubble can of course be picked up and thrown. So too can various liquids; fire some low-grav into liquid matter-- preferably flammable liquid matter--collect the floating sphere using your Gravlink and fire it off into a nearby crowd of enemies for a satisfying explosion of flame and virtual death.
My co-op partner and I work our way through the first group, eventually arriving at a glowing, blue force stream that appears to connect the floor we're standing on with the wall adjacent to it. Stepping into that zone has a dramatic effect on the world, shifting it so that the former "wall" is now a "floor." There will apparently be many such moments scattered throughout the game; play is relatively unaffected in that you simply have a new landscape to navigate, but visually at least, it's a really cool effect.
The fighting continues into the streets of this battered fictional city, until Davis and Leo reach a large open area in front of a tall apartment building. Banks is here, pinned down behind the wrecked shells of former cars by a mortar that's spewing a constant stream of death from inside the building. He's going to need our help to take care of this thing. Davis and Leo are just as fragile as any other human, but in this particular situation, they have help in the form of a steady supply of rocket-propelled grenades.
We advance on the apartment building, moving forward from cover to cover as alien grunts stream in to protect the artillery emplacement. Wrecked cars are not impenetrable, it should be noted; I was downed at least once by enemy fire after crouching too close to a car's former driver's side window. This is a videogame though, and a demo of an unreleased videogame for that matter, so victory was assured from the start. Davis and Leo successfully rout the enemy forces by using rockets to take out the mortar emplacement. The day is won, but the war is far from over.
Walking away, I couldn't help but feel like I'd played this game before. Gears of War immediately sprung to mind, as did the LucasArts world-shaping third-person shooter, Fracture. My hope is that this game falls closer to the former than the latter, but I'm still not sold enough on Inversion's grav-weapons gimmick to see how it will sustain an entire game.