Review Price to be confirmed
Inversion - Gears of War with gravity guns?
Inversion. It’s a fascinating name for a game, suggesting all kinds of
alluring reversals to the fertile imagination. Is it our concept of
gaming that will be inverted? Our expectations from a genre? Well no,
Inversion is actually a fairly by-the-rules co-operative third-person
shooter in most regards. Except for its gravity…
Inversion’s tag-line states that “the laws of gravity were meant to be broken”. And when you think about it, that opens up some pretty cool potential. The question is whether this Namco-Bandai game can live up to it, so we went hands-on to find out.
After an impressive in-engine intro sequence that shows off some breathtaking cityscapes, you’re launched right into the thick of the action, defending what could be any generic American city from a brutish enemy force. Rather than the common monsters, aliens or terrorists, this time we’re dealing with time-travelling humans from the future – but don’t worry, that’s pretty much given away in the intro so we’re not spoiling anything here.
Speaking of spoiling, it’s impossible not to draw parallels with Gears of War (GOW), which this game resembles in so many ways. You play with a squad of two rather than four and the characters are cops rather than soldiers, but they’re still the same military-haircut, muscular, wise-cracking hero types, and the shoot-from-cover mechanics feel eminently familiar.
For better or worse, many enemies also resemble the humanoid Locust - and are every bit as brutish, mowing down innocent civilians while they beg for mercy. Some impressive bosses do mix things up though. The environments, meanwhile, may appear to offer GTA-style openness, but actually move you down relatively narrow corridors with the occasional invisible barrier spoiling the immersion a little.
What saves Inversion from being branded a ‘simple’ GOW clone is the presence of highly destructible environments and of course its gravity mechanic, which we’ll get to in a bit. Cover is rarely cover for long as crates, pillars and barriers get reduced to kindling by enemy fire, forcing a more dynamic pace. Of course this works against enemies too, and sometimes you can get fairly creative with your solutions using the scenery. For example, pumping enough lead into a support pillar behind an enemy may cause the roof it’s supporting to come crashing down on the unlucky brute.
Graphics are arguably better than the first GOW, but not as polished as GOW 3. Still, the large, detailed environments and smooth animation mean this is still one good-looking game. It’s accompanied by a soundtrack that matches the game’s pacing well.
Physics are an odd mix between hyper-real and obviously not. For example, you can bring down sections of buildings, shoot the headlights out of cars and even blow them up with repeated shots; but most of the windows and light-bulbs use bullet-proof glass, vans are impervious to rockets, and trash cans don’t move an inch even when you shoot them point blank with a shotgun. On the other hand the behaviour of enemies - and your team-mate’s AI when he’s not controlled by a human friend - is reasonably realistic, except in the nonetheless entertaining stealth sections which can feel a bit like early Metal Gear Solid.
Naturally, the single most interesting thing about Inversion is its gravity mechanic, where everything starts floating into the air when the gravity is turned off. In the opening level you’ll see entire sky-scrapers floating in the sky, which is a singularly impressive sight. However, it only really starts to have an impact on gameplay when you get the grav-gun or Grappler, as it’s officially known.
To begin with, the Grappler turns loose objects in your environment into ammo. Beams, barrels and rocks can all be hurled at your enemies after making them ‘weightless’ with your blue ‘goo’ weapon, feeling very similar to the same mechanic in Valve’s Portal. Oddly enough, corpses of friend or foe can’t be hurled around, again breaking the illusion of realism.
Later on, the gravity mechanic gets incorporated into the occasional puzzle, with red gravity goo reversing the blue stuff’s weightlessness effect. In our brief time with Inversion these puzzles were consistently too simple to require much thought, but we’re fairly confident the full game will make more of its awesome gravity-defying potential when it launches in July for Xbox and PS3.