Still quite a way from release, Namco Bandai Games has made the smart decision of avoiding going up against the likes of Gears of War 3 in the latter half of this year, instead settling on a February 2012 release date for the promising Inversion. This decision has been made in spite of the videogame being ‘content complete’, as Electronic Theatre has been reliably informed is the case, but that doesn’t mean the team at Saber Interactive have closed down their workstations and moved on to something else. Instead, the next few months will be used to add polish to Inversion as it hopes to grab the post-holiday audience after that first 2012 paycheck has arrived.
Coming from a studio whose portfolio is comprised almost solely of high-profile shooting videogames, though reception to each has been mixed, suspicions that Inversion may have come from a promising angle may well be justified. And having recently had the opportunity to get hands-on with Inversion, Electronic Theatre is happy to officially confirm that ‘promising’ is pretty much the most accurate term that can be used to surmise Inversion at this point. It’s a videogame experience that could potentially tread brand new ground for third-person shooters, but in the same breath, it could be seen as little more than a single mechanic as a selling point that’s underdeveloped and not strong enough to support the entire videogame by itself. Of course, we’re all hoping this isn’t going to be another Timeshift.
As would be expected, Inversion follows the modern template for third-person shooters established by Gears of War. The cover-based combat is complimented by destructible scenery and plenty of interactive environmental elements. In one instance the player is entering a courtyard with a rope bridge overhead, complete with explosive canisters. Of course, the expected result of shooting the barrels would be an explosion taking out the enemies on the bridge, but here in Inversion, tactical use of your powers can deliver a knock-on effect that takes out even more enemies.
These powers are of course related to the manipulation of gravity. Players have the permanent ability o push and pull objects, using bricks as weaponry or moving platforms to prevent enemy walkways. Just as has been seen in many titles previously, such as Second Sight, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy and even BioShock, the ability to manipulate standard objects with what effectively amounts to telekinesis powers opens the door for plenty of tactical options, but Inversion doesn’t stop there. It’s not just objects within the levels that the player can manipulate, but the levels themselves.
Throughout the levels players will encounter alternate gravity fields (symbolised by pulsing red or blue energy) which can alter many properties of the game, not only your movement but also the descent of a grenade. Combat on this alternate battlefield is reminiscent of Prey: fighting at 90º angles demands a little bit more forethought than a simple gunfight. However, even in that most basic gunplay Inversion is already looking impressive, with a dismemberment system devised to give you many options for taking on the intelligent opposition. Many enemies are only armed with melee weapons, and so will do their best to outflank and sneak up on you. Better equipped enemies can also use gravity against you.
Not playable in the build available to Electronic Theatre were the multiplayer modes, co-operative gameplay and the zero-gravity sections of the videogame, which do look interesting. Closely resembling those same moments from Dead Space 2 at present, it’ll be interesting to see just how well Saber Interactive inject their tactical gravity mechanic into environments where, supposedly, none exists.
Set to begin its assault on the action videogame scene early next year, Inversion is already looking like a star in the making. While the visual quality may not stand up to the blockbuster presentation of Gears of War 3 and the alternate gameplay modes remain under wraps at present, the promise that Inversion will be an interesting gameplay experience remains. Whether or not it can sustain such impressive qualities throughout the course of a ten-plus hour campaign remains to be seen, but once the hype of the busy fourth quarter of 2011 dies down, Electronic Theatre can’t wait to find out.