Now approaching its summer release, Namco Bandai Games’ Inversion is heading straight into a heavily competitive genre. While third-person action videogames come in all shapes and sizes, there are very few that manage to compete on the same level as the current-generation’s defining offering, Gears of War. Having rewritten the rulebook for the high-definition era, Epic Games’ Xbox 360 lovechild is still sitting pretty at the top of the genre pile, but while Inversion gleefully borrows from the pioneering series it also has a few ideas of its own.
The innovation of Inversion lies mostly in that of the structure of its multiplayer modes. From match types to level design, Inversion is brimming with clever design decisions which separate it from the run-of-the-mill titles. The videogame allows for up to twelve players via online or system linked networks (no split-screen option is available) and the usual deathmatch and team deathmatch gameplay modes are present, acting as a good starting point for those jumping into multiplayer for the first time, even when having played some of the campaign. Even when the basic principles of gravity switching and use of the Gravlink device is second nature, taking these skills and using them against enemies with equal sets of tactical options is always going to be a challenge.
One of the more interesting gameplay modes is known as Gravity Slaughter, which uses the Gravlink device as a central mechanic. The device functions in the same manner as normal – the blue setting reduces the gravitational pull and the red increases it – but players score additional points when killing an enemy encumbered by either effect with a melee attack. This of course leads to a constant dash to gather more Gravlink supplies, and a push/pull mechanic for exchanging of gravity blast blows; and for the opportunistic player, there’s few better sights than seeing two enemies fighting one another as one floats several feet in the air and the other is pinned to the ground unable to move.
Inversion also features a King of the Hill mode, as you might expect, but gains an additional mechanic. Once the ‘hill’ has been captured, the vector of the world changes and essentially becomes a second map. Known as Hourglass, this mode is a best-of-three rounds arrangement, and shares the unique mechanic with Grav Control, in which the player with the leading player able to manually control the change of vector.
Another unique gameplay mode is King of Gravity. Based on Halo’s Juggernaut gameplay mode, only a single player is able to carry the Gravlink at any one time. The player in control of the device is awarded a point for every kill, and all other players must hunt him/her in order to score and take the device for themselves. All players without the Gravlink must act as a team – a mechanic enforced by the loss of a point for killing another player hunting the possessor of the Gravlink – and as such a mad rush occurs whenever the current holder is removed from the action.
The maps available were clearly designed to host the gravity mechanics, rather than simply being cut from the campaign. The elegance of their presentation works in both their simplicity and complexity, as seemingly straightforward cover-based designs revolve and throw the player brand new opportunities for assault, or to take defensive vantage points. Going into Inversion’s multiplayer mode for the very first time didn’t immediately scream ‘must have’, but after just a few matches it became clear that this was more than just a tacked-on gameplay mode. If Saber Interactive’s design can develop a reliable community, Inversion is sure to become a mainstay in your action videogame multiplayer catalogue.