E3 2011: Inversion Multiplayer Hands-On

We use gravity to our advantage while checking out some of Inversion's multiplayer offerings for the first time at E3.

We've already had a few opportunities to play Inversion this year, but it wasn't until today that we were able to see for ourselves how the upcoming sci-fi shooter might fare in multiplayer. In case you're not familiar with Inversion, this third-person shooter's most intriguing hook is that it lets you use gravity as a weapon. You can create areas of low and high gravity from range, which renders some of the tactics you might have employed in other third-person deathmatches far less useful. Stay behind cover for too long, and you might find yourself pulled out of it and into a pocket of low gravity where you make an easy and amusing target, for example.

Only one multiplayer map is being shown at E3, and although the finished game will support at least 16 players, only eight-player deathmatches are being played. The map essentially took the form of a building with a big hole down through the center of it. Around the outer edge of the map, stairways, crumbling walls, and doorways provided ample cover opportunities, while in the center a permanent area of low gravity afforded brave players a dangerously exposed but quick route up to upper levels where heavy weapons could be found.

You don't get to fly around at will in the low-gravity area. Rather, after jumping into it from one of several clearly indicated entrances, your movement is limited to floating between chunks of debris that rarely afford you enough cover to feel safe. It's a little disorienting, and the movement feels clumsy as a result, but with practice and some prior knowledge of maps (not to mention months of development time remaining), it's entirely possible that this might be much less of an issue.

Elsewhere, Inversion's gravity-changing gameplay mechanics are put to far better use. Click in the right analog stick, and you'll be able to switch between low- and high-gravity abilities, illuminating some sort of energy pack on your back either blue or red in the process. Shoot enemies with a burst of blue, and they float into the air for around 10 seconds; hit them with red, and they're pinned to the ground for about the same length of time. In addition to these basic abilities, each gravity mode has its own special ability. You can surround yourself with a red shield when closing in on an enemy or use a blue lasso to grab objects that are floating in low gravity and then throw them at enemies, for example. Melee attacks can also be used in tandem with gravity attacks to great effect, as we found out when we hit the melee button close to an enemy who was struggling to defend himself as he floated inside a blue bubble. Not only did the resulting animation see us pulling him out of said bubble and forcing him to the ground, but it saw us following that up with a satisfying head stomp. Awesome.

In addition to the free-for-all deathmatch that we played, Inversion will of course feature a team-based variation on that theme. Saber Interactive seems pretty tight-lipped about other modes that will make it into the finished game, presumably because the list hasn't been finalized yet. We were told, however, that multiple modes that employ high gravity in meaningful ways are being tested. The only example we could convince anyone to talk to us about was a mode called Hourglass, which, if we understand correctly, will see two teams battling over capture points and literally flipping the entire level upside down should they succeed.

Inversion is currently scheduled for release early next year. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.

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