Inversion Hands-On Impressions

While not the most original third-person shooter, this game does have a few interesting ideas going for it. Namely, tormenting enemies with gravity.

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Here's the most important thing you need to know about Inversion: It is a shooter where you can grab an enemy and banish him to the sky. Sure, you don't necessarily have to do that. You can hang out behind conveniently placed slabs of concrete and shoot bad guys with your assault rifle, squinting your eyes just enough to pretend that you're playing Gears of War. But when a game gives you the ability to exploit gravity to serve your own menacing ends, well, why would you ever want to do anything else?

Meet Davis. Or is that Leo? Oh, never mind, let's just call them Bob and Rob.
Meet Davis. Or is that Leo? Oh, never mind, let's just call them Bob and Rob.

Said sky-banishing works via the Grav-Lift, Inversion's hallmark weapon. You can use it to shoot antigravity pulses at enemies, which cause them to be yanked out from behind cover and just sort of float helplessly in the air. Whenever you do this to enemies--they'll usually be accompanied by stray bits of rubble and debris--you can then pull them toward you from afar with the Grav-Lift. The whole thing works a lot like telekinesis in BioShock or Dead Space, or perhaps it's like Scorpion's harpoon from Mortal Kombat, provided you've got the requisite imagination to shout "Get over here!" as you pull in an enemy. And then, you just sort of fire them off wherever you want. We recommend shooting enemies into the sky because while slamming them against walls or into the ground can be fun, we like to imagine they just keep speeding through space until they crash-land and colonize far-off alien worlds. Like a space conquistador, if you will.

Inversion definitely strikes us as the type of game that you'll enjoy most if you go into it with a sense of humor and a vibrant imagination because the gameworld isn't the most inspired of places. You've got a pair of tough guy protagonists, each sporting half-tucked shirts and angry scowls. There's also a cavalcade of equally gruff tough-guy enemies belonging to some sort of mysterious invading force. When you add in a heavy emphasis on cover and a giant bayonet at the end of your assault rifle, you've got a game that very much wears its influence on its sleeve. (Hint: It's Gears of War. Gears of War is the influence.)

But there is creativity to be found in Inversion. One of the levels we saw, Descent, had the pair of heroes navigating a zero-gravity battlefield of floating debris and very angry bad guys. This landscape required them to grab onto chunks of floating rock and then push themselves toward the next floating cover object, floating in space along the way. There's also a fairly robust destruction engine, and the levels are dense with objects for exploiting it. Our favorite example of this was taking out an enemy sniper perched atop a skyscraper way off in the distance and then watching as he fell from the rooftop and smashed through each level of scaffolding on the way down to create a hilarious chain reaction of death and destruction.

There are definitely some perspective-bending levels.
There are definitely some perspective-bending levels.

Provided the development team at Saber Interactive can work to remedy the sluggishness and frame rate issues that plagued our demo, it looks like there's definitely some fun to be had in Inversion. Fortunately, Saber has plenty of time to polish things up because Inversion isn't scheduled for release until later in February…of 2012. While you wait, be sure to have a look at our most recent preview from Gamescom 2010.

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