Inversion Updated Hands-On Preview - The Highs and Lows of Gravity

We discover that sometimes up is down and down is up in this gravity-defying shooter from developer Saber Interactive.

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In most games, gravity is not your friend. How many times have you attempted a jump that looked easy, only to come up short and fall to your doom? You can blame gravity for that; it's a constant nuisance that keeps us from flying off into space, but not much else. Developer Saber Interactive (creator of TimeShift) has finally had enough and is looking to put gravity to work for us in its upcoming third-person shooter, Inversion. In it, you take on the role of Davis Russel, a husband, father, and cop destined to save the world from an alien aggressor. We recently got to see this game in action and get our hands on all of its gravity-bending mayhem.

While the gravlink may be powerful, nothing beats the satisfaction of a boot to the head.
While the gravlink may be powerful, nothing beats the satisfaction of a boot to the head.

At the heart of Inversion lies the gravlink device, a machine with the power to bend the forces of gravity to your will. Our demonstration began with a hands-off portion where the main character, Russel, and his partner, Leo Delgado, had already commandeered a few of these alien machines for themselves. We were then introduced to the basics of ducking into, out of, and firing from cover. Anyone familiar with today's numerous cover-based shooters should find themselves right at home here.

The game started getting interesting when Russel fired up the gravlink and put it through its paces. The device has two settings, depending on whether you want high or low gravity. Using the low-gravity setting, our character launched what looked like a gravity grenade at an enemy behind cover. The resulting blast sent the cowering foe into the air to float alongside some rocks and other debris. He could still fire his weapon, but it didn't do him much good when our character used the device's other feature to call over a rocklike a magnet and then launch it back at the enemy's face.

After fighting his way though numerous bombed-out buildings, our character emerged atop a ruined highway that was crawling with enemies. The firefight started out as you'd expect, and then the singularity event hit. Everyone--friend and foe alike--was lifted into the air as the gravity began to shift from one place to another. Our character exchanged a few midair volleys of fire with enemies before being dropped back to the ground, which was now the side of a building. Now, he was fighting horizontally, ducking behind neon signs and skipping over broken windows.

The shockwave attack is costly, but it can easily blow away enemies who get too close.
The shockwave attack is costly, but it can easily blow away enemies who get too close.

Once the rest of the initial forces had been mopped up, reinforcements arrived. However, they were outside of the singularity event and had to fire diagonally upward to reach our character. It was a bizarre sight to look across at what was once the floor and watch the fight play out. And, as if that doesn't boggle the mind enough, we were then told that in later sections, the gravity gets so messed up that enemies might be fighting at you from any and all directions. Thus, the very idea of up and down is completely lost.

Once the highway fight concluded, the developers skipped ahead for us to go hands-on with another part of the game. This area put us right in the enemy's backyard, which was less of a yard and more of a massive, underground cavern. To help even the odds, we were given access to the gravlink's high-gravity setting. With this new ability, we could stop enemies in their tracks and leave them paralyzed under their own weight. We also had access to the shockwave, a burst attack that used up a great deal of the gravlink's power to devastating effect.

In the first of two firefights we played through, we discovered that some enemies came equipped with a shield that protected them from our gunfire. To quickly dispatch these nuisances, we had to switch back to low gravity and pop them into the air. From here, had a few fiendish options: toss our enemy's body into a pit of magma, smash him with a rock, or execute him with a gruesome melee finisher. Naturally, we went with the latter. On the other hand, high gravity was great for locking down stronger, deadlier targets. This gave us time to take out all the lesser enemies before giving them our full attention. The second battle took place right around the corner near what appeared to be a mining station. Because the station was made of flimsy wood, we got our first real chance to see the game's physics, powered by Havok's Destruction engine, in action. Once the bullets and boulders started flying, sections of the station began collapse and crushed those foolish enough to stand beneath them. Then, swarms of nimble enemies armed with knives and pipes came out of nowhere and rushed our position. However, with one blast of high gravity, they instantly stopped their screeching and dropped to their knees under their own weight. With grim satisfaction, we strolled past the kneeling foes and dispatched them one at a time with blasts from our shotgun.

You're not the only one with a gravlink, and if you're not careful, you'll find yourself soaring through the air.
You're not the only one with a gravlink, and if you're not careful, you'll find yourself soaring through the air.

Toward the end of our demo, we caught a glimpse of a zero-gravity area. With the game's constant switching of gravitational forces, we couldn't help but be reminded of Mario Galaxy--albeit a much more violent version. And while the game is set to support both local and online cooperative play, Saber Interactive was tight lipped on any other multiplayer modes. Inversion has some genuinely clever ideas that turn first-person shooters upside-down. But the game still has a ways to go before reaching its release date of February 7, 2012, on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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