To stand out in the shooter world these days you have to do something pretty special these days. In a world dominated by Gears of War and Uncharted other developers are finding it pretty tough to see off challenges from Marcus Fenix and Nathan Drake in order to bring something new and exciting to the world.
Saber Interactive has been brave enough to try to do something a little different with the third-person shooter mold with their new title Inversion. Published by Namco Bandai in their kick to bring some fresh IP (the same kick that brought us the impressive Enslaved) Inversion follows the adventures of Davis Russel, a cop-turned-alien-hunter as he attempts to avenge the death of his wife and rescue his daughter from gravity-bending aliens who are invading Earth.
Armed with the Gravlink, one of the alien's own gravity devices, and accompanied by his partner, Russel must battle his way through swathes of invaders and bizarre gravity anomalies to find his little girl before the aliens, called the Lutadore.
Our demo follows takes place in the later stages of the game when the surface of the planet has been torn apart by the Lutadore's gravity-based weaponry exposing lakes of boiling lava and leaving islands of rock floating in mid-air. Add in some strange shifting planes of gravity and heavily-armed Lutadore troopers and this becomes quite a hostile environment to navigate.
The Lutadore themselves are not the most imaginative enemies with them echoing the Strogg and the aliens from Prey and even the Borg with an industrial cyberised look to them coupled with a similarly hostile nature and a deep desire to cleanse the human race from the face of the Earth.
The Gravlink is actually a fairly simple tool to utilise. One function makes objects lighter, lifting them out of the way or raising them to put them somewhere more useful. The other function makes objects heavier causing them to drop and again putting them in more useful places. Both functions can also be used against enemies causing them to suddenly float up in the air or slowing them down depending on which function you use. The Gravlink can also be used in the same way as Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun, picking up objects and hurling them across the level.
This can be fun, especially when you lift up balls of lava and project them at enemies or obstacles causing them to burst into flames. The puzzles that present themselves throughout the game require you to make use of the Gravlink in one of the three ways in order to make the impassable passable and getting Russel one step closer to saving his daughter.
Gravity also creeps its way into the game at a more fundamental level as well. There will be times when you will have to move between planes that are at 90 degree angles to your current plane of movement. There are large glowing "portals" that will facilitate this but these segments also add an interesting dimension to the gun battles. Fighting against enemies that are essentially running about on what is to you a wall is a little disorienting at first but, once you get used to it it actually adds a little variety to proceedings. You can even lob grenades between planes and watch the bizarre gravity come into play as their bodies, and indeed, dismembered body parts scatter between different vectors of play.
Then there's the zero-G segments. What was on show made these sequences seem very similar to Dead Space 2's zero-G sections. It is all well and good to ape something that works very well for Visceral but Saber will need to do something more with these sections in order to help make Inversion an interesting title in its own right.
Overall the most promising thing about Inversion is the differing planes of gravity. The changing and volatile gravity conditions transform planet Earth into a much more dangerous and challenging environment to navigate. If Saber can nail down the physics of the game effectively, the ability to shift between different planes of gravity will provide them with the opportunity for some truly unique and interesting level designs to take shape.
As well as the single-player campaign, Russel's partner is playable in co-operative multiplayer and there will also be a competitive multiplayer. Competitive multiplayer combined with the shifting gravity and the use of the Gravlink could prove to be an interesting proposition although Namco and Saber didn't give any details to give on how this would take shape as yet.
Inversion has a lot to get excited about. While the storyline and the visuals in the game aren't anything to write home about, the shifting gravity provides new opportunities that games developers have only touched on in small measures with varying levels of success. We're hoping that they can take full advantage of these opportunities that they've opened up and provide something new over an above the other myriad of existing third-person shooters already in existence.
Inversion is due out on PS3 and Xbox 360 on February the 10th of next year.