Ok, let's play name the game. Here are some clues: It's a third-person, co-operative shooter. It features a squad of grizzled Space Marines. Who leap nimbly between cover. They have meaty cutting implements attached to their guns. They're fighting back against an alien invasion. In a grey, destroyed city with burnt-out cars.
Of course, it could be any number of shooters released in the last 5 or so years, but the Daddy of them all is Epic's thick-headed blockbuster. Just a minute into our GamesCom demo of Inversion I scrawled it in big letters in my notepad, GEARS OF WAR.
Saber Interactive isn't denying the similarities, either. "Once we decided on the game being third-person, well, Gears is the standard bearer for that point of view," Producer Matthew Karch told us. "It works and it works well. We were influenced by it and we're not gonna shy away from our influences."
Such frankness would be surprising coming from the makers of any other game. But Saber believe they can afford to be honest, because Inversion is more than just a clone. It has a whole set of unique tricks up its sleeve.
"The truth is what we wanted to do was bring something different to the table," Karch adds. "So that's only half the description. The other half is that Inversion also allows you to manipulate gravity, in various guises, as well as to navigate environments where gravity has been altered in one way or another."
Here's how it works. An unknown enemy has invaded your world, introducing technology capable of manipulating gravity. While fighting back, you and the members of your four-strong team have managed to commandeer devices that can effectively create pockets of Zero-G.
When you activate the device, everything in that small area rises into the air "“ boulders, cars, debris "“ for you to manipulate as you see fit. From there you can create cover, fling stuff at your enemy, or combine your powers with up to one co-op partner. It's a nifty little gimmick.
Couple this with a destruction engine (built in conjunction with Havok) that works along the lines of Red Faction: Guerilla, offering physics-based demolition, and the possibilities really open up. You can destroy houses, bridges and structures and then use the parts to batter your enemies.
But that's perhaps the least interesting aspect of the mechanic. Far more intriguing are the potential implications of the gravitational anomalies that have ripped through your world since the invasion.
As you explore the environment, a gravitational shift could slam you to the side, pinning you to a wall. As you climb to your feet again you'll find yourself in combat against enemies that are the subject of a completely different gravity. All of a sudden, things get interesting.
So suddenly, the aiming guide used for throwing grenades "“ that seemed so shamelessly borrowed from Gears five minutes ago "“ becomes an essential tool. You'll have to throw the grenade from your gravity into their gravity while taking account of bizarre trajectory it will take.
Imagine the possibilities. A massive firefight, taking place across two different gravitational zones, with friendly and enemy gravity devices causing chaos within that. You really won't know which way is up.
So Inversion has the potential to be pretty interesting. The gravity mechanic offers plenty of scope fun innovation, and done right the multiplayer applications could prove fun. Sure, it's a little gimmicky, but that doesn't mean it won't be entertaining. We just wish they'd made the aesthetic and core shooting experience a little less formulaic.