E3 2011: Inversion Hands-On Preview

By Jordan Douglas on June 14, 2011, 10:11AM EDT

Back in 2007, Saber Interactive gave us TimeShift, a shooter that used time manipulation as a hook to differentiate itself. Despite moving on from time, Saber remains attracted to the idea of bending the laws of our universe. Their latest project, Inversion, is a third-person, cover-based shooter that gives players the ability to manipulate gravity. Which raises the question: is twisting gravity better than time? Early results suggest it is.

While Inversion is otherwise a fairly generic sci-fi shooter, the gravity mechanics go a long way to give the game some personality. Bending gravity impacts Inversion's objects, weapons and even the environments themselves. Players can use the "Gravlink" gun to grab and throw objects, make areas zero-gravity, and generally mess with the alien foes. This versatility creates some intriguing combat scenarios, in which enemies can be crushed by giant projectiles, or by the game's various semi-destructible environments. It feels similar to Half-Life's gravity gun, but on a slightly larger scale.

Perhaps the most unique element of Inversion's gravity mechanics comes in the level design. Different portions of each environment have varying gravitational forces acting on them. This strange turn of events is somehow explained in the plot by the alien invasion, but regardless, it's a nice excuse to experiment with some mind-bending perspectives. Players will frequently snap onto the side of a building, ridge or the ceiling of a large object, which reorients the gravity and perspective, accordingly. Firing at enemies who appear sideways off in the distance as you walk on the ceiling of a ruined skyscraper is just one of Inversion's amusing sights. Saber has hinted that the game will continue to challenge everything the player knows about physics as the game progresses.

Inversion's singleplayer campaign certainly stands out with its unique take on gravity as a gameplay device. However, whether or not leaning so heavily on one mechanic will become tedious remains to be seen. It's a novel idea, but keeping it fresh across the length of a full retail title will be challenging. Perhaps Inversion's drop-in, dro-out co-op and competitive multiplayer will help. Look for a preview on those elements in the near future.

Inversion debuts on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in North America on February 7th, 2012.

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