E3 2011: Inversion hands-on preview – Gravity is for suckers

Videogames have given us the power to do things we otherwise couldn’t for decades. Whether it’s time-travel, ninja skills or marksmanship, games allow us to live out our fantasies in a way no other medium can. Namco’s Inversion wants you to dream about what you could do if the laws of gravity were at your fingertips. Enemies often run along walls or ceilings, you can throw a grenade sideways, make items or enemies weight more or less using a fancy gauntlet, and sometimes there’s just no gravity at all.

The level we played during our demo took place deep in the cracks of the Earth – or whatever planet we’re on. The devs are cagey about this, as well as where our Gears of War locust-like enemies actually came from – with embers glowing and lava flowing. It was populated with floating globs of explosive liquid, combustible red barrels (really bad place to store these, incidentally) and battalions of foes that look like they were kicked out of a bondage party. As far as action goes, it’s very much a standard third-person shooter, with lots of gravity-inspired tricks. If an enemy is behind cover, you can lift him out. If there’s water or gas around, you can grab it and move it into fire. And sometimes the planes of gravity will simply switch.

Granted, we’ve seen many of these concepts before, in shooters like Prey (walking on walls and ceiling), Bulletstorm (lifting enemies in to the air – actually Psi-Ops might have been the first to do this), and Dead Space (the no-gravity stuff). But the mix is unique here, and we really enjoyed the concept of gravity occasionally being out of whack and having to use a jump pad to move from the floor to a wall, shifting the game’s perspective 90 degrees. Walking on the ceiling while enemies are still on the ground where you were moments before could make for some incredibly inventive level design. And throwing a grenade and watching it start off straight and then fall not down, but sideways because gravity had shifted, was intriguing.

Hopefully, there’s quite a bit more of this kind of stuff in the final release. Inversion doesn’t come out until next February, so there’s plenty of time for it to really differentiate itself. What could really add to it is the promised co-op multiplayer. Our demo was a single player affair, but adding a buddy could give Inversion what it needs to really stand out from its obvious influences.

Jun 16, 2011

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