While some felt that Saber Interactive's previous game, TimeShift – a first-person shooter with a time-bending twist – was an interesting gameplay concept, it eventually hit a little short of the mark due to the rest of the game feeling a bit bland. This time, the ambitious developer aims its virtual guns at another unusual gameplay idea – the bending of gravity, in their new game Inversion. Working with Havok to come up with a new and refined version of the Havok engine, Saber Interactive knows that its game rests entirely on its gravity physics, and that they can't come off lacking in any way.
Inversion has you playing as Davis Russel, a man that's part of a human-resistance currently in the midst of a huge war against a foreign enemy known only as the Lutadores. While their invasion has brought all manner of destruction to our hero's home, it's also brought along the enemy's gravity-defying technology. Davis and his squad – which is controlled by A.I. but can also be played in co-op mode –must use the enemy's technology against them. Luckily, it comes in handy in the middle of a firefight.
I want to see this guy take on Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
At first glance, Inversion looks like just another third-person shooter in the wake of Gears of War, and yes, many elements reveal that Gears was clearly the inspiration. Where the game differs, however, is the inclusion of the 'GravLink' gravity gun and how it changes up the standard cover-based firefights we've grown so accustomed to. After countless games that feature the rinse-repeat method of waiting for enemies to pop their heads out from behind cover in order to shoot their domes off, Inversion grants us the ability to make them pop up ourselves. Sending a gravity shockwave towards your enemy lifts them directly out from behind their cover, leaving them helplessly flailing in the air, inviting you to empty a whole clip into them.
Objects can also be manipulated using the GravLink – in the demo we were able to pick up chairs and boxes and other small items which could then be launched at enemies as projectile weapons. The final game will feature the ability to pick up much bigger objects such as cars, though due to the continuous tweaking of the game's gravity physics by the development team, this was unavailable at time of play. Picking up a car and bringing over to you to use as cover will be one of the major ways that Inversion will stand out among the third-person shooter pack. Hopefully this aspect of the game will live up to its potential.
Some of the gravity-based shenanigans in Inversion.
Certain sections of the level we played featured triggered gravity-changing events. While running along a rooftop, the gravity in the environment suddenly changed, with our character lifting up off the ground out of his will (along with a whole bunch of debris), causing a firefight to happen in mid-air. These Inception-inspired set-pieces may be triggered, though they lend the game a sense of exhilaration and unpredictability to the middle of a battle that is greatly appreciated.
Davis was then dumped in a 90 degree angle to his right, where the battlefield now became the side of a building. After continuing the fight for a while longer, we came across a gravity-checkpoint that would straighten our gravity back to normal. It's definitely a funny experience to see enemies standing sideways on a wall in front of you. Aiming a grenade at the enemy lets you see its trajectory (yes, like in Gears of War), however it's quite fun in Inversion to throw a grenade into an area with different gravity to your own and watching the grenade curve in mid-air towards your enemy.
Our hero throws the enemy a curveball.
While it's no secret that Inversion is a physics-heavy game, Saber Interactive has also thrown destructible environments into the package. Walls and cover will completely disintegrate under heavy gun-fire with a huge amount of shattered debris flying everywhere, meaning you will have to keep yourself on the move or risk catching some hot-lead. One section in the demo saw Davis take charge of a mounted machine gun that decimated almost an entire multi-level building, leaving only the structure's frame. Shooting part of a building until the floors collapsed was quite satisfying. Another section towards end of the demo had us shooting at typical exploding red barrels near a bunch of pesky snipers far away, only with a twist – This didn't just kill them – it brought the whole structure down with them.
While there is still a lot of work to do on the game, such as more time spent on the physics so that everything can be manipulated, and some fine tuning of the shooting mechanics, the game won't be out until 2012. Hopefully Saber Interactive can spend the time they have polishing the game up into something truly special.