We were recently granted the opportunity to sit down and play through the first five chapters of Inversion’s story mode, which is entirely playable in both single player and two-player co-op. The game opens with a grim and somber voice over telling us that the world as we know it is gone.
Our hero, who we later learn is named Davis Russell, and his partner, Leo Delgado, are tied up in front of a baying mob of human-like beasts that are calling out for their blood. They are bound within in the ruins of a city, with shattered skyscrapers, demolished storefronts, torn up roads, and seemingly no hope of survival.
After the cut scene is completed the game flashes back a few months to life before the destruction. Davis and Leo are police officers that are trying to make their way back to Davis’ apartment in order to give his daughter her birthday present. However en route they are sidelined by an eruption of violence as hulking savage men emerge from beneath the ground and start killing civilians. As the only response unit on hand it’s your job to take the creatures out and save as many civilians as you can.
The control scheme will feel familiar to anyone that has ever played a third person shooter before. Pulling the right trigger will fire your gun, while holding the left trigger brings up the reticule for more precise aiming. You can pop in and out of cover with the A button, although it is advisable not to stay in the same spot for too long as the environments are completely destructible.
The way that cover breaks apart under sustained fire is initially one of the most notable things about Inversion. Early on enemies will gather behind abandoned cars, but it’s far easier to simply shoot the cars until they blow up rather than trying to outflank them. Likewise later enemies take cover behind billboards, statues, and other easily destructible objects, with battles generally revolving around destroying enemy cover and then letting them feel the full force of your guns.
Within a few gunfights you quickly learn that the enemies are more powerful that you first thought. As well as being massive bullet sponges, being able to absorb many many bullets before going down, they appear to have technology that grants them the power over gravity itself. Using this technology they are able to cause buildings to tumble and the streets to shatter and float in the air, completely decimating their opposition.
One of the most refreshing things about our time with the game is that our protagonists are only human and they don’t always win. Without going into too much detail, following the events of the opening (and after a surprisingly bleak and lengthy period of enslavement) Davis and Leo wind up gaining access to enemy’s technology. It is at this point that the real fun begins.
The gravity powers themselves are a real revelation in combat. If any enemy is taking cover behind rubble you can use the lift powers to raise the cover above their head, leaving them open to attack. Likewise you can lift rubble and launch it at enemies (which will feel very familiar to anyone that has ever played Dead Space). However the most spectacular use of the lift powers is to lift pools of gasoline, forming a bubble, and to launch it at enemies. With one quick shot you can cause the bubble to explode, resulting in massive damage to the enemies and the environment.
In one section in particular our enemies were standing on platforms high above us. Located near the structure were a number of explosive barrels, and it didn’t take much imagination for us to see what the developers wanted us to do. One quick lift and a launch and suddenly the entire structure was destroyed, causing our targets to fall to their deaths. There were dozens of opportunities for devastation such as this in almost every chapter, and the high level of destructibility is a real highlight.
Later on in the game you gain access to powers that increase gravity, which can be used to either bring objects crashing to down or to pin enemies to the ground. A personal favourite move of mine was to pin an enemy to the ground and then fling a grenade at them, leaving them no way of escaping the blast zone.
As well as spicing up the combat, gravity manipulation can also play a key part in navigation. In certain sections of the world the enemy’s gravity attacks have caused there to be almost no gravity whatsoever. This results in an environment in which you are left floating around with cars and debris. The debris can be used as platforms to launch yourself off of as you attempt to try and make it back to a regular gravity zone. These light navigational puzzles offer up a calm alternative to the shooting, making for a welcome change of pace.
While at Namco HQ we were also given the opportunity to try out some of the game’s new multiplayer modes. We had previously played a few rounds of the deathmatch multiplayer, and had to admit that the prospect of playing a few more gravity-centric modes was something we were looking forward to.
The first mode we sampled was a team-based game called Hourglass mode. Anyone that has ever played a King of the Hill or Capture the Flag mode will know what to expect. Two teams battle for control of a section of land, with one team defending and the other team trying to capture. The significant additional feature that Hour Glass mode has is that when one team catches the objective the gravity of the map switches, flipping the map upside down and launching players across the screen.
Another key factor in Hour Glass is the fact that the two teams have their own gravity powers. The blue team only has the reduce gravity power while the red team only has increase gravity power. After each round the colours switch, giving all players a chance to use each of the abilities. In order to win you simply need to stop the other team from claiming the objective.
Other game modes on display include:
The King Of Gravity: the only way to score points is to kill the one player with the gravity powers and claim them for yourself. Killing other players that do not have gravity powers will take points away from you.
Gravity Slaughter: while you can you can earn points by killing enemies, you earn bonus points if you perform a melee kill on an enemy that is trapped in a gravity field.
Survival: This is a four-player survival mode, much like Gears of War’s horde mode, in which you face off against wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. While we didn’t get the chance to test this mode out it doesn’t take a log of imagination to see how it’ll play out.
We were also assured that there were other multiplayer game modes that they have yet to announce in the works, with some only due to be revealed when the game is released.
Overall Inversion first came across as being a little derivative, taking influence from a wealth of other third person shooters (most notably Gears of War and Dead Space) but, after spending more time playing it, it looks to have enough unique DNA to make it stand out on its own.
Expect to see Inversion on UK shop shelves from 8th June.