One could argue that the one genre that has seen the least innovation in the past 10 years is the third person shooter. It is arguable that the last big innovation came with 2006’s Gears of War and its use of the cover system. Since then we’ve seen an explosion of “me-too” games, Army of Two, 50 Cent Blood on the Sand, Dark Sector, Kane and Lynch… the list is seemingly endless.
So you can imagine my apprehension when it came to trying out Inversion, the new cover-based third person shooter from Saber Interactive and Namco-Bandai. Upon starting our multiplayer death match my initial fears seemed to be confirmed. Shaved head grizzled space-marine dude? Check. Grey environments filled with waist high walls? Check.
Suddenly I realised that there was an enemy standing on the ceiling shooting down at me, and it seemed my opponent shared my feeling of surprise. From his perspective it was I that was standing on the ceiling and he was aiming up at me – within a few moments of starting there was an audible gasp from those assembled as we realised the implications of what was going on.
Some players took to the idea immediately and began joyfully sprinting up walls, while a small number sat scratching their heads realising that all of the traditional rules of the third person cover based shooter had been thrown out of the window… and they had no idea what to do.
The main unique feature of Inversion’s multi-player is that you battle in low gravity environments. This allows you to walk on walls and ceilings, with your perspective shifting seamlessly. This provides an unprecedented level of freedom in terms of combat; so, your target is camping out behind some non-destructible cover? Simply walk up the wall to get a better vantage point. And fill him full of lead.
This means that you need to have your wits about you at all times as, yes, you might be protected from the enemy in front of you, but there could just as easily be a threat lurking above or to the side of you.
As if that weren’t mind-breaking enough, the other key element of Inversion is the ability to adjust gravity. You can shoot a beam at an enemy producing a field that can either dramatically increase gravity, pinning them to the ground, or significantly reduce it, forcing them to float in to the air and leave them open to your attacks. Yes, they will still be able to fire their weapons, but their movement will be severely restricted making them an easy target.
The gravity powers have the added bonus of having an effect on all objects caught within them, such as grenades. We quickly learned a good tactic was to increase gravity around an enemy, pinning them to the ground, and then throw a grenade in to the field. This forces the grenade to land directly on the enemy causing a gruesome shower of blood and guts.
These gravity powers often make a substantial difference in the multi-player and, fortunately, they can only be used infrequently. Once you have fired your beam you have to wait a few seconds for it to recharge. Of course if your enemy sees a gigantic beam zip past them it gives them a very good idea of where you are, leaving you open to being brutalised.
For all of its dramatic new ideas, at its core Inversion feels like your standard third person shooter. As someone that has played a lot of Gears of War the controls immediately felt familiar. Holding the left trigger brought up iron-sights, while the right trigger controlled shooting. Weapons on offer include your standard assault riffles and shotguns, with some devastatingly powerful bonus weapons strewn across the map.
During our session I discovered a powerful rocket launcher that fires off several rockets at a time. This results in a massive blast radius making it quite easy to harm enemies. Another powerful weapon was a sniper rifle that fired explosive rounds. This weapon proved to be incredibly useful, as it has a powerful scope that allowed all sections of the spacious map to be targeted.
Overall I came away feeling surprised and impressed by Inversion. Initially I had my doubts that the concept would work properly in a multi-player game, but in reality it worked very well. There’s still a way to go before Inversion is released, and I’m definitely interested in seeing what other game modes it will offer up.
Inversion is due to be released in the UK on 8th June on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. A PC version is in the works and is due to be released shortly after this.
- Luke Mears