[Ignite 2011] Up is Down, Down is Left, and Left is Purple

Yes, Inversion is something of a confusing third-person shooter, but tried to make sense of it with our hands-on peek.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 4, 2011
Inversion is one of those games that, under a different publisher, may well have been given the boot already, but as Namco Bandai Games made abundantly clear at their Ignite event this week, they aren't giving up on the Saber Interactive-developed game, even if it was supposed to originally ship last year. Instead, they're giving the TimeShift devs a full year to polish up the gravity-altering shooter, and after playing through the game, we're hoping they make the most of it.

That's not entirely fair, of course -- the game just hit pre-alpha state at this point, meaning there is plenty of time to continue to tweak things, but as we watch a rather rote bit of cover-based navigation during the game's stage demo where the main protagonist first floated around a series of cover points, then took on waves of enemies that apparently just don't like Earthlings and would rather use their own gravity against them, we couldn't shake the feeling that something felt... off.

As it turns out, that something was the controls, or at least the ones present on the 360 version of the game we spent a few minutes with. For starters, the game suffered from a pretty heavy amount of input lag (we're talking Killzone 2-level here), which made lining up some shots or fine-tuning the aim when sniping far-off ones a little difficult. Thankfully, we were able to (mostly) wrestle them under control and get a sense for what Saber was trying to do.

For starters, they're completely unafraid to play around with destroying what they've built; an early part of the demo allowed us to take control of a mounted turret that would absolutely chew through parts of the environment; tearing through walls at first, then floors and eventually through support beams to bring entire buildings down. Enemies were clearly pulled from the Gears of War school of bullet spongery, and would take a meaty number of hits before going down, but the basic cover mechanics (which can be sprinted between and are often chipped away at quite quickly) were solid enough to plow through the whole demo in just a few minutes.

During that time, we got to play around quite a bit with the two main draws to this third-person shooter, namely a kind of gravity tether that allowed for picking up bigger objects or pulling guns and ammo toward the player, and the ability to fire off a charged burst of gravity-nullifying energy. It would cause enemies to float into the air, but they were hardly helpless and would return fire, they just had nowhere to take cover.

It wasn't until the tail end of the demo where we got to fight it out on the side of a taller building that things started to feel fresh. The shift in gravity was automatic, and turned simple neon signs into cover points while reminding us constantly that the "old" version of down was sitting just in view to the right.

If Inversion can overcome some of the control issues, really work on highlighting the destruction and regularly play with shifting gravity the same way Saber was able to with TimeShift's temporal fussing, this could indeed be something different. Namco, to their credit, is standing behind the game and proudly proclaiming it to be a revelation in multiplayer fun, but as of right now, we've only been able to digest the single-player. Scooping up a variety of standard sniper and assault rifles was interesting, but we definitely hope to see a slightly more polished product come E3 time.