Inversion - Preview - April 17th 2012

Taking cues from a diverse smorgasbord of videogame concepts such as Half Life's physics gun, Red Faction's Geo Mod technology, and just a hint of Gears of War's testosterone fuelled banter, Inversion isn't short of established ideas. Namco Bandai's upcoming third person action epic had been previously delayed for an extra spit and polish, and now with a June release right around the corner, is there enough originality to be found in a title that seems determined to be just a little bit of everything?

Combat focuses on tinkering with gravity, either as a localised effect on specific enemies or on a larger scale. Re-purposing chunks of scenery and vehicles as moveable cover looks pretty sweet, and there will be plenty of opportunities to use environmental hazards as weapons against unsuspecting foes. Genre stalwarts like a cover system and regenerative health refuse to slow down the action, particularly in competitive multiplayer, where frenetic and exceptionally fast combat is the order of the day. There's a sense of playfulness that comes from messing about with objects and repurposing them as projectile weapons that should give Inversion a more chaotic and random feel. And it's not just the furniture that you'll be gleefully flinging about to your heart's content. Flammable liquid can also be used as a makeshift Molotov cocktail, while enemies can be hurled against one another and dispatched in mid-air.

Standard third person shooter cover system mechanics are present and accounted for.

There are also these nifty little things called Conduits that allow you to shift perspectives within a level as means of progression. You'll scale the sides of buildings, and even fight enemies that have used a Conduit to suspend themselves above you on another surface. If nothing else, it makes for some visually arresting moments, despite the murky colour palette of grey's and browns. The Havok powered destruction looks nice but seems pretty limited, and probably won't be giving Battlefield a run for its money any time soon. Physics and animation however look superb, with exaggerated ragdoll and meaty executions that can't help but make you smile. A progression system of sorts has also been built into the game, so you'll be able to unlock more powerful upgrades that grant you access to better tech. This can then be used to increase the range of your attacks, or lift bigger and heavier objects.

There are a lot of weapons and abilities at your disposal.

Unfortunately, the story doesn't seem to be serving up anything particularly unique. A father loses his kid, aliens invade, and it's up to him to set things right. It's ultimately nothing more than a bare bones framework that provides an excuse to play around with Inversion's physics based toys. Two player local and online co-op is a logical addition since you'll rarely travel throughout the campaign without an A.I. companion by your side. And when you consider the sheer number of offensive tools at your disposal, combining abilities and syncing attacks with a human teammate should be a lot of fun.

But when you get right down to it, comparisons with other near future shooters are all but inevitable. The cover system, weapon selection, and art style are hugely reminiscent of both Binary Domain and Red Faction. And take a quick glance at gameplay videos and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was a more considered follow-up to LucasArts' bitterly disappointing Fracture. This generation of consoles isn't short on these kinds of experiences, so all eyes will be on Namco Bandai to see if they can deliver something truly compelling. Inversion is due out June 8th 2012 for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

Jon Titmuss

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Namco Bandai
Sabre Interactive
June 8th 2012
PC PS3 360