Inversion is a third-person shooter from Saber Interactive, a studio that previously worked on TimeShift and ported Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary last year. As well as expected features of cover-based gunplay and a co-operative campaign, it allows players to manipulate gravity as part of its combat.
Inversion smartly subverts the shooter player's best friend, cover, in a number of ways. It's biggest trick is the ability to freely manipulate gravity with the use of a Gravlink, a backpack that can spit out localised bubbles which propel anything inside up into the air, from chunks of concrete to several floundering enemies at once.
Cover is no longer a safe refuge
Fired towards someone hiding behind cover, they will be flung helplessly into the air for an easy kill. Objects can also be grabbed, suspended in front of you and then thrown at a high velocity, not unlike with Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun, which comes in handy for those explosive barrels that enemies always tend to leave lying around.
The Gravlink can also be reversed to send things crashing down instead of up, ideal for pulling down ceiling beams to create new routes onward or bringing airborne enemies down to earth.
Gravity can also work against you as Gravlink-wielding foes spring you into the air, but you can propel yourself left and right to dodge bullets until the effect wears off. Late game stages also go against the usual pop-up shooting gallery set-up of cover-based shooters by placing enemies on walls and even ceilings.
Another way in which it subverts cover is through destructible environments. While more sturdy, concrete structures won't budge, more fragile cover points will easily break apart so that the humble wooden park bench - usually a safe refuge against bullets and mortar fire in some other games - now splinters away after a few direct hits.
It makes exploring civilian apartments more dangerous, too, where seemingly safe walls will suddenly tear apart and reveal hidden enemies a few rooms away, often leaving you caught unawares and out in the open.
Is Inversion a straight-up Gears of War clone?
Gravity has a bigger part to play than shooting and traversal mechanics, though, as it's a central plot point as mysterious and powerful localised effects send cities into disarray, with streets lifting into the air and skyscrapers crumbling.
Despite its use of gravity, Inversion is undoubtedly very similar to Gears of War across the board. You're facing a mysterious, alien-like race that invade humanity's cities from underground, armed to the teeth with bayoneted weapons, and you are subjected to gung-ho dialog from our two heroes. It's similar to play, too; while weapons feel a little on the underwhelming side, control-wise it has that same weighty, satisfying feel to movement.
There are a few interesting differences, however, particularly when it comes to story. Witnessing the invasion from the start provides a better context for the two central characters and the world around them as civilisation rapidly deteriorates.
As well as participating in skirmishes in civilian-filled streets, there's a dramatic change of pace shortly into the campaign, seeing our heroes taken prisoner and forced to work in a mine, which is an hour-long section that switches out shooting for cut-scenes and a lengthy Gravlink tutorial.
Combat doesn't appear to have the same diverse rogues' gallery of enemies as Gears of War, but shooting itself is sturdy and enjoyable, and the story's mysteries are a solid enough reason to keep pushing forward; who are the invading army, what are their goals and why is the world literally turning upside down?
Multiplayer turns the online world upside-down
Finally, there's multiplayer, which continues to make use of gravity for some neat ideas. Certain modes will flip the map to an opposing plane under certain circumstances, such as capturing a flag or notching up a high-enough kill streak, switching the map layout on a regular basis.
Then there's obviously the use of the Gravlink itself. One-on-one it leads to some tense stand-offs, as the first to fling out the localised gravity effect has a clear upper hand and usually comes out the victor. But with each player starting with a single use per spawn, it's vital not to waste it.
Multiplayer certainly has some strong ideas behind it, but as with any multiplayer shooter, expect it to have a short life span on release before players return to Call of Duty and its ilk. The real attraction, then, is the campaign.
Inversion might be a little uninspired, but its strong comparisons to Gears of War could ultimately work in its favor, offering what looks to be a solid, enjoyable co-operative campaign with some interesting uses of gravity thrown in for good measure.
Inversion is available on Xbox 360 and PS3 from June 5 in North America and June 8 across Europe.