Published on September 12th, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Inversion Multiplayer Hands-On Impressions
[I]t’s hard not to compare a third-person-cover-based shooter to the popular Gears of War franchise. It is also especially hard when things like the aiming reticle, weapon swap icon and even a melee weapon in the shape of an elongated blade is fixed to the bottom of your gun in the same configuration as the notorious chainsaw. Producer Ken Mah hopes that the use of gravity tactics will keep players from throwing on a thick coat of inertia when launch date rolls around.
There are plenty of things that can be said about the game mechanics otherwise. The use of gravity during gameplay can be one of the biggest game implementations that Inversion has to offer, but it almost certainly could hurt in the multiplayer arena.
Alongside the gravity, there are many uses of vehicles, shields and weapons (although no vehicles were available in the demo) to use during heated battles. Hitting the ‘LB’ allows for a gravity shield, but why use that when you can drag a car, or piece of one, to guard yourself from enemy fire. The vehicles that were available were in the shape of rundown metal heaps and posed as great projectile objects to launch at off-guard enemies.
While these are a few examples of how the effects were implemented into the multiplayer arena, there were quite a few ways in which the gravity tactics worked. Having a mixture of HIGH and LOW gravity, which were indicated by glowing blue and reddish colors, gives players a few options on how to strategically attack. The meter indicating the level of gravity power can be seen in the gameplay images to the left side of the screen. Using both of these attacks depleted your supply, which can be replenished with canisters found in the field.
Utilizing this gravity made it possible to send players smashing mid-air, only to get mowed down by machine gun fire. At close or mid-range, it was easy to hold a charge of gravity and ensure that a blindsided enemy was dangling spread eagle before even knowing what was going on. The opposite action can be done on the run, sending a stream of blue gravitational pull to pick up weapons from respawn fountains.
While the game played great during combat with some distance involved, it was however tough when it came to narrow hallways and taking an opponent head on. In games like the GoW franchise, the chainsaw proves most useful in tight spaces. In this case, gravity is used to grab others and the ‘B’ button is used to enable a nice stomp or slam. The melee was more miss than hit and was tough to time just right for the strike.
In some cases, it was almost impossible to contend in close corridors. Players were left to use the jump-and-roll tactic in order to get far enough away to lie down a close shotgun blast, or roll away far enough to hit them with a clean shot of gravity burst and maybe make the grab.
Even though gravity is a large part of the game’s story and multiplayer, there was still an array of weaponry to be shown off. There are familiar weapons, but also some that are unique to the title. Here are a few of the weapons that were present in the multiplayer that we were able to get our hands on:
Shotgun: Strong at close quarters and sometimes overpowering.
Sniper Rifle: Great for taking out distant enemies. The use of the directional pad for zooming in and out was different and didn’t necessarily feel comfortable.
Assault Rifle Gun: Was similar to the assault rifle in Gears of War. It was tough to see that laying tons of shots towards the head area would still leave an enemy to take you out.
Heavy Machine Gun: Similar to heavy turret guns that you would find in other titles. Good for mowin’ down groups of baddies.
Heavy grenade launcher type gun: The ammo for this gun wasn’t so much explosive, but it was heavy on the landing. It was great taking out distant enemies with some heavy artillery.
Missile Launcher: Good to use on mid-size to larger enemies. Well, it was pretty good for all scumbags on the map. Shot out a burst of multiple missiles in a fiery glow towards distanced enemies, but only hosted a few shots.
These weapons became available at various spawn points. Most were able to be carried two at a time and some even used to fire off a heavy blow and then be discarded. It was important to monitor what to use and where to use it, depending on the map and mode. Although gravity mixed with heavy machine gun fire was very effective, it was somewhat displeasing aiming directly at someone’s juggler and them still getting the kill even though you pumped their cabesa full of slugs.
This is probably one of the most common game types that can be included in shooters. Heck, we aren’t going to see trap shooting, right? The level that we saw in Deathmatch was called “Plaza.” This area also included a zero gravity pit with multiple platforms to jump to. Players could use these in order to get the upper hand and rain bullets from above, or to avoid enemy fire by making yourself a hard target. Making moves from these was sometimes difficult to time correctly and often left you a sitting duck.
The level also hosted a few turrets and staircases for multiple levels where you could get blasted into midair. There was an open courtyard in the center where you could nail a running opponent with explosive barrels across the way. There were also a few outlying open spaces on the ground level, which was good for catching an enemy coming around the corner. The building also had a respawning point that allowed for some immediate kill-offs, which was something I did not care for.
This map was fun to play being that there were areas of zero gravity, where players could float through and make strategic moves. By timing them right, a player could button mash their way by hitting the ‘A’ button on cue and grabbing ledges on their way to the next platform or side. Ken also informed us that even though he didn’t see it utilized by anyone playing that day, but during matches players can launch grenades across these zero gravity areas and nail an unsuspecting victim on the other side.
Playing in “Satellite” was one noticeable area where the use of gravity really stood out. It was this map that the game mode titled “Hourglass” was introduced. This was an objective based map where players could take over enemy territories by claiming them, thus flipping the ‘hourglass’, and causing a vector change. During these portions of gravity change, players could also take out their opponents who were vulnerable in mid-air.
(And to think, I was just looking for the bathroom)
This was one mode that was hit and miss for me. At times I was really getting into destroying enemies from a distance and getting ready to take over the platform and then all of a sudden, it was topsy-turvy mayhem. This mode offers a change to the traditional lineup of capture the flag type games, but still might not be exactly the mode I’d select at the multiplayer screen.
Another area that we saw was titled “Survival Mode.” This is the mode where you simply just survive waves of enemies in one location on a map, right? Well, sort of. The map we saw was titled ‘Boulevard.’ In this mode, players took on waves of enemies while racing against the time clock. In this variation, players would advance in the map after clearing out the “room.” When I say room, it was more like a wide-open courtyard enclosed by buildings, blockades, and abandoned cars. This was different than other similar modes being that the scenery changed and time was of the essence.
After making our way through the first set of downtown street scenes, we were introduced to an underground parking type structure where we would meet our first boss. This mechanized battleaxe was called the “Butcher”. This four legged mech was full of ammo and enemy fleets.
While we battled to stay alive, which didn’t last too long in the brutality of the waves, my team found it also challenging to find cover as it was slowly, but surely, being destroyed by enemy bullet holes. The pressure of the oncoming forces was being felt as they moved closer to us and as the mech still laid down heavy fire. For those looking to not take on the fight alone, we were also ensured that survival mode would support four players to take on the masses.
It was challenging playing in these areas with a group of people. One of the things that made it interesting was the use of “boss” type enemies and other grunts in the mix. Also, racing against the time and defeating enemies for a bonus always throws a wrench in the gears and makes for a real challenge. Do not think that your deeds will go unrewarded. A nice leaderboard system and adaptive AI (varying AI difficulty based on how well you are playing) will be in place to continually drive you to increase your skills and level-up.
So, gravity eh?
The game that we played in the multiplayer event was still in an early build. Ken assured us that experience points would be used in order to level up and continue on in your journey of anti-gravity. As stated earlier, it was difficult not to compare the title to Gears of War, or other third person action shooters, even Lost Planet. This was the topic of one question in particular that I made sure was presented to Ken. While everyone else had vacated the room, I spent a little extra time picking his brain on the title.
I had let Ken know that I heard a few people comparing the title during the matches to that of Gears of War. I then asked him, “What do you think will separate Inversion from Gears of War?”
“[laughs] Things like vector changes and gravity completely change the way in which you play.” He also wanted us to know that they wanted to build on a strong cover system before throwing gravity in the mix. Using the gravity to grab many objects and use others as cover allows for some unique experiences when scrambling around ensuring survivability.
He also did his best to inform us that we would be seeing the “zero gravity” effects in “several” maps. When asked about how many maps exactly, Ken simply said, “….the more the better.” While asking if there would be more than ten, he only noted that they were working on adding more, but it would be far less than that.
Although the game did support leaderboards, there would be no support for things like “clan” tags similar to other online games hosting multiplayers. Although this might be a negative for some, other things like the availability of all weapons from the campaign will be introduced into the multiplayer portion of the game and bonuses for your character are familiar faces that we can expect to see in the final product.
While there are many elements to the game, such as third person controls and cover that need a lot of tightening, it is interesting to see a different approach to something such a third-person-shooter and throwing gravity into the mix. I would have liked to see some more inverted positions, where it was pushing the gravity mechanic. Things like running on the far side of a wall Matrix style while gunning seems like it would be fun considering the circumstances of the game.
It is very hard to say at this point where Inversion will end up. The online mode will definitely need quite a bit of tightening, more multiplayer aesthetics, and a few more options to support an online community that was going to boot up the game just to jump into the multiplayer. It was also confirmed at this point that there is not sign of a multiplayer “beta” in the near future, but one can only hope that like TimeShift, we don’t see a last minute scurry to fix obvious mistakes.
Here is something that you might also find interesting. When asked if the same team that worked on TimeShift was working on Inversion, Ken replied something along the lines that the majority of the same team that worked on TimeShift was also present on this title. This is something that is particularly important if you don’t recall the transformation the previous title underwent from demo, feedback, and finally launch day.