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Inversion: Namco Bandai turns shooters upside down

Gravity bending's appeal remains up in the air...

Saber Interactive's Timeshift had a familiar but well implemented killer app when it hit the shelves four years ago - manipulating time to make locks crumble or zap enemies into a puddle of womb juice.

But in terms of altering causality to solve puzzles, it was still about as basic as you can get, allied to a depressingly dull story, and only got a 'must rent' from us as a result. Surely no developer would make the same mistake twice?

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Saber are made of sterner stuff. Where some would try and outdo themselves with each successive creation, Namco Bandai are publishing their latest, much-delayed third-person shooter, Inversion, and once again, it's pretty much openly an interest vacuum, set-up-wise - the gimmick is all. This time, it's meddling with gravity rather than time which provides the gimmick.

A dose of hands-on time with Inversion at Namco's 'Level Up' event confirmed to us what we never doubted - that Saber know what they're doing with their central mechanic. Your general firepower is unremarkable, but feels punchy enough - it's only when the physics tricks are applied that the game's USP starts generating grins.

GRAV TRAIN

The Havok engine has been fine-tuned to deal with Inversion's gravity bending, and though it's hard to shake off memories of Prey and even The Force Unleashed in the way Newton's theories are mangled in-game, Inversion's one wild card does offer a pleasing challenge. In terms of mind-bending destructibility it's no Red Faction, but if the GravLink (the alien technology which allows you to command gravity) can provide half as much fun as Armageddon's Magnet Gun, we're going to be recommending that you dive in.

Our brief time with it certainly left us wanting more, especially when we were in control. There's more of an on-rails feel to how your character's gravity shifts as you progress, but in battle, despite the Gears-lite approach, the GravLink delivers plenty of satisfying twists besides the business of levitating cars for cover or projectile attacks.

The obvious move is to treat enemies to the low-G effect, spinning them up into the air and out of cover, or maybe flinging them at their comrades - the same setting can also turn puddles of petrol into impromptu incendiary devices. On the other hand, high-G can be even more useful, pinning foes to the ground and preventing them from even being able to fire back.

After just a brief period of tinkering with the GravLink, we did start seeing each battlefield in a new light - maybe that crate can be pulled down with high-G to provide cover while a blast of low-G on that alien gang could send them plunging to their doom, giving you time to move to the side of that skyscraper and whip a gravitationally perverse grenade at the next wave of bad guys?

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These thoughts alone will keep our anticipation geed up for a while - but as Inversion is still several months from release, we're hoping that Saber will be adding more invention into the brew before then.

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