Saber Interactive shifts from time to something heavier
“We know Gears of War 3 is coming out, and nobody’s saying that we’re going to beat them out the door,” says Namco Bandai senior product manager Laili Bosma. “We want to take the [third-person shooter] genre and give the consumers something different.”
The game she’s referring to is Inversion, a title which marks TimeShift developer Saber Interactive’s first step out of its familiar first-person territory and into a cut-throat landscape dominated by Epic’s juggernaut franchise. Survival there is not guaranteed—especially when, at first glance, the game may look like just another cover-based sci-fi shooter.
Showing those elements that make Inversion different may not be easy at first, but they’re concerns that go back to the very beginning of its creation—one which started not as one solid gameplay concept or idea, but as a proprietary physics engine. “[Saber Interactive] had this great physics engine, and [they] wanted to show this concept to the gaming audience,” Bosma recalls. “What’s going to be the best genre to go into and give something very dynamic for the consumer to play?”
The solution? A third-person shooter built around the concept of gravity, one which would use its advanced capabilities to bring players elements of gravity manipulation previously unseen in other titles.
The most prominent example of these elements in Inversion are experienced through the Gravlink, a strange piece of unearthly technology recovered by the game’s hero, Davis Russel. Powered by two forms of gravitational energy—“Low-G” and “High-G”—the Gravlink can pick up, move, and otherwise manipulate both living and non-living objects. Enemies can be tossed into the air to disorient them, and then used as a projectile against their comrades. Dropped weapons can be pulled to you for much-needed ammo, or bigger objects can be re-positioned to provide valuable cover. The invading alien forces, meanwhile, will be able to use their own bag of Gravlink-powered tricks, and even the environments themselves will become warped by pockets of unstable gravity, causing battles to unfold over multiple planes and orientations.
“The gravity element isn’t just a one-off, small aspect of the game, like one special weapon,” explains Inversion’s associate producer Ken Mah. “You see the influences of gravity in every aspect of the game, from level design to the gravity mechanics—and all of the different little choices you can do with it—to the effects gravity even has on normal battles.”
Gravity isn’t the only way in which Saber Interactive’s physics engine will be flexing its muscles in Inversion, however. At various times throughout the game, destructible environments will come into play—ranging from small examples such as a watchtower that can be toppled or cover than can be rendered in-effective, to far grander moments, like the ability to bring down entire buildings when taking out their alien inhabitants one by one just isn’t satisfying enough.
These elements of destruction won’t just be for the player’s benefit; they’re also serve as a way for the game to keep you on your toes. If you can reduce fortifications to rubble, then so can your foes, a point that Bosma hopes will work together with the game’s frantic pacing to force players to break from the mindset of just hiding away and picking off enemies from afar. “I’m a shooter fan,” says Bosma, “and I myself get into the habit of what I like to do. So, we’re hoping to get players to come up with new habits when playing Inversion.”
Maybe that will be the way in which Inversion stands out in the crowded third-person shooter genre: by forcing us to relearn how to survive in one.
PARTING SHOT: Combining the co-op camaraderie of Epic’s Gears of War and the anti-gravity gameplay of Dead Space, Saber hopes to bring a war worth fighting in 2012, but will they succeed? Let the debate begin!
Source: EGM, Vol. 249