Yesterday morning, I attended a small Namco Bandai event showcasing their upcoming games. It was a hands-on, “Holiday Tour,” focusing on Namco Bandai games that release either later on this year or early next year. Of the multiple titles there, I was able to snag interviews and hands-on time with three co-op titles: Inversion, Go Vacation, and Dark Souls. We recently went hands-on with both Inversion and Dark Souls at E3. While I don’t have much to add to Andrew’s preview of Dark Souls (other than that I’m also pretty pumped for it), I have some information about Inversion’s campaign to supplement Kat’s preview of the general gameplay as well as multiplayer experience.
Inversion is a third person shooter that releases in February for the PS3 and Xbox 360 (there are also plans to release it on PC later down the road). At a casual glance, it might be described as a mix between Gears of War and Infamous, but there’s also a lot more going on under the hood. I was shown a demo of the single-player campaign. While co-op was not available during the demo, the rep assured me that the co-op campaign was the same as the single-player and it was drop-in/drop-out co-op (online or offline) where Player 2 can take control of the protagonist’s buddy. In the campaign, players play as cops Davis Russel and Leo Delgado. The city where they live has suddenly been invaded with enemies that can control gravity with a weapon known as the Grav-link. Russel’s wife was killed in the attack and his daughter is missing. The two partners have taken up Grav-links of their own in order to fight the enemy and find Russel’s daughter.
A lot of the demo was built to show off the different gravity effects the game has to offer. While players have access to different types of guns as their “normal” weapon, the Grav-link unsuprisingly got the most love on the development side of things. For the purpose of the demo, all of the abilities of the Grav-link were able to be utilized, but in the release version you’ll gradually unlock these abilities and your Grav-link will become stronger through a Grav-link specific level-up sort of system. The Grav-link can utilize two different types of gravity: Low Gravity and High Gravity. If you shoot a burst of low gravity, all the objects or people that were hit in that small area will become suspended in mid-air for a short period of time. While they are in this mode, you can grab debris to use as a shield or grab an enemy to dangle in the air (though the rep cautioned me that they will likely try to shoot you in the face when you do this!). While you’re in this “grab” mode, you won’t be able to shoot your weapon, but it will certainly lend itself to some pretty cool co-op maneuvers. A burst of high gravity works just the opposite: instead of making things light, it makes things heavy. You can shoot a burst of high gravity at a crate hanging in the air to cause it to come crashing down, or shoot it at an enemy to pin him helplessly to the ground. A second burst of high gravity to a pinned enemy will crush them into a bloody pulp. As the Grav-Link can do some pretty fancy stuff, its balanced with an ammo-type system. You can pick up “ammo” packs for it off the ground, or charge it up at charge stations at the start of tough areas, or you can wait for it to slowly regen over time.
Okay, enough about the fancy gun - what was the game itself actually like? The demo toured a few different areas which showcased that the gravity focus of the game was not just confined to the Grav-link. As we ran up to the start of a new area, I noticed there were enemies standing on the “wall,” but it was actually a different plane. You can shoot enemies coming at you from the “ceiling” or “walls” or you can flip over to their plane of gravity via conduits. These are glowy blue points on the ground which when you run over and hit a button, switch you over to a different plane of gravity. One thing that I thought was pretty neat was that you could see how the gravity changes in midair. When you pull out a grenade and look at the trajectory line, you can see it suddenly change in midair. So you can happily grenade someone on the wall. The very last part of the demo was a sneak peak at the Zero-G levels. Certain levels in the campaign will be in environments with zero gravity. In them you can float from piece of debris to piece of debris and shoot people while you’re doing it. The demo only really showed a few seconds of it, but I was told that we should be hearing a lot more about Zero-G levels and gameplay in the months to come.
I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly Inversion ran and how fluid everything looked. The game had a cover system, a partner revival system, and all those types of things we generally expect now in an action shooter game, but it seems implement them well. Since the environment can be trashed, if you want to utilize cover, you’ll likely have to move from spot to spot which will likely make this a fast-paced game. Strategizing, however, will also likely have great payoff as well (if I shoot some low gravity over there, can I pop up that guy who’s hiding there?). All these factors certainly make Inversion a game to keep your eye on.
The second co-op game I played was Go Vacation on the Wii, planned to release in the Fall. There are two main modes for the game: mini-game mode and a single-player exploration mode where you wander around Kawawii Island and unlock new minigames. There are 50 mini-games in total, some of which are single-player, some co-op, and some competitive. The team-based mini-games often seem to offer an option to play against an AI team and comp-stomp (somehow using such a term for a Wii game seems strange...) or to go up against another player team in 2v2. As far as the co-op mini-games go, there are some full 4-player co-op mini-games (e.g. Sky Diving where you move around the controller to make formations in the sky for points) or 2-player co-op against two AI (e.g. Snowball Fight or Beach Volleyball).
The game is certainly geared towards families and may possibly be mostly catering to families who have younger children. The controls for many of the games were quite simple and mostly just consisted of doing the same action over and over again for points. The chibi anime-style graphics (which, I admit, are pretty cute) will also likely appeal to younger players.