In late 2009, Namco Bandai announced a gravity-manipulation FPS from TimeShift developer Saber Interactive. It was to be called Inversion, and it went completely MIA following the announcement. So imagine my surprise when the publisher premiered the first footage of the game this week at its Ignite 2011 event, and then topped that with a hands-on demo.

Inversion's premise remains unchanged all these mysterious months later (even if you don't remember it -- I sure didn't): Ex-cop Davis Russel fights an invading army of aliens -- the "Lutadores" -- with an awesome, gravity-altering gizmo called the Gravlink. In its most powerful state, this device allows players to manipulate objects and enemies as if they were in zero-gravity space: Shoot a car with the Gravlink and it'll float up into the air, at which point the player can lasso the vehicle (still using the Gravlink) and employ it as mobile cover, or simply toss it as an offensive projectile. The shortcoming of the short demo I played, though, is that it didn't feature access to the full capabilities of the Gravlink, as I'd seen in the pre-demo footage.

In the demo, I was only able to toy with smaller objects, like traffic cones and random boxes. Without full access to the Gravlink, the game mostly plays like a straight-up cover-based shooter -- a competent albeit uninspired experience that's highly reminiscent of Gears of War.

Inversion doesn't just look like Gears (it's not using Unreal, but rather the Saber3d Engine and Havok -- still, it's a dead ringer from a presentation standpoint), but it's got pretty much the same control setup, too. Like Gears' Marcus, Davis crunches into a "roadie run" with the press of a button and sticks to cover just as intuitively as his Gears' counterpart. Even his assault rifle handles like a Lancer (minus the chainsaw).

Where Inversion does differentiate itself from Gears (aside from the obvious gravity play) is through its destructible environments. Concrete gets chewed up during shootouts and crumbles realistically, especially the concrete cover scattered about the environments. The most impressive example of destruction I caused was in unloading a turret gun on a two-story building, destroying the face of the building, and then its support structures. Eventually, what was left toppled. While an impressive display, it was also scripted, so it's unlikely every building will be as destructible in the game.

During the demo, I also encountered another way the game breaks gravity through specially placed jump spots, which shift the gameworld on the fly. One such spot flung me up into the air and onto the wall of a skyscraper in an Inception-type moment. It was pretty cool.

In just its pre-alpha build (the game isn't out until 2012!), Inversion came across as a solid, polished experience, despite its bromidic shooting mechanics. I wish I could have played with the Gravlink some more (obviously the hook here), but the brief demo revealed the foundation for what could be a solid shooter.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

PSA: Black Ops serving up double XP all weekend