Sometimes an otherwise-uninteresting looking game has a few tricks up its sleeve. Just about all of Inversion smacks of mediocrity -- its generic storyline (aliens invade Earth!), derivative gameplay (maybe you've played Gears of War?) and unoriginal multiplayer modes (two different kinds of deathmatch!) are all a big turn-off at first glance. But Inversion has one thing going for it: the Gravlink.

It's a device that enables the core mechanic of the game, gravity manipulation. By firing off a red or blue beam, you can increase or decrease the gravity of an area or object. It's one-time use, however you can pick up little energy boosters around the environment that allow you to use it more than once. When I became comfortable with the Gravlink, I found myself having some fun with Inversion.
Don't get me wrong. Inversion had issues during my time with it. Guns lacked any and all oomph. Shotguns did nowhere near the damage you'd expect, sounding more catapult than cannon. The standard assault rifle, which is pretty much a Retro Lancer from Gears of War, felt impotent.

That Gears of War influence is everywhere in Inversion, and not only in presentation and gameplay. Every multiplayer mode is a variation of something offered up in Epic's flagship series. The first multiplayer match I played was an Annex/King of the Hill variant supporting up to eight players, called Hourglass.

Hourglass has an interesting conceit – while the capture point is stationary the entire time, when one side takes control, it flips the level upside down. If the enemy retakes the capture point, the level flips back. But the effects on the game were superficial. There was no real change in layout or strategy. It was always "sit here, guard that" or "don't let them guard that!" Holding the capture point for any amount of time barely moves the meter, leading to a stalemate.

Survival mode resembles Horde, though instead of asking players to survive a set number of waves, players instead have a timer to eradicate a set number of enemies and advance through a couple areas. I appreciated the progression of the mode, but the AI killed it for me here: every enemy spawns from a well, runs into the battlefield and ducks behind the first piece of cover they can see. It turns into a game of distance whack-a-mole, and players also die with no penalty – though, if all players perish at the same time, that particular match is over. My motivation waned to the point of non-existence about halfway through.

There's also the requisite deathmatch and team deathmatch variants. Nothing surprising there, but free-for-all deathmatch was easily the most enjoyable of all the modes for me. Seeing people run around firing at each other, random rockets whizzing by and hitting their targets, while people float around a giant pocket of zero gravity in the middle of the stage having pistol duels like they're in The Matrix was refreshing next to everything else I played.

The Gravlink can strike at any time, from any one. See a red projectile? Dodge it, or else you'll be stuck to the ground in a pocket of really dense gravity. Blue does the opposite, instantly turning your target into a floating Richard Garriot (or, if you need a more recent reference, John Carmack). Moments where you catch two warring players in a pocket of gravity, turning them into big, floating targets show Inversion's promise, and a depth of strategy hard to see at first glance. The first time I glued someone to the ground, luring in an unsuspecting passer-by looking for a free kill only to drop a grenade on the two of them was a pretty great self high-five moment.

But right now, Inversion doesn't do a good job of explaining how the Gravlink should be used – in multiplayer at least. Luckily, I already played Inversion before, but I saw other journalists, many who were just getting their hands on the game for the first time, playing it like a standard cover-based shooter. When played as a shooter, separated from the mechanics of the Gravlink, Inversion feels like every other ho-hum third-person shooter I've played over the years.

Saber has a good hook on its hands with Inversion, despite the mediocrity of the story elements, character design and multiplayer modes. The Gravlink is the show; the main attraction. Hopefully Saber understands that and showcases it as much as possible. Without it, all they have so far is another mediocre Gears of War clone.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.