Inversion. Oh, Inversion. Gears of War, Army of Two, Killzone 2’s robots, Dead Space’s zero-gravity stages, PSI-Ops, techno-babble and neopunk envy (but not as cool as it may sound) all baked up and tossed into a gravity-well of cliches. End of the world, conspiracies, techno-babble, rescue missions, humanity’s purpose, more techno-babble – it goes far beyond simply copying better games. The first five minutes will get you excited – not pumped but still interested from the get go to explore the remaining gameplay. But Inversion (oh, Inversion) is a classic example on how to crush that little window of interest on one’s fingertips.
You play as Davis, who’s on his way home with his partner, Token Sidekick, in tow for attending his daughter’s birthday. Lutadores strike. Chaos ensues. Through twists and turns, you land up with some gravity defying tech. It’s all very mysterious at this point, without seemingly any point to the proceedings, guided simply by Davis’s desire to find his daughter – and Token Sidekick just tagging along for the hell of it. Because solidarity, bro.
Honestly, I can appreciate their everyday-ness but man-alive, Davis and his partner are just boring. Yes, Epic overdid it’s characters in Gears of War but they still gave us reasons to care about them. Army of Two, by contrast, has these two meatheads, utterly frakked up and bloodthirsty beyond reprimand that you can get behind, if not invest in. As it comes across, Davis is one note and Sidekick has no backstory whatsoever.
Which shouldn’t matter if you have compelling gampelay. But Inversion’s beginning seems to be a classic example of “Show something awesome, but reintroduce it much later”. And if that weren’t bad enough, the mechanics of the Gravlink are pedestrian at best, clunky at worst. It’s nice to lug cars around at enemies. The Zero-G battles are quite compelling, especially against the Lutadore Assassins, as you maneuver in free orbit while attaching to floating objects in an effort to best them.
Moments like those are few and far between though. Most times, you’re just levitating dudes and shooting them. Or levitating them and throwing them places. Your Gravlink has a set number of uses that increase over time but you don’t get that raw feeling of power that justifies making it so far into the adventure. Most times, stuff just happens and you’re along for the ride.
For anyone complaining about squad-mates stealing kills in Gears 3, I invite you to Inversion where my partner simply couldn’t give a shit. Lackluster level design and imbalanced AI leads to multiple retries in a game that’s well overstayed it’s “nifty” welcome. The cool moments of Vanguard City besieged by gravity make way for mundane treks across deserts, mines and high-tech transport facilities. You can actually count the places were something interesting begins – and how it ultimately spirals into failure.
Enemies carrying Gravlinks are a good challenge. But a Behemoth wielding a Super Mini-Gun Annihilator 3000 and harnessing gravity (besides shooting guided missiles and running speeds uncharacteristic of a couple of moving tons)? That’s just harsh. Not as harsh as throwing a Slave Driver at you about 3-4 times throughout the game – with Slaves who can kill you in a few hits – but still pretty damn harsh. Even worse, it’s not a matter of employing new tactics. Just simply abusing the Gravlink in the best way possible until a result arises. And micromanaging gunplay with gravity manipulation is more troublesome than it needs to be.
The graphics are passable but don’t hold up on closer inspection, particularly in the real time lighting department. Shadows seem to shudder, and textures take a while to fully load. The music isn’t terrible, but there’s just not enough to say about it. A certain sound effect is used throughout. You’ll know it when you hear it, and honestly it makes me question the divide in budgets between the graphics and sound departments. That’s how annoyingly overused it is.
Inversion had so much potential but falls into inane pitfalls of design logic. There’s not many set pieces, but a cut-scene every few minutes. Maneuvering across cover is manageable until you come across cover that can be blown up, resulting in your utterly shocking death. And no, putting rockets on every single damn mini-boss does not compensate for their lack of tactics. You can’t play local co-op on Campaign mode, but can do so via XBox Live.
You can choose to care about this game and carry out till the end – which, honestly, I didn’t expect Saber Interactive to pull off, divisive as it may be – or you can choose not to. The difference is the number of hours you could spend playing something better. Inversion is less than the sum of it’s parts – and those parts come from much stronger titles well worth your time.
This game was reviewed on XBox 360.
Interesting universe and ending, all said and done. Zero-G battles can be fun.
Clunky controls and lame characters collide with imbalanced AI and utter boredom.
Rip off as many awesome game mechanics as you'd like, but at least make it fun.