Review: Inversion

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“Inversion,” with a little
more imagination, could have been one of the nicer surprises of 2012.
Instead, the game is a basic third-person shooter that never fully
lives up to its promise of offering players a chance to “command
gravity.”

Maybe I’m guilty of expecting too much
from this game, but I wanted Inversion’s gravity-control mechanics to
be something that would result in a fresh re-imagining of the TPS
experience. I imagined a game in which my character would be able to
leap from floor to ceiling at will, run upside down with guns
a-blazing and create havoc at any point along the X, Y and Z axes.

That, unfortunately, is not what
Inversion delivers. The game has its moments, but Inversion is
largely a linear experience that builds enough goodwill with its
gravity-control conceit to make things interesting for a while before
bringing things down with repetitive gameplay.

“Inversion” takes place in
the fictional Vanguard City where protagonists Davis Russel and Leo
Delgado are police officers. The game opens on what many cops would
consider a bad day, as the city is invaded by an army of ugly dudes
carrying automatic rifles equipped with really big bayonets. Why are
these guys invading? Because the video game needs bad guys, that’s
why.

As if an invasion is not enough, Davis
and Leo discover the laws of gravity are also being broken at various
places around Vanguard City. This strange phenomenon is where
Inversion hints at its potential for being different than the
standard shooter but before players get a chance to experiment with
gravity, they must fight through the city until Davis discovers his
wife slain and daughter missing. The invaders then capture Davis and
Leo and take the officers to a concentration camp, from which they
must escape and battle their enemies inside, above and below the
ruins of Vanguard City.

That’s the setup for Inversion, and the
game has its share of praiseworthy moments in the dozen or so hours
of play that follow. First of all, Inversion’s levels are packed with
destructable environments and just about anything Davis, Leo or their
foes can shoot can crumble in a hail of bullets. The dynamic adds a
bit of challenge to its cover-based TPS mechanics and more
importantly, looks cool.

Secondly, the game’s gravity-control
aspect offers less than what I expected, but does give the game a
little bit of spice. Although players cannot ignore gravity at will,
they end up being able to arm themselves with a “Gravlink”
that allows them to decrease or increase the force of gravity in the
environment. This means players can lift enemies out of cover, throw
cars or even lava balls at opponents or weigh attackers down in
high-gravity fields.

The game also has a few segments where
players can indeed run along walls or ceilings, but this can only
happen in a few segments where the game’s linear pathway through a
level requires players to do so and the experience doesn’t really
feel special. More frequently, players will have to float their way
across zero gravity zones. These end up being the slowest parts of
the game as players have to gradually fling themselves across space
and take hold of floating debris. It’s not always obvious where
players need to go and many of the game’s Gravlink powers cannot be
used during these moments.

As a shooter, the game lets players
sample an arsenal that includes all the basics: assault rifle;
shotgun; rocket launcher; an energy weapon and a flame thrower that
takes the form of a “lava gun.” The weapon variety is not
really much different than what players can find just about any
shooter.

I’ve seen many writers unfavorably
compare Inversion to “Gears of War,” since the former game
relies on the cover mechanics that GoW popularized back in 2006. I
was personally more reminded of “Mass Effect 2″ since the
Gravitron allows players a chance to do more than just shoot enemies,
although players’ powers in Inversion are nowhere near as varied as
those in Mass Effect.

Even so, Inversion has enough to be a
competent shooter, but the game’s rhythm is frequently interrupted by
cutscenes or moments in which Davis and Leo have to stop shooting and
help each other climb a wall or open a door. The help-a-brother-out
moments too often break up the flow of the game so … that …
playing … Inversion … feels … something … like … driving
… in … heavy … traffic … when the game should just let
players blast through everything like a runaway truck.

From time to time, Inversion offers
enough chaotic moments to hold a player’s interest, but the game
boils down to not much more than shooting a bunch of guys before
shooting a bunch of guys. Inversion sporadically ups the challenge by
pitting players against armored enemies or hordes of mooks, but the
challenge is all about testing how quickly a player can react.
Inversion isn’t really a game that forces players to think tactically
or solve puzzles.

One more note: I may have been more
inclined to like more of this game had I not played it after an
underwhelming experience at E3 2012. Inversion is at least a new
name, so there’s some respite from sequelitis, but gaming companies
spent so much energy at E3 emphasizing bloody shooters that Inversion
or any other game trading in bullets and unnecessary F-bombs just
doesn’t seem very creative to me right now.

Players who want to take a chance on
Inversion can expect to find a few positives and few negatives that
balance out to an average experience. Inversion may make for a decent
rental, but it’s not worth spending $60 on for a retail copy.

Inversion

Saber Interactive/Namco Bandai Games

PlayStation 3, XBox 360 (Reviewed on XBox 360)

Rated M for Mature