August 12, 2013

With very little fanfare, Inversion on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 recently made its way onto the new release market. The game hopes to present a fresh twist, or should we say gravitational shift, on the well-trodden third-person shooter genre. Inversion offers a splattering of new mechanics, but is ultimately more memorable for replicating its peers than anything new.

You play as cop Davis Russel, with his partner Leo along for the ride. All things go to hell when the alien Lutadore – that oddly look very much like humans – decide to wreak havoc on the world and alter the laws of gravity. Davis’ daughter gets caught up in the commotion, and while headed off on rescue, our cop buddies are (ironically) locked up by the aliens. As you would expect, the pair break out of captivity, discovering a harness-like device that allow them to manipulate gravity in the process. With the undiscovered powers of science in their hands, the law-enforcement friends swear to destroy their invaders.

The story – like much of the game – is rather stock standard, but is adequate enough to advance the plot forward. The characters are portrayed a little more human than your average gun-toting protagonist, but it unfortunately doesn’t make them any more likable. Any attempts to inject emotion into the narrative are also quashed by ‘yo dawg lets go kill us some aliens’ chatter.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the developers have simply slapped a new coat of paint on Gears of War. Saber Interactive, otherwise responsible for the overlooked TimeShift, seem comfortable copying mechanics of bygone blockbusters, and in all fairness, they make a good replica. The core gameplay is serviceable, slapping in and out of cover and popping up to take potshots at the enemy. The usual assortment of weapons get an outing, but they are all rather bland, lacking any kind of weight or variety. Nevertheless, the tools of war are still competent for slaughtering the droning AI.  It all culminates in mindless entertainment that servers it purpose well enough, but don’t expect any reinvention of the wheel.

The sole innovation that Inversion boasts – the ability to change gravity – is vastly underused, and mostly comes off as a gimmick. With gravity-altering capabilities, weapons can levitate objects scattered about the environment. This allows you to create ad-hoc cover, or have a little fun by tossing items at enemies. I emphasise gimmick when using the gravitational abilities to kill enemies – the option is there, but it is just as quick and easy to use normal weapons or save exposing yourself to incoming fire.

A scattering of puzzles ask that you create a path by using your gravitational weapons to move something out of the way. More fun comes later, when the entire gravitational pull of the world is turned upside down. This creates some interesting scenarios, as you might have to battle the enemy in an upside-down world from what might have just been the roof. A few sequences also have you navigating from cover-to-cover in zero gravity. However, these situations are few and far between, buffering out the normal third-person encounters. Greater use of the gravitational mechanics really could have made Inversion stand out from the crowd of shooters that it otherwise seems so eager on joining.

The single-player campaign can we finished in an afternoon, and an array of multiplayer modes are also on offer. Options including Deathmatch and Capture the Flag are available, as well as a new mode called King of Gravity. It would have been great to try out this suite of options, but it seems that the multiplayer community – if there ever was one – has already packed up and gone home. Not a single multiplayer game could be discovered, and there is only so long you can wait for a match to come up. Inversion was released over a month ago in the US, and if no one has opted to stick around long enough for the multiplayer to become anything, we can only speculate that it didn’t amount to much. The only saving grace to try out the game more than once is the option to play the campaign in co-op.

Inversion boasts a fair attention to detail, with a range of aesthetically pleasing levels to stomp through. However, the game never breaks free of the whole ‘world-gone-down-the-toilet’ mentally that pervades anything with even a slight post-apocalyptic resemblance. Expect plenty of bleak and brownish tones throughout. Listening to fingernails scraping a blackboard is also preferable to hearing the atrocious dribble that doubles as voice-acting.

In the end, Inversion knows its identity – a carbon copy of the best third-person shooters slapped together with a story that somehow justifies the game’s gravitational changes. The core gameplay is enjoyable but forgettable, and the brief gravity segments are entertaining enough to leave you pondering at the lost potential. In a dry season of releases, you might be searching for something to carry you over until the inevitable tide of Christmas releases. Just for shooter fans, but with other excellent options like Binary Domain, Inversion is really only worthy of a quick rental or bargain purchase.


Gravitational-altering segments | Entertaining third-person gameplay


Too brown | Too samey

Overall Score: