Most shooters try to reel you in with some promised mechanic. For Inversion, that mechanic is the ability to tweak gravity. The promise of being able to alter the shifts of gravity to help you fight, make cover, fly in zero-gravity, and even stand on walls is extremely enticing. However, don’t get your hopes up, because it’s sadly just a gimmick used to draw you into an average game.
You are Davis Russel, a cop in Vanguard city, on the beat with your partner, Leo Dalgado, when suddenly the world turns upside down… literally. Gravity shifts occur throughout the city, toppling buildings as well as raising streets. Savage looking humans named “Lutadore” arrive with advanced weaponry that can control gravity, to an extent. They slaughter or imprison adults, but they also take the children for some unknown reason. Davis is desperate to save his daughter from these Lutadore. This is his motivation for the entire plot. It’s supposed to invoke feelings of a frantic father searching for his daughter; however, Davis isn’t developed enough for this to work. It actually backfires, because when he comes across other kids that need saving, he literally ignores them, making you feel withdrawn from the main character. Add in a rather bland script and hollow voice acting, and the two main characters are rather forgettable, along with the story.
The setting sounds like it could be a good one (cliché, of course), with an invasion and the world crumbling, things could get pretty intense. However, it just never feels intense. Except the first chapter in the Vanguard City, everything else feels brown and gray with narrow corridors. There’s an invasion and a resistance fighting back, but you never get the full scope of this.
Like in all shooters, the lack of story is forgivable, since it’s all about gameplay. Starting with the core gameplay, Inversion is a third-person cover based shooter. Movement and aiming works perfectly fine, until you get into cover, then buttons feel delayed–taking a second to get into cover, shoot from cover, and leave cover. A second isn’t a lot, but in firefights, it could be life and death, especially when 90% of the game is cover-based. These poor controls become evident against one extremely annoying boss called a Slave Driver, who you fight multiple times throughout the game. Once would’ve been plenty, but several times is a downright drag.
Let’s get into the real promising gameplay: the gravity tweaking. What sounds like an amazing idea, falls short. You can shoot an orb of energy at an enemy behind cover to make him float in the air for an easy target. However, the AI hops out of cover every couple seconds anyways, so there isn’t really a need to do this. You can also throw objects at enemies, which is a cumbersome thing to do, but effective. You don’t even have to hit them directly–get the object in the general area and they’ll explode into pieces somehow. You can also make things heavy, which can pin enemies to the ground, but again, it’s not necessary. The main reason for this ability is to make heavy objects above you fall to the ground to use as cover. This sounds promising, given the tactical ability to make your own cover, but it’s just another useless gimmick. After all, many times you will come to an open space with a machine gun bunker on the other side. The only way to cross open areas is to Pull heavy objects from above down to you for cover, and they are hanging perfectly in place. There’s no strategy, it’s a linear way to proceed.
The thought of being able to drift around in zero-g’s while in a firefight sounds extremely thrilling. Like everything else, it falls short. It feels like the rest of the game, when it should have been a change-up in gameplay. When you enter these zones, you look at a platform, press a button, and then you fly to it. You hide behind this floating object, shoot enemies, and then look at another object to float to, making it a huge waste of potential. Technically, you can leave the cover and drift around, but it’s not smooth or well done to be recommended. There’s a good chance that if you do leave cover, you’ll be filled with bullet holes. This could’ve been an incredible aspect of the game that would’ve drawn in many people, but it actually is extremely tedious and annoying.
There was also a promise of being able to invert yourself and walk on walls or ceilings to gain an advantage against enemies on the ground. Although true, it’s a little misleading. At a predetermined point, you will switch what plane you stand on, but so do the Lutadores. This means, even through you’re on a wall, it doesn’t feel like it because you’re still shooting forward, not above or below you. Also, this inverted play rarely happens in the game, when in truth, it should’ve been exploited more. At one point late in the game, Inversion shows what it could’ve been. You finally fight enemies on ceilings and walls, while you’re on the ground. Then you’ll flip up to the ceiling and you’ll be fighting upside down. It was incredibly fun and rewarding to shoot inverted enemies, but it only happened once briefly in the entire game.
There is a multiplayer that could’ve been pretty fun. They have all of the normal modes that you would expect like team death match and co-op survival, but they also have some good ideas. One mode, Gravity slaughter, involves building up a killstreak to flip the entire board upside down. It’s definitely fun, but the appeal doesn’t last long. There are other modes involving gravity which are fun for a while, but the real problem with Inversion online is that there aren’t many people playing it, making it extremely hard to find a playable lobby.
Inversion definitely has some strong points. The game uses Saber3D engine along with Havok physics, which is well done. There is a welcoming feeling to the destruction of cover, as well as seeing dead bodies floating in the air. Objects lying around will shatter during firefights and throwing cars will react realistically to what they hit. Also, some small ideas work well, for example, when you carry a car, you can use it as a moving shield to block bullets. Sometimes the setting is pretty incredible. In the first chapter, being on the wall of a skyscraper looking down at the road was amazing, but that rarely happens in the game. The graphics aren’t amazing, but they certainly aren’t terrible. Basically, Inversion is a game that could’ve been amazing and redefined third-person shooters. The element of gravity gameplay should’ve allowed a lot of strategy and original gameplay, but this game was extremely linear and unoriginal in all aspects, even for a shooter, since every gravity aspect felt unnecessary and annoying throughout most of the game. Without having a solid core gameplay experience to fall back on, Inversion is an average game, at best.
Final Verdict: Don’t pay full price for this game.
This review is based of a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Inversion developed by Saber Interactive and distributed by Namco Bandai Games.