After the success of Epic’s Gears of War, many third-person shooters have imitated the template of the game in hopes of garnering the same success. While some have blatantly imitated Epic’s GoW game mechanic for game mechanic, others have placed their own ideas into the mix in order to make it original. Such is the case with Namco Bandai and Saber Interactive’s Inversion, a third-person shooter that allows the player to bend gravity at will, run around the sides of buildings, and float through zero-g space in order to save the world.
Inversion tells the tale of two Vanguard City cops: David Russell, also known as ‘D,’ and Leo Delgado. On their way to David’s apartment in order to surprise his daughter with an early birthday gift, things go south in a flash. Mysterious invaders called “Lutadores” arrive at the scene, destroying Vanguard City in a heartbeat and messing around with the city’s gravity. Fearing for the lives of his wife and kid, David and Leo arms themselves and rush to the apartment building, only to find out that things are not what they seem.
The story featured in the game is standard sci-fi stuff, except it’s peppered with bad dialogue. The main characters don’t really have much to say about the matter except occasional one-liners, and how David doesn’t care about anything else except getting his family back. Every character in the game is absurdly boring, and are pretty much stereotypical caricatures. The only passable element is really the plot, and although it starts off being generic, it develops a life of its own during the latter part of the game.
Thankfully, the gameplay isn’t as bad as the story. Inversion is a solid third-person shooter, despite pretty much being a Gears of War clone. Just like its source of inspiration, players navigate hostile environments fighting enemies that emerge from underground, roadie run to cover, and fight the opposition using a variety of human and alien weaponry and grenades. Nearly every significant element in Gears of War’s gameplay has made it’s way into Inversion intact, which isn’t really a bad thing. Players can roll away from enemies, stick to cover, switch to other pieces of cover with one button press, melee attack and more. The aesthetics are also similar to GoW, as the weapon wheel is similarly designed as well, and the lutadores look like the grubs from GoW. It is when the game is imitating GoW that it’s at its best, because when the game strays and starts getting a bit creative, it’s pretty much hit-or-miss.
Inversion has a number of gravity-based gameplay elements featured in the game. After being equipped with a device known as the gravlink that allows David to manipulate gravity, players can use the device to manipulate objects and enemies with low or high gravity. Low gravity causes objects and enemies to float in the air, allowing players to expose lutadores hidden behind cover and pepper them with bullets, and turn floating debris into cover or fling them at unsuspecting enemies. High gravity grounds enemies temporarily, sending them sprawling to the floor and unable to shoot their weapons. If used repeatedly on an enemy, it could kill them on the spot. In addition, high gravity can also act as a shield for David, protecting him from incoming fire.
The low/high gravity mechanics are well done, and offer some interesting gameplay options that add some variety to the tried-and-true gunplay featured in the game. It’s pretty fun to use, and pretty responsive as well, although on occasion the gravity attacks might miss their target even though it looks like the player is aiming properly.
The game also features areas where players are able to step into strange pockets of gravity, which carries and grounds David and Leo to the sides of wrecked buildings (and the occasional bottom of one as well). It’s a pretty awesome experience to take down enemies as you race across the sides of buildings, gaze upon the battle raging in the streets below, and snipe some more baddies that are camping on other buildings with different gravitational fields. It’s pretty much the whole appeal of the game, and I think it’s done pretty well. However, after a while, you realize it isn’t that special, as it’s just clever level design that appears to little throughout the campaign. It would have been much better if the player could have used the gravlink to stick to surfaces at will. On another note, I also found it quite funny that the navigable sides of the buildings occasionally feature signs with painted arrows pointing the player in the right direction. Who the hell had time to put these here?
Inversion also has large sections of zero-g space that the player can float through using inertia and the gravlink. By grabbing onto large pieces of floating debris and pushing away from them, players can make their ways across these twisty sections and fight against incoming waves of floating lutadores. It’s a pretty cool feature, allowing players to face off against fast-moving enemies in action-packed sequences, but unfortunately it’s underused and underdeveloped. Most of these sections appear in the latter part of the game, and there isn’t much freedom of movement in them. Players can only leap from debris to debris, which serve as cover, and usually through a straightforward, linear path. Players can backflip and dodge out of harm’s way using the gravlink, but other than that, movement is very stiff and limited. Then there’s also the fact that aiming a leap towards another piece of debris is occasionally difficult, as sometimes players will have to aim at a specific point just for the game to register that they want to move towards it. These zero-g sections should have been fine-tuned a bit.
Finally, the game also features a number of boss battles that require use of the gravity abilities to succeed. While initially fun, as they offer the use of more thoughtful tactics and strategies to take down the opponent, they get repetitive quite quickly, as players will face these same bosses over and over again during the duration of the game. It’s kind of sad they couldn’t include a variety of bosses, because after a while they just get pretty boring.
Once the main campaign is over, players still have the multiplayer mode to look forward to, although it’s pretty much a rehash of typical multiplayer modes like deathmatch, king of the hill and more, with the inclusion of the gravlink gimmick. Multiplayer has the potential to be somewhat fun, but unfortunately, not much people are playing the game. At the time of writing, I only encountered a handful of online players. Hopefully the online will get better with time.
When it comes down to it, Inversion isn’t really a bad game. It’s just more of the same people have come to know thanks to other, more successful shooters. While Inversion tries to step away from the pack and innovate with promising gravity-based gameplay, it ultimately falls short of the goal. If you must play the game, just rent it.
Thanks to Namco Bandai and 47 Communications for providing a copy for review.