Inversion arrived in stores at a time when pretty much everyone in the video game industry was distracted with the madness known as E3. It is not too often we see high profile top-notch games launch during this week, so I have to admit I was a little skeptical of this game before I even fired it up on my Xbox 360. There was little in terms of Inversion hoopla or coverage leading up to its launch as well so I am certain I am not the only one who expressed some pre-launch concerns. When I arrived home from E3, my review copy had arrived so I set aside some time for Namco Bandai’s Inversion. Was it a waste of time? In short the answer is no; however, this is one of those shooter action experiences that could have benefited from a little more polish and a little more originality.
For those of you who were completely unfamiliar with the game as much as I was before I played it, Inversion is a third person shooter that plays out like many shooters before it; however, it has a heavy emphasis on cover and gravity defying combat. You take on the role of Davis Russel, a young police officer who finds himself in the middle of war where the enemy is taking advantage of weaponry that manipulates gravity. Enemies are able to levitate objects and use them to their advantage. On top of it all, Davis’ daughter has gone missing, so he, along with his crime-fighting partner Leo, takes command of advanced gravitational weaponry in order to save the world and ultimately find his daughter. Overall, the story is not a bad one, the plotline is somewhat interesting, and the banter between Davis and Leo reminded me very much of the chatter heard in Gears of War or Army of Two. The only issue in terms of the story is that the gameplay holds the storyline back, and as a result I never found myself getting emotionally attached to the game’s characters. In the end Davis’ plight seems to get lost.
As the name of the game would suggest, everything in this world is somewhat inverted. This does not happen all the time but it happens frequently with no rhyme or reason. Down is up and up is down. Think of the movie Inception and that is what you get in Inversion to a certain extent. Much like the storyline, the core elements are there and if the developers could have pulled off an Inception-like experience on the Xbox 360, Inversion could have been so much more.
Much like other action shooters you have access to advanced weaponry. For instance, early in the game you will secure a Gravlink which is a dynamic tool that enables Davis to control gravity. With this tool Davis is able to move objects in his path using Low Gravity (LowG) and he is also able to create pathways to walk across using High Gravity (HighG). He can bounce enemies out of cover and clear pathways too. The game gradually introduces you to these mechanics and overall they work relatively well, but I certainly discovered some accuracy issues. Because of these issues I ended up relying on my guns whenever I could as I found no real advantage to using the Gravlink unless the game absolutely forced me to. The idea behind these control mechanics is cool but it is nothing we haven’t seen before. Some of the gravity defying tactics will remind you of games like Dead Space and Bioshock. Being able to launch enemies into the air has been done before so it never really feels like you are playing something new.
As the game progresses your Gravlink is upgraded which allows you to focus a little more on the HighG aspects of the game. You will use HighG for cover as you pull objects in front of you and you will also use HighG to trap enemies. The result can be satisfying, but again accuracy becomes an issue, as it does not seem all that precise. This also affected launching enemies in the air towards an enemy too.
Control wise the game is hit and miss. Shooting and aiming mechanics are tight; however, the cover mechanics lack that Gears of War polish and fluidity. Moving from cover to cover is finicky as often I was left exposed to enemy. This may have been due to my poor execution but the game never really guides you where you can safely jump from cover to cover. Cover is essential for your survival but at this stage in the game we have seen far better cover systems employed for so many other games to date.
When Inversion’s world turns upside down or when an area of combat goes on its side, Inversion becomes a little more enjoyable and much more of a challenge. Enemies can be difficult to locate during these segments and killing them becomes more of a test; however, these instances do not occur as frequently as I would have liked and in the end Inversion plays out in a linear fashion like so many other shooters on the Xbox 360.
Visually, Inversion is much better than I expected. The character design is impressive and the enemies have a Road Warrior meets Gears of War look about them. Likewise, the game’s environments feature plenty of detail and the destructible objects and environments make for a game that is vibrant and alive. I noticed no major clipping issues and the game ran fairly smooth even with explosions and the levels turning upside down. Much like the games visuals, the sound is pretty good as well. It is nothing incredibly innovative and it steals a page from other shooters, which feature similar dynamic tunes. Yet at the end of the day the character voice work is solid and the game’s sound effects are passable.
Inversion does feature a two player co-op and an online multiplayer aspect. It does feel a tad tacked on but I do see some redeeming qualities in the co-op experience. To do this however you will have to convince another friend to pick-up the but I am not so sure you want to drop your hard earned cash on another copy of Inversion. The multiplayer aspect features your typical deathmatch and king of the hill type matches. Additionally there is a horde like mode as well. Are you getting the ongoing theme here? Inversion has a “been there and done that” feel which is too bad because 4-years ago people may have highly praised the game.
Overall, Inversion is not a bad game but it certainly isn’t a great one either. The gameplay feels all too familiar and I never found myself becoming emotionally attached to the game’s characters. The gravity defying combat mechanics are not as polished as they could be and the cover system has holes. Despite some of the drawbacks, Inversion features decent visuals and some satisfying shooter elements, yet at the end of the day it is a game best left to pick up when you find it in the bargain bin which is where it will be sooner than later.