Inversion. I tried to go into this game with an open mind, the common opinion amongst my colleagues was that it would just be a gimmicky shooter, and I’m okay with games like that. I loved Bulletstorm, Binary Domain was solid and The Darkness 2 is one of my favorite’s so far this year. Inversion however did not please me, and I’d just like to point out that this may well be my first review of a game with more negative aspects than positive so if it’s not as professional as my previous write-ups I apologise.
Right let’s begin, Inversion is a cover-based third person shooter (yes another one!) from Namco-Bandai and you assume the role of Davis Russell, forced to fight in a war brought about by invasion by an unknown enemy.
As you would expect in a third person shooter the combat is mostly shooting. The shooting seemed a bit strange to me though, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was but it just didn’t feel as satisfying as most shooters. As far as weapons go there is quite a diverse range, shotguns to assault rifles, heavy machine guns to lava guns! The only problem is that around halfway through the game the weapons that you’d grown used to just randomly disappear. By that I mean the first half of the game has certain weapons available for use, but as you get to the second half a complete new roster of weapons replace the current ones for some strange reason, and worst of all the guns are massively inferior to the original ones! A very cool aspect of Inversion though is how the game changes planes from time to time. One minute you’ll be fighting along a street, the next you’ll have moved onto walking up the side of the building. I thought they absolutely nailed this feature and it really did strengthen the experience.
The cover system is similar to that of all over cover based shooters apart from the fact that sometimes it just doesn’t work. On numerous occasions I found myself attempting to enter cover, only to roll uselessly into the wall. Sorry Inversion but I’m pretty sure that has never happened to me on Gears! Another major annoyance with the cover system is the blindfire ability. Like most cover based shooters you can blindfire whilst in cover (for those of you not familiar with the term it means to shoot by pointing your gun over cover but staying shielded yourself) but whilst blindfiring in Inversion you take damage at exactly the same rate as if you were standing out in the open so there is in fact absolutely no benefit to blindfiring, in fact it is heavily detrimental!
The enemies on show in Inversion are an absolute disgrace. There are only really 3 types of standard enemies that you fight throughout the ground aspect of the game (See paragraph on Zero G sections later in review), they are effectively Light, Medium and Heavy. All of these attack you in the same way, just they require a different amount of bullets to kill. Each one looks hugely similar to the rest and they all use the same moronic attack patterns. As for the bosses, they’re even more of a joke. I recall around 10 boss segment fights, and of those 10 different segments I remember 5 different bosses. My first boss encounter was against “Unknown Robot”. Several chapter later I came across “Security Bot” which was identical aesthetically and had all the same moves. A few chapters later I again was fighting “Security Bot”. It made no sense regarding the lack of variety in the bosses, it seems like a really lazy attempt as boss fights are supposed to be epic and can really be a great feature in shooters.
The interface is pretty straightforward and how you would expect a third person shooter to be. D-pad selects weapons, you can have 2 and a slot for grenades. The bottom right shows how much energy you have left in your gravlink and also what gravity you are currently using (high or low). You have no health bar, just that found in most shooters of recent where the screen goes red, then grey and then you die! Just about the gravlink is your current weapon’s ammo count. As far as Heads-Up displays go this is a pretty solid one, it has everything you need to know in a smart and organised layout.
Gravitational control is the novelty aspect of Inversion and it does really strengthen what otherwise would have been a lacklustre third person shooter. When controlling low gravity pressing RB will cause targeted enemies to float, you can then grab and throw them, the same goes for targeted objects (ie. explosive barrels). High gravity allows you to slam enemies into the ground rendering them immobile for a few seconds which could be the difference between life and death. My main problem with the gravity control is that around 50% of the times I tried to use it, it would either just miss or have no effect leading to a very frustrating experience. Another thing I really didn’t understand is that when you’re controlling low gravity you have the ability to grab and throw things, even discarded ammo from guns but for some unkown reason when in high gravity you cannot grab nearby objects anymore, all you are gifted with is a shield. What a shield has to do with high gravity I have absolutely no idea.
Every now and then you will be forced to traverse a landscape under Zero G. This is basically just a section of a level where you will fly from platform to platform using the A button, at first it was a very cool idea and it really broke up the tedious gameplay but after the third time I came across one I was fed up and the novelty of it was ruined. In these sections a new enemy type is introduced, the “Lurker”. Easily THE most infuriating enemy type in any game, it flies at you at high speed with two swords, two swipes from these will kill you. It is extremely hard to dodge in zero gravity and cover is rendered obsolete as they are a melee type enemy. These sections caused massive problems for as more often than not I would die, revert to last checkpoint, do all the boring zero g traversing again and then die again.
Like all third person cover based shooters, they all have to live up to Gears of War. Inversion does not do this at all, it does however seem to have done a pretty good job at trying to copy it. I have no problem with games taking things from other similar successful titles and putting their own spin on it, but Inversion took it too far. The starting weapon WAS a Retro Lancer, the armour the enemies wear resembles COG armour massively, and even the camera angle when ‘roadie running’ is identical. If they’d have focused more on solid gameplay and a gripping storyline then they’d have had a much more complete game. As it is Inversion tried to copy Gears of War, failed miserably and embarrassed itself in the process.
The sound could well have been a redeeming feature of Inversion, I do value soundtrack and voice actors highly in games, unfortunately this wasn’t the case. The soundtrack was drab and monotonous and the voice actors seem as though they were actually told to portray little to no emotion in their lines.
The graphics were a nice feature for Inversion however, some scenery looked phenomenal and most levels really were a sight to behold whilst gliding through them in zero gravity. I experienced no graphic glitches either through my playthrough which can’t always be said for other games.
The length of the game was pretty standard, it took me around 6 hours to finish the main campaign. I know this doesn’t seem long but when you compare it to other shooters it is pretty average. It does have a multiplayer as well, but after playing a few games I really couldn’t see myself getting stuck into it.
The multiplayer feature is your bog-standard multiplayer with the exception of one mode! King of Gravity. In this mode only one player has the gravitational powers until he/she is killed, then the powers are passed on. This is hugely unfair and most of the time the king of gravity will maintain the powers for the entiritey of the match as he’s almost impossible to best in combat! It does however offer Co-op campaign which is missing from too many games recently, it doesn’t really add to the gameplay but it’s always so much more fun playing through games co-op than single player!
The Bottom Line.
To conclude I had low expectations of Inversion and it still failed to live up to them. It is just a massively generic, and not so great, third person shooter with a slight bit of novelty thrown in, in the form of the gravity, which wears off really quickly. For a new release to have such a short campaign, lacklustre story, terrible enemy variation and less than average gun-play is unacceptable. It really does fall short of even average third person shooters like Binary Domain and I most certainly won’t be playing it again.
Gameplay: 5 – Playable in most parts, but let down by bad AI, a cover system that sometimes doesn’t work and an absolutely woeful variety of foes.
Longevity: 4 – Campaign weighs in at around 6 hours, multiplayer is undesirable to play and it certainly isn’t a game you’d play twice. There aren’t even any collectibles!
Graphics: 8.5 – One thing Inversion does do right are the graphics, great scenery, excellent attention to detail on weaponry.
Sound: 5 -Mediocre soundtrack accompanied by some very boring voice-overs.
Accessibility: 1 – Fairly simple to come to grips with, the gravity control doesn’t always hit where you want though.
Presentation: 2 – The HUD is ideal for what it is, everything you need to know is there in an uncluttered fashion.
Immersion: 0 – The story did not pull me in whatsoever, one of the least compelling storylines for a game in a long time.
Innovation: 2 – Although the gravity didn’t always work properly it was a very innovative addition to the very tired third person shooter genre.
Inversion – 5.2/10
This review is based upon a release copy of the Xbox 360 version of the game.