Also On: Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Sabre Interactive
I feel the need to be upfront with a quick disclosure on this review of Inversion, of which we received a PS3 copy of the game from Namco for. This text and score is based solely on the offline/single-player experience. Yeah, there’s an online mode in Inversion, and online co-op, but I’ll be damned if I could ever get it to work. I’ve had the game for a week, and have sat in numerous online lobbies waiting to see one of the game modes fill long enough to get a match started, but that result eluded me constantly.
Checking connections, NAT, and so on seemed to indicate that the issue wasn’t on my end, and that I can chalk this up to a lack of players actually online to play with. Checking online leaderboards seems to support this, with a few modes literally showing just 3 people ranked, one actually showed a single player ranked (how is that even possible?). So yeah, if you’re thinking about picking up Inversion for online play you’ll apparently be in the minority there.
So how does the single player experience fare? Not too well. Inversion is never overtly offensive in its mechanics or story, but it certainly feels a bit dull in a console generation literally overwrought with third person shooters. And while Inversion tries to introduce its gravity-manipulation mechanic, that concept never really feels like it reaches maturation throughout the 7 or 8 hours that the campaign will last you. Pulling enemies from cover by inducing pockets of zero-gravity around them is fun at first, less so the 100th time you end up doing it.
The plot revolves around two cops, one of which with the last name of Davis who serves as the main character of Inversion. Davis’ world is literally turned upside down after the invasion of the Lutadores, a race of humanoids that despite their brutish look and behavior, along with poor appearance and personal hygiene, are apparently genius enough to create gravity-manipulation devices used primarily as both weapons and mining devices.
Davis and his buddy are promptly captured by the Lutadores during their initial invasion, which sees Davis’ wife murdered and the fate of his daughter up in the air. When Davis and friend escape their prison, Davis starts out on his primary mission, which is to locate his daughter and discover if she’s alive or dead. This overall plot isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s overly serious tone is underscored by some really poor voice acting, which often comes off as stilted and wooden. Any emotional highpoints never really meet their goal, and illicit little response from the player other than the need to hit that skip cutscene button one more time.
To get from point A to point B in the ruined city landscape that serves as most of the backdrops for the stages in Inversion, Davis and company will battle it out in firefights against the Lutadores. Your primary weapon is going to be an assault rifle, which looks suspiciously like weaponry found in another third person shooter that Inversion seems to be a little more than inspired by. Other weapons will turn up though, including an odd shotgun that allows only two rounds to be chambered at a time, but has incredible range. You’ll also gain access to a sniper rifle which seems useful only in very specific situations, grenades, a different type of assault rifle, a machine gun, and so on. None of the weapons really stand out here, and help contribute to the overall mediocre feeling of that Inversion tends to put out constantly.
When just going toe to toe with the Lutadores, Inversion is simply just another cover based shooter. You can roadie run from one point to another, slam into cover, and pop up to aim just like a dozen shooters that came before it. You can also vault over cover, and transition from one piece of cover to another nearby with relative ease. Again, all of this works well enough, but is hardly breaking new ground.
Where Inversion tries to come alive is with its gravity mechanics, which certainly breathe a little life into the game. Davis comes equipped with a device that allows him to fire off what equates to a gravity bubble, which can generally be aimed at certain structures and enemies, and creates a zero-G field around that subject. For structures it might move debris blocking your path, or allow you to pull things from the air and hurl them around as weapons, like cars, barrels, pieces of pavement and so on. With enemies it’ll literally pull them from the safety of cover, opening them up to fire and temporarily disorienting them.
Again, this concept is pretty cool the first few times you use it. However, after a while that charm really wears off, and you’ll even find yourself ignoring the ability completely in an effort to just get from one gunfight to the next. The use of gravity is rarely 100 percent necessary, outside of some scripted events that will prompt you to use it, and I never feel like the concept of manipulating gravity hits any kind of creative high point for the player. A bit later in the game you’ll gain the ability to create heavy gravity fields, which let you pin down foes or bring down cover, but again this feels underutilized.
Another concept that’s woefully underused is the random pockets of zero-G that you’ll occasionally get to fight in. These sections will see you floating in mid-air, unable to really move outside of grasping to a piece of floating debris, vaulting from that debris and moving to the nearest one. There’s actually a game in beta now called Hybrid developed by 5th Cell that feels awfully similar to this idea, and in Inversion these sections certainly feel more inventive and fresh than the standard cover stuff that makes up the majority of the game.
One last bit of gravity fun comes from certain points that allow you to flip your character’s gravity around a bit. You’ll start off on the floor, move into one of these pockets, and be flipped up to the ceiling, or maybe the side of a building. However, the enemies you were previously fighting at ground level are still there, which certainly changes up your perspective and method of taking them out. I found myself really wishing this was a thing that I could have triggered myself instead of relying on the scant few points that Inversion offers up across all levels, as it was almost always the highlight of any level it appeared in.
But, unfortunately, Inversion never really capitalizes on any of its unique concepts. It feels like it’s constantly playing it safe, and relying far too much on the core, standard third-person shooter roots it’s built around. Overall I don’t think it’s a game that’s really worth your time, unless you’ve literally nothing better to play within this particular genre. Worth a rental, maybe, but certainly not a purchase.