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Inversion
Score: 60%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: Saber Interactive
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1: 2 - 12 (Online)
Genre: Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
I have to give credit to Inversion for at least attempting something different. The game’s gravity manipulation mechanic is incredibly interesting, especially when paired with shooter mechanics. The team up is reminiscent of Fracture; the concept is familiar enough, but with a unique twist. Unfortunately, Inversion also shares another trait with Fracture; the concept is neat, but the game fails to do anything interesting with it.

Inversion is passable, but there's nothing about the presentation that stands out as particularly remarkable. Character animations suffer from a lot of random hiccups, which detract from the overly used cutscenes. Inversion is overly reliant on cutscenes to convey information. I can handle one or two, but they happen with such frequency it gets beyond annoying. Shoot someone. Cutscene. Shoot someone else. Another cutscene. Even worse, each sequence has a “Pause/ Skip” overlay, which only stands as a reminder you’re watching stuff happen, not playing the game.

Although a mostly a dingy “brown shooter,” I liked some of the visual choices. Watching the city deteriorate over time is fun, and I like the scrappy look of the main characters. Enemy designs, conversely, are a bit of a contradiction. They look like savages, but use really advanced technology. I’m sure there’s an explanation, but it just doesn’t fit.

I also liked parts of Inversion’s soundtrack. I’ve even tried to hunt down a few tracks to add to my library. The rest of the audio isn’t that great. Weapons are powerful, but sound incredibly weak. Then there’s the voicework, which doesn’t do the script any favors. You’re also forced to listen to your companion spew uselessly obvious information during levels.


Gameplay:
I don’t think I’d have much of an issue with the cutscenes if the story was actually interesting, but Inversion relies on a messy collage of well-worn tropes. You play as Davis, a cop stuck in the middle of an invasion by a group of aliens (who inexplicably earn their name –Lutadores -- halfway through the game). The crux of Davis’ quest is to find his daughter, who is missing in the wake of the attacks, and get revenge for the death of his wife. It’s a simple enough premise to work, but the game does everything it can to develop cheap emotional attachments with little success. At times, these elements will run contradictory to each other. It’s a mess and eventually you’ll want to make use of that “Skip” overlay.

Early on Davis and his friend, Leo, are captured and outfitted with Gravlinks, introducing the game’s gravity manipulation mechanic. Although the Lutadores look like savages from the furthest corners of Fallout’s wasteland, they’re apparently smart enough to manipulate gravity. Although the concept presents itself as something different – and really, there is a lot of potential – the concepts never become more than a proof of concept. Levels are incredibly linear and you spend more time using the cover-based mechanics.

Inversion is very focused on pushing you forward. Levels leave little room for exploration, instead opting to push you from one firefight to the next. The game does a good job of slowly introducing new gameplay ideas, but there’s never a chance to just play with things. There are no interesting puzzles to push your skill with gravity manipulation, nor are there upgrades/ collectables to seek out, adding next to no replay value.

Inversion features online play, but for whatever reason, I was never able to get a game going. This is a shame since, based on the manual, it seems that the multiplayer component is where much of Inversion’s post-campaign life is. There are numerous game types (some of which sound different), as well as Challenges and character leveling.


Difficulty:
I don’t know if I’d call Inversion hard, but it puts up a fight. Damage dealt seems comparable to damage taken, so I always felt like I was getting a fair shake during gunfights. That’s not to say Inversion is beyond a few cheap hits. Enemies are capable of instant kills, and these will come from out of nowhere. These are expected, but add an instant dose of frustration to gameplay when you’re forced back to a distant checkpoint. Even worse, you’ll need to sit through lengthy load times between deaths.

Leo is your constant companion, but is never a useful one. He’ll offer boosts and other scripted bits of help, but he isn’t much help in battle. He’s just sort of there; meanwhile, you’re in everyone’s sights and left to babysit Leo, who you need to revive when he goes down. Leo, by the way, doesn’t return the favor.


Game Mechanics:
Inversion’s gravity mechanics are, again, a really neat concept and a lot of fun the first few times you use them. Davis can launch Inversion points, which create gravity fields in a localized area. Once “captured,” you can toss objects at enemies or even lift them up, throwing off their aim. I like the idea, but its way too limited to be of any functional use. Setting up anti-gravity points and using the manipulation powers is relatively complicated and doesn’t leave much room for flexibility. Rather than using the power to augment combat on the fly, you’re instead forced to commit to very specific strategies. The mechanic only feels useful when plucking stubborn enemies from cover, but that thrill only lasts so long.

As a result, the abilities felt secondary to relying on the core shooting mechanics. That’s great, but not if the game is supposed to be based around something else. The only time you have to use the mechanic is during scripted events. The shooting parts are decent and easily one of Inversion’s high points. Gears of War’s DNA is all over Inversion, and that’s not a bad thing.

At certain points in the game, you’ll flip into entire levels with goofed up gravity. You can flip to the walls or ceiling, offering a different perspective on battle. Again, a really cool concept in theory, but it doesn’t do anything for the game other than offering a different level layout. This would have been better if you could somehow trigger it yourself, but like most of the gravity manipulation ideas, Inversion seems reluctant to release the locks and let players actually play with the mechanic.

I didn’t like Inversion, but there’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel of some sort. The concept is neat and would actually make for a fun shooter, but only if the concepts were more refined and integrated with the core shooter mechanics in a more satisfying way.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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