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Inversion

Score: 70%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: Saber Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1: 2 - 12 (Online)
Genre: Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Inversion is a game that has a good idea and a lot of potential, but in the end, it just doesn’t follow through enough to really make the game stand out.

As far as Inversion’s presentation goes, the maps and locations look bigger than they actually are, and it doesn’t take too long before you realize that everything about the game is pushing you in one specific direction. Even when you feel like you’ve found a bit of a branching point to explore a slightly different area, it either dead ends, or that branch you didn’t take didn’t go very far. So, while the game looks big, it’s more of an optical illusion rather than actual sprawling streets and tunnels to explore. Couple that with the game’s somewhat bland color pallete and average-feeling texture quality, and Inversion’s visual style feels very middle of the road.

Unfortunately, the same can’t really be said about the game’s audio. I found pretty much every piece of dialogue was wooden and, at times, felt out of place. Comments made in the middle of a firefight didn’t seem all that necessary, and more times than not, seemed to be there just so you wouldn’t forget there was a second character running through the levels with you, even if he doesn’t seem to do much when you are under fire.


Gameplay:

Inversion takes place in the near future and puts you in control of a local cop, Davis Russell, and his partner, Leo.

When an invasion of a more advanced race that looks pretty human happens, Davis and Leo are captured. After some time, the duo are able to escape and they steal some of the alien tech. In fact, it’s this technology that is supposed to make Inversion stand out. It seems this race has mastered gravity fields and can make the gravity in a localized area lighter or heavier and thus cause objects to float or fall respectively.

This not only gives the game some interesting possible puzzles, but it makes for some different combat. For one, many paths that are blocked by debris can be cleared by causing the junk to float away, or grabbing it with the GravLink (the device you use), and throwing it towards the barrier. There are even times when increasing the gravity will cause objects to fall and create walkways over chasms. It’s just too bad that every single instance that you use the GravLink in a non-combat situation feels overly scripted.

As far as combat is concerned, there is something to be said about being able to slam objects into your enemies, much like Darth Vader against Luke Skywalker at Cloud City, but causing your opponent to float away and lose control while you snipe them feels rewarding as well.

Inversion also has places where gravity is out of control. There are times when you will flip around and start walking on walls, or even jump from floating asphalt to floating asphalt as an entire city block has a low gravity field around it. Unfortunately, much like the gravity-based puzzles, these points in the game feel very scripted.

Something also needs to be said about the pacing of the game. Inversion has a very noticeable stop and go feel to it. You will run into a room, clear it of bad guys, and as you leave the space, a cutscene takes over that shows you and Leo walking and talking a bit before you turn a corner and find a new group of enemies. Your characters jump to the side and take cover, and then you proceed to take out another group of Lutadores (the enemies), all to walk into yet another cut scene and repeat the process. While this style of gameplay does provide story throughout the level instead of just at the beginning, end and maybe at some point in the middle, it is very jarring and messes with the overall feel of the game.

Inversion offers quite a few multiplayer modes, but almost all of them fit into the standard molds. The only thing that makes them different is the use of the GravLink. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ever find anyone to play against/with to get a good feel of the game styles.


Difficulty:

Inversion is the type of game where you feel like you are making constant progress, but you also feel like there are a few too many cheap kills thrown in to slow you down. I found that I was able to clear out the room of bad guys pretty easily, only to find a single grunt in the next room deal about more damage than expected and end up back at a checkpoint.

Thankfully, the checkpoints never felt too spaced out, and considering the game’s stop-and-go feel, you really won’t have to do much more than re-clear out a couple of rooms and go through one or two skippable cut scenes before you are ready to find that one guy that snuck up on you again.


Game Mechanics:

Inversion’s biggest draw is also a place where it seems to need the most work, namely the GravLink. There is a lot of potential there for some really interesting gameplay, but there really isn’t enough freedom to let the player truly feel like they have control.

When I first tried out Inversion at E3 2011, and then again here when it came in for review, I was reminded of LucasArts’ Fracture. For those not familiar with the title, it was an FPS that let you raise or lower the ground around you. While Fracture had some areas that needed work, I felt like the one thing it got right was that core terrain-deformation ability and the fact that you could use it pretty much anywhere.

While the ability to manipulate gravity in Inversion is always available, most of the time it isn’t very useful, well not unless the game decides it is. As a result, Inversion feels like a game with a lot of potential, but both the gameplay and the story just don’t quite go far enough to make it truly stand out.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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