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Gaming Review

'Inversion' review (PS3): A solid but unspectacular shooter

By
Released on Friday, Jul 13 2012

'Inversion' screenshot

© Namco Bandai


Release Date: July 13 (Europe), June 10 (North America)
Platforms available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Third-person Shooter

Inversion wishes it was Gears of War. It wishes it had the same innovative cover-based action, sensational presentation and incredible atmosphere as Epic's shooter series. But it doesn't, and throwing in Inception-style anti-gravity does little to change this. But what you end up with is a solid, largely enjoyable but also rather forgettable game in the crowded third-person shooter market.

'Inversion' screenshot
Set in the 'near future', Inversion puts players in the shoes of Davis Russell, a hot-headed cop in Vanguard City, who is about to have a very bad day. Earth has inexplicably been invaded by the Lutadore, a rather terribly-named alien race who appear as though they are about to play Laser Quest. Joined by his buddy Leo Delgado, Russell then embarks on a testing mission to help the human resistance against the Lutadore and find his daughter.

Timeshift studio Saber Interactive rather rushes the story. There is no gradual build-up to the enslavement of Earth, it just happens pretty much overnight. This means the game does not really involve you in the plight of the characters, meaning you don't actually really care if Davis finds his daughter or not. This is not helped by the truly woeful dialogue, which would not even grace daytime on Channel 5.

If the dialogue is bad, then the graphics are possibly worst. The opening cutscene could have been taken from a PlayStation One game, while Saber has really phoned it in with some of the environments. The presentation gets into its stride a bit later on, while the character animations are largely okay, but overall this is a world away from the painterly Gears of War series.

'Inversion' screenshot
There's a fair amount to criticise about Inversion, but there are also elements to praise as well. Whilst not innovative, the game is pretty solid as a third-person shooter. The guns feel responsive, the hit detection well-tuned and the controls effective. The cover system can be a bit frustrating, as you are sucked into cover at the wrong moment, and stuck fast to objects at other, equally inopportune times. It is not a showstopper, but definitely an annoyance.

Even Inversion's supposedly unique selling point, its anti-gravity environment and gameplay, is not strictly unique. Near the start of the adventure, Russell and Delgado get access to special Lutadore tech that can bend the laws of gravity; objects can be lifted and thrown, while powerful pulses of energy can be blasted at enemies. It is all pretty well done, but bears huge similarities to Mass Effect's Singularity biotic, Dead Space's stasis ability and even the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2.

There are some nice moments while operating the Gravlink. You can hold a shoulder button to send everything floating into the air, before grabbing an enemy towards you with another to hurl them at their shocked colleagues. Barrels also disgorge their gasoline into floating liquid orbs, which can be erupted into flame with a shot, while well-dug-in enemies can be flung from their cover. Unfortunately, though, the GravLink never really feels like it is fully exploited as a mechanic, meaning you mostly play the game as a standard cover-based shooter.


What is pretty distinctive about the game, though, is its titular inversion system. The Lutadore invasion has left strange pockets of anti-grav matter, which has the strange effect of switching the world around, similarly to the hypnotic sections in Christopher Nolan's movie Inception. Walls or even ceilings then become the new floors, meaning battles take on new dimensions. Just like the GravLink, this never feels fully explored, but it at least mixes things up a bit.

There are also sections where gravity goes entirely and you are tasked with floating through the air between designated points. Alongside platforming, you occasionally have to fight the Lutadore while weightless, which can be a bit niggly and frustrating.

'Inversion' screenshot
Another rather irritating aspect about Inversion is the boss and mini-boss battles; the latter are repeated ad nauseam, changing from fun encounters against different foes to 'not this again'. Then in the boss battles, the checkpoints have sometimes been poorly placed, such as against the Butcher. Beating his first round of attacks transforms the contest into a one-hit-kill battle. Get killed here and the game not only throws you back to the start of the fight, but also the start of the cut scene.

This all sounds like Inversion is a horrible experience, but it is not. The game rumbles along at a good place, shooting the Lutadore is enjoyable and the level design bears a decent amount of intelligence. It will probably take around eight to nine hours to get through the campaign, but compared to Gears of War there is a fair amount of fat in the chapters and there's the overriding feeling that you have done all this before - and maybe had more fun.

Inversion
Playing Inversion alone is okay, as Delgado occasionally chips in with a welcome use of the GravLink to flush out enemies in cover, or take out the straddlers. But there are also times when he goes down right at the worst moment, and has to be revived. It is much better to play the campaign with a friend, as this opens up some great tactics involving the GravLink and guns. It also makes the latter stages of the game easier when there are notable spikes in difficulty.

Alongside the single player, Inversion has a suite of multiplayer modes which include all the usual suspects - Deathmatch, King of the Hill - as well as a Horde-style challenge called Survival. There are also several modes which utilise Inversion's anti-gravity system, such as the ability to shift maps maps upside down for anyone who gets a kill streak, or earn extra points for GravLink kills. Just like the main campaign, it is all pretty solid, but possibly lacks distinctiveness to stick out from the crowd.

Overall, Inversion is a game that feels instantly familiar, and not in a good way. The game lifts heavily from more illustrious sources, while its own unique selling point, gravity powers, never feels fully exploited. But equally, the game is a solid and reasonably well-produced shooter that is fun to play, particularly with other people. As long as you don't expect a revolution, you will have a good time battling this particular alien invasion.

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