Launching throughout Europe today, Inversion is arriving long after it’s originally intended release date. A combination of additional polishing time and the desire to make Inversion appeal to as wide an audience as possible resulted in some severe delays, but given it’s launch in an uncluttered window and the familiarity it’s genre brings, it’s more than likely to achieve that goal.
From its humble beginnings as a single-player experience with the possibility of having co-operative gameplay added before launch, Inversion has become an out-and-out two-player videogame. Players each take on the roles of Davis Russel and Leo Delgado, two cops on duty in Vanguard City as they head back to Russel’s home to wish his daughter a happy birthday. On the way home however, the supposed tranquility of this near-future Earth is shattered by an unforeseen invasion by an enemy that is later revealed as being called the Lutadore (though it must be said, this name does suddenly spring out of nowhere to be widely accepted by all). The Lutadore are a fierce enemy, taking control of the city – and supposedly the rest of the planet – with both strength in numbers and technology. Despite fighting a good fight, Russel and Delgado are captured, but this is only where the story begins.
Developers Sabre Interactive are keen to show Russel as a family man, and as such the core of the plot revolves around his quest to find his daughter. However, he’s not convincing as anything more than a meatheaded washing machine; which coincidentally, Delgado does a better job of portraying anyway. Whether it’s the decision to make his appearance that of a muscle bound everyman or the fault of the wooden voice acting, Russel is simply not the attractive lead he should have been for such a role, resulting in an adventure in which player’s won’t strive for the good, but simply to find out the intention of the bad guys. As with many aspects of the final release version of Inversion, this didn’t appear to be the case when Electronic Theatre originally got hands-on with the videogame last year. It would seem that Namco Bandai and Sabre Interactive didn’t have enough faith in the personality of Inversion, stripping it of its unique character and replacing it with a plastic identikit one.
The gameplay itself adheres to the staple template that you would expect of a modern third-person action videogame, just as Quantum Theory, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard and Max Payne 3 – amongst many others – have done before. That is, of course, following in the footsteps of Gears of War. Players can lock into cover, focus with a pull of the trigger, blindfire, melee with both sharp and blunt weapons, dodge, ‘roady’ run and all the other general abilities you would expect. The weapons follow the typical assault rifle, shotgun, pistol, sniper rifle and laser based presentations, and the usual assortment of grenades and mounted guns are also available. However, the unique offering here is not so much a weapon, but an ability that can be used as one in the right hands.
After a short amount of time invested into Inversion players will receive the Gravlink device, which allows them to manipulate gravity in a small area. It can be made less effective, causing objects to float into the air, or can be used to increase the strength, pulling objects to the ground. Furthermore, the player can use this ability to launch attacks on distant enemies in combination with firearms or with projectiles from the environment; once airborne, there are many objects that can be connected to and then fired at enemy units or other environmental objects, inviting some pretty impressive tactics into play.
Additional gravity gameplay comes in the form of vector shifts. Anomalies in the environment marked by blue clouds will allow the player to immediately switch vectors, making the wall to the left the new ground, for example. Further still, players will occasionally encounter zero-G areas and are able to either dash ahead by using their Gravlink or propel themselves from one surface to another in a surprisingly easy – and well implemented – manner. The zero-G sections are arguably superior to that of the Dead Space titles, which makes their appearance on certain multiplayer maps a little less surprising.
Despite the gravity control being the videogame’s unique selling point, the best thing about Inversion is easily its destructible environments. These remarkably interactive backdrops can add a tactical edge not just to the big dramatic sequences, but to nearly every set piece for those who keenly pay attention to their surroundings. Sadly, neither this nor many of the gravity based tactics make the transition to the competitive multiplayer gameplay modes.
The multiplayer gameplay modes delivered in Inversion consist of the normal selection of deathmatching and objective based team matches as well as those specifically designed around the videogame’s gravity gameplay. Having one player equipped with the Gravlink while the rest of the player rush to take him or her down is a wonderful piece of design, though weaker players will be left out in the from very early on in these matches. There’s also a Survival mode included in which up to four players can team-up to fight waves of enemies, which is actually somewhat more enjoyable than the campaign when playing with suitably skilled allies. However, it is a relatively short-lived experience, and therefore shouldn’t be given the same level of acclaim as the likes of Gears of War’s Horde or Halo’s Firefight modes.
From a technical standpoint Inversion actually performs quite well. Though it’s unlikely many players will warm to any of the characters, their stereotypical presentation does the job it was intended to rather well. The amount of detail in the environments is fantastic, from children’s toys and workmen’s ladders in residential areas, to the park slides and patio furniture lining the streets after escaping your captures, a lot of attention has been paid to making Vanguard City a believable real world location. This in itself is arguably the finest aspect of Inversion’s story, for if you can’t put any belief in the plight of Russel and Delgado, you certainly can envision their home as a place just like any city you’ve visited: this was home, work and life to many people, and now it’s little more than rubble.
Despite showing so much promise throughout its development, Inversion is simply not the videogame experience it should’ve been. While there are many areas which invite players to develop their own set of tactics and the Gravlink does make for an interesting tool, it’s all wrapped-up in such a generic visage that it can be hard to care enough to put the effort into discovering its intricacies. There’s too much of the videogame that is formulaic and based on a pattern that has been reproduced many times, and often done better. It’s not a bad videogame by any many, but as familiarity breeds contempt, Inversion is likely to be set aside with scornful disrespect quicker than many of its peers.