A long time ago in a browser far far away, the announcement of Inversion stirred my brain with the potential of premise. Sure, it's a third-person cover based shooter - perhaps the single most overused genre of this generation - but the title looked to mix things up by adding something new to the mix: gravity. Increase or decrease gravity to alter the world before you, to create and destroy. Use it to run up a wall or ceiling before normalizing to what may or may not be the world's natural gravitational pull. Would the additional mechanic be enough to lift a run of the mill brown and grey shooter from the gears of mediocrity?
Inversion begins with a look into the Davis Russel's bleak future, as the protagonist stands on the execution line before his captors. After some heartfelt monologue and a few flashbacks of the things Davis has lost and/or stands to lose, we're brought back in time to the beginning: the sack of the world as it is known. It's obvious right from the the start of things that this game is not shying away from the increasingly exhausted dudebro alignment. Fenix, I mean Sevchenko, I mean.. Davis Russel, yes that's it. Davis Russel is met by Dom, I mean Rico, I mean.. Leo. It's so hard to keep track of the burly Caucasian heroes and their token Hispanic sidekicks lately. Anyway, the two get together after a hard day's work at the local police department and immediately start cracking wise about having sex with Davis' wife. Are we having fun yet? As Dude and Bro go on their way to celebrate Davis' daughter's birthday, shit goes horribly awry to the tune of Locusts slaughtering civilians, buildings and pavement collapsing, and items mysteriously ignoring the world's gravitational pull. Did I say Locusts? Apologies, I meant Lutadores. They're both grunty, barbaric humanoid creatures with limited English language skills and crudely advanced weapons and equipment. These similarities cannot be by chance.
Once you get past the epidermal likenesses to a dinky little game called Gears of War, you begin to see Inversion for what it really is: a complete knock off of Gears of War. The Lutadores come at you in droves from various avenues, most often by burrowing out from beneath the ground in E-Day fashion. You're given a fairly stock selection of weapons to repel the brutes, including one eerily similar to a retro Lancer. Of what becomes available none really stand out, save for one or two generic lookers which are both fun and functional: a single-shot rifle with exploding bullets and an a shotgun which fires flaming electric buckshot. It doesn't have to make sense, it's cool! When available, I found myself using these weapons and never switching unless absolutely necessary. Strangely, there are not even any secondary weapons to be found. You can carry two of these medium weapons at a time, or one and one heavy weapon such as a launcher, but nary a pistol in sight. What good is the hulking Western hero without his slug-shooting revolver? Clint Eastwood is probably not a fan of this game.
Where Inversion really starts to do that thing called innovation is once you get use of the Lute's gravity altering weapon, the Gravlink, which straps on to your back and is channeled out of a wrist module. "With one of these things, who needs bullets," exclaims meathead 2. True indeed manipulating the environment to best your enemies is incredibly good where applicable, especially when compared to the yawn-coaxing options this game passes as guns. The gravity school bag begins with a limited scope of power, such as lifting and throwing small objects like debris and barrels, but as you progress it becomes more adept at the killing art. As you advance and collect additional modules from toppled bosses, your Gravlink gains the ability to control larger objects such as cars and enemies themselves, to the extremes of both high and low. It makes the game a bit more enjoyable when you can get creative in this way. Pin a group of Lutes in place with high gravity, then toss a grenade in their thick and voila, Lutador Soup! You can also do things such as lifting entire glob of molten rock to hurl a perpetrators. If you're feeling extra nasty, you can pull an enemy right to melee distance and finish them off with a proper thrashing of fists.
Though the majority of chapters are comprised of sullen shades of brown and grey, it is a credit that much of the environment can be destroyed, an aspect of videogames that immediately receives all of my bonus points. It's ever-so pleasing to chip away the entirety of an enemy's cover, until only a body-shaped slab remains and the crown of their head peeks out. The rest is written in crimson history. Unfortunately, the environment's affinity for crumbling is sorely underutilized, much like Inversion's other redeeming aspects. Not everything can be manipulated by your gravity slinger, meaning you can't blast a wall with high grav to bring it toppling down on the baddies in proximity. Much of the environmental damage serves only as eye candy as opposed to utility, which makes me die just a bit inside. When all is said and done you wind up relying far too much on your guns, which makes the game feel more like a no frills shooter created by a Tom, Dick, and Harry developer who chooses to stick to the tired and true rather than push the envelope on a fresh concept. Though your companion is constantly yelling for you to use the gravity flipper during boss battles, they are designed so that there is nearly an infinite supply of weapons and ammo lying around, and often no good way to recharge your true power once depleted. Speaking of bosses, I've never seen such lazy design in this respect. You engage in quite a few boss fights, but they all seem to be recycled from previous incarnations, without so much as an explanation or even a palette swap. As the encounters become increasingly difficult, you may - like myself - find yourself cursing the obese turd of a boss who you've no doubt killed 3 times prior.
Inversion's multiplayer modes drop you in a variety of maps to frag your friends in a selection of combat and objective focused game types. Before you fall onto the field of battle, you can customize a human or Lutadore character with different pieces of clothing and armor, and finalize with a chosen color. You can also choose their default starting weapon; assault rifle or shotgun. They call these loadouts, much like other multiplayer games in this age, however unlike the others, your loadout selection is much more limited. You are not allowed different profiles with different weapons for on the fly switching, but rather you're stuck with what you have and must forrage the battlefield for upgrades. This is good in the sense that it assures the playing field is completely even -- skill gets results. Sadly, Inversion's multiplayer suffers the fate of many mediocre games with failed marketing: dead servers. The occassions where I was able to actually find a game, there weren't many others to play with, making some of the gigantic maps feel more labyrinthine than normal as the few players sought each other out. Shame too, because the maps are actually very well designed. While quite a few take advantage of Inversion's, er, inversion, others pare the experience down to a simple bullet party, as the campaign did far too frequently. Of course if taking the battle online against others isn't your thing, you can play the campaign with a friend, quite literally. Unless you have people in your friends list who are also playing, it's damn near impossible to find a buddy to tag-team the story mode with. Not sure why it's even present if this is the case.
I chose not to play Epic Games' Gears of War 3, but I inadvertently have. There is shame in knowing that Inversion doesn't do well enough to capitalize on its title mechanic. Most of the game is Gears of War with occasional gravity more so than its own adventure, which is a let down because it's an idea that could have been pretty fun if Saber Interactive gave a damn about creating something more than a clone. It isn't all bad though, as the plot twists were surprisingly good, worthy of a B flick from the 1990s that would probably be recycled circa 2013 in IMAX 3D. Too bad then that the forced pace of an action movie detracts from this, causing the lead characters to immediately forget about the huge change in their daily lives and go on continuing to shoot at things from behind cover. In fact, the experience as a whole began rapidly deteriorating after the first twist, to the point where pressing on against the same enemies with the same weapons felt more burdensome than anything else. Thankfully the game ends with another twisted turn that I didn't expect -- too bad it wasn't enough to pull the experience as a whole from the doldrums.
The Score: 5 outta 10 Blasters!