Inversion Review (Xbox360)

The story is a very simple one. Humanoid aliens come down to Earth, kill mostly everyone and enslave the people who are left. Enter cop Davis Russell and his partner Leo Delgado, men who oddly don't seem too bothered about saving the world but are very keen to rescue Davis's young daughter. There's no real character development to be seen here and, arguably, even the Gears of War series managed to add more personality than these two provide. Ultimately, they're two burly men with guns and some very corny one liners. This would be fine if Inversion was aiming for parody. Unfortunately, it's not.

The main gimmick behind Inversion is the same concept that's in the name: the ability to invert gravity. That's a little disingenuous as moments where players do get to run around on the ceiling or the sides of buildings don't actually happen often. Unfortunate given there's a glimmer of a great game mechanic within these small sections. Gravity does play a bigger role than this thanks to the addition of the Gravlink, however.

Get used to plenty of shades of grey. Whether there are 50, who knows

The Gravlink tool is provided relatively early on in the game, although it doesn't come into its own as a vital and fun skill to use until the end. It's possible to use the Gravlink to inflict low gravity or high gravity on certain things and immediately invoke memories of Half Life 2's Grav Gun. For instance, it can be used to lift enemies before flinging them through the air. More thrillingly, it can be used to lift cars or explosive barrels before throwing them at a group of enemies bunched together. In each case, blood splatters everywhere and any sense of finesse goes out the window at the same speed as the enemies. Subtlety is not Inversion's strong point, even in its fairly tired attempts at adding stealth to certain sequences.

High gravity introduces a more useful concept, in its ability to slow enemies as well as bring various objects crashing down. It's most frequently used to bring down huge containers which can then be used as cover to avoid some vicious turrets. This is an idea that's reused a number of times in the annoyingly short campaign mode.

Another concept that's been seen before is the zero gravity platforming sequences. These involve leaping from cover to cover in a zero gravity environment, often while fending off multiple enemies. It's reminiscent of Dead Space's zero gravity sections and it's also one of the more infuriating parts of Inversion. It's frequently difficult to stay behind cover and pick where to leap next. This is exacerbated by the inclusion of enemies that can work around cover, thus providing one of the main annoyances in any cover shooter. Fast moving creatures can throw players off their containers, while simultaneously slashing them to death in no time at all. In other sequences, flying security bots can circumvent the cover, leaving the player extremely vulnerable.

Multiplayer has its moments, if you can find someone to play against

You see, Inversion is ultimately a battle of attrition. It's quite soulless for anyone who's played other shooters before, and while borrowing elements, it seems to have forgotten to borrow much of the fun that comes with them. Enemies are frequently dull and uninspired to look at, matching up with the dull selection of weaponry (the usual supply of assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles), and provide challenge mostly through quantity rather than quality. At regular intervals, these enemies will leap out of drills that pierce the ground and must be destroyed to stop the wave. Yes, just like the Emergence holes in Gears of War.

Boss battles are regular but they repeat the same few boss types. There's the mindless Brute that just needs to be hidden from and shot at repeatedly, and a Butcher that must be regularly dodged while gradually whittling down its health bar. None of this is helped by the dodgy partner AI - meaning your partner is rarely bright enough to dodge out of the way himself. The most infuriating boss type is that of the Slave Driver. This creature isn't frustrating on his own, but is always accompanied with a wave of slaves that might look weak but will still manage to knock you down in only a few blows on Normal mode. This is worsened by the suicide bomb slaves who run straight at you and explode on impact, with explosions such as these killing you immediately, even on the medium difficulty level.

It all makes for a game that isn't challenging, just annoyingly obtuse. With a hint of variety or originality, Inversion would give players a reason to persevere but without even the decency to offer some personality, it's all depressingly bland.

Flinging objects across the screen can be cumbersome but it is quite satisfying

The Single Player campaign weighs in at a below average 7-8 hours to complete with co-op restricted to solely online, rather than local. It proves more fun played alongside a friend but that's because the fun stems from the social aspect rather than any improvement to the game. There's a multiplayer component with some smart ideas, such as one mode that flips the map upside down depending on certain points controlled by the other team. Another mode provides only one Gravlink for a number of players to pursue. There's also the near obligatory inclusion of Survival mode, basically Gears's Horde mode, which boosts the need for teamwork. Unfortunately, Inversion's multiplayer community seems to have vanished already and the game's hardly any age at all, especially in Europe.

It's never satisfying to condemn any game but it's hard not to with Inversion. There are glimmers of nice ideas within, but the water is too muddied to see them clearly. All that's left is a bunch of mechanics that we've all seen before, and better implemented elsewhere.

Top Game Moment: The first time you leap into a section where gravity has been inverted, resulting in running around on the ceiling.

Platform Played: Xbox 360

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