Review: Inversion

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It was about a year ago that I first caught wind of a new IP called Inversion. I remember being very excited about this game for a number of reasons. The visuals looked solid, the gameplay mechanics and clever use of altering gravity were intriguing, and, well, it was a new game. It wasn’t a sequel or a prequel. It was an entirely new concept. Or so I thought.

Inversion tells the all-too-familiar tale of Davis Russell - a city police officer - and his hard-ass partner, Leo Delgado. Davis has found happiness with his wife and daughter, while Leo has no idea what it means to be a husband and father. They are a fictional team that has been dreamed up countless times in a variety of mediums: books, movies, television, and videogames. Life is particularly good for Davis until all hell breaks loose with an invasion (outer space? underground? who knows?) by one of the most annoying enemy types I have come across in years. Referred to as Lutadores, they look like they just stepped out of Tina Turner’s Thunderdome and they speak in a comical version of Pig Latin; every other word is just barely comprehensible yet somehow understood by our 2 protagonists. Ultimately, it makes very little sense and the story is filled with more holes than should be allowed in a current console generation action game.

As you may have guessed, the invasion creates a separation of a man from his family and results in a desperate – “I have nothing else to lose” – mentality at trying to get them back. Davis, along with his trusted side-kick Tonto . . . er . . . Leo, leave a path of Lutadore bodies on their journey to reunite loved ones.  Along the way I was eager to try out of some of the more enticing gameplay features that I’d spent the last year looking forward to.

After the first few chapters of your typical 3rdperson run-and-gun shooter - inclusive of Gears of War style roadie runs and sticky cover system - I finally got my hands on the technology that prompted me to give this game a chance in the first place. The gravity-based weapons provide 2 variations: an anti-gravity which lifts objects and enemies off the ground, and a heavy gravity which does the complete opposite. At first, these gameplay mechanics felt good, they broke up the otherwise repetitive – and extremely weak sounding/feeling -  machine gun, shotgun, and sniper rifle options. Suddenly you were able to lift enemies from cover, pull then in with the flick of a trigger button, and launch them against the nearest wall.  It was a great feeling, but one that quickly brought back memories of another game series that focused on such power. The Force Unleashed games have used the very same mechanics, and used them more creatively. Oh well, I’ve come to realize that there is very little left in the world of entertainment that is truly, and absolutely, unique. However, the similarities to other more creative and interesting games doesn’t end there.

Every so often Davis and Leo find themselves in sections of the city that have been flooded with anti-gravity; allowing them to float and fly their way from one upside down or sideways object to the next.  These actions were simple enough: cling to the side of one piece of debris, look for the next highlighted section, push off and float to it.  Repeat until you have gone from point A to point B.  Along the way you’ll encounter enemies doing the same thing and the battle that may have started on the ground is now upside down and hovering 50 feet in the air; a neat idea but one that quickly reminded me of another. The Dead Space franchise (a personal favorite of mine) utilized a very similar tactic to enhance the experience of being weightless in space, propelling from one location to another. Replace Necormorphs (a much more frightening creature) with Lutadores and you’ve got yourself Inversion.

I’m not upset that Inversion used these same game mechanics.  They were developed quite well and did their best to push an extremely vanilla 3rdperson shooter toward a more enjoyable experience.  However, my hopes and expectations for any new IP is that the developers will be introducing something new, something that has never been seen before, something that will turn a new game into a recurring franchise.  If that isn’t a part of the equation then the focus should be on incredible story-telling. Unfortunately for Inversion, average visuals, all-too-familiar game mechanics, bland characters, and an uninspiring story all result in a gaming experience that I quickly lost interest in.  It’s unlikely we’ll see a follow-up to this sci-fi(ish) buddy cop story, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For now I’m simply chalking it up to another promising new game that resulted in total letdown. Similar to my brief experience with this year’s Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, all I can do is shrug my shoulders, breathe a sigh of frustration and disappointment, and hope that I can still get a “fair” trade-in value on a game that was just released.