Recently, Yager Development did a great job at proving that shooter games can have mature, thought-provoking storylines. While Spec Ops: The Line may have been a surprising blip in an otherwise tired genre, Saber Interactive’s latest entry is most assuredly not. Despite the promise in its title, Inversion did nothing to turn my world upside down. It’s not for the lack of trying though. With nods to a few other titles, Inversion never really finds an identity of its own, and the its much advertised gravity manipulation feature isn’t much more than a flimsy gimmick. My review continues after the jump.

Set in the future, Inversion employs the “How We Got Here” trope to tell the story of two police officers, messieurs Davis Russel and his partner Leo Delgado, who become caught in the midst of an invasion. An army of Lutadores—who show more than a passing resemblance to the humanoid Locust Horde from Gears of War—is laying waste to the city and its citizens. The pair shoot their way into Russel’s apartment only to find his wife murdered and his daughter kidnapped. And so starts Russel’s single-minded campaign to rescue the only attachment to his life. So far, so on-message. However, it’s not long before the game trips over itself with superfluous cutscenes, uninspired environments, and gimmicky gravity-defying gameplay.

In the right circumstances, the cutscene can be indispensable tool to clue the audience in on the story and the inner-working of the characters. With Inversion, there are far too many clues that do nothing more than irritate the player. You so much as walk down the alley or open a door and you’re bombarded with a cutscene. Had it been a more interesting story, this might have been acceptable. Here, it breaks what little connection a player might have had with the game.

Through some rather odd turns in the story, Russel and Delgado are given access to a special Lutadore weapon, the Gravlink. As a defensive tool, this device enables the wearer to manipulate objects such as cars and containers to create temporary cover as you push your way through the environment. You can use the Gravlink to temporarily lift certain enemies into the air, shoot them, and then use their flailing bodies as projectiles. Inversely [Ed: I see what you did there], the device can also be used to immobilize enemies to the ground. Unfortunately the targeting system is a tad clumsy, and by the time you’ve found and hoisted the right object into air, you’re likely to be filled with lead. However, the Gravlink is a most welcome addition to the otherwise bog-standard set of weapons that you are presented with. Expect the usual shotguns, assault and sniper rifles, grenades, flame throwers, and rocket launchers. When used properly, the Gravlink does make things a little easier, especially when dealing with bosses. On the normal setting the game doesn’t pose that great a challenge, but there is a pronounced spike in difficulty when facing a specific type of boss, and that trend is repeated when the very same boss is recycled in later parts of the game.

Dotted around the ruined city are zones where the gravity has gone all wonky. Various objects and building debris are scattered and floating in zero gravity, seemingly begging for someone to use them as convenient stepping stones. Traversing these areas often feel sluggish and the only “puzzle” element involved in these areas is trying to find where the exit is. In other areas, gravity is shifted to the side, and suddenly the side of a building or the roof of a room becomes your floor. Sadly, the shift in perspective does little to excite the gameplay. Also, it’s heavily scripted; you can’t just shift vectors willy-nilly.

Speaking of shifting vectors, you’re going to want to shift your boot up your A.I. mate’s butt. Whenever he is downed you have to risk life and limb to revive him, but the moment you’re in a pickle he is nowhere to be found and you die. Thanks, buddy. I can imagine the situation might be improved if you were to co-op with a friend, but it’d have to be one from your PSN list because there is no local splitscreen co-op. You could use the game’s matchmaking system to find a random stranger to co-op with, were it not for one small problem: there is hardly anyone playing the game online.

For what it’s worth, Inversion has a decent multiplayer component. Alongside the standard deathmatch, objective, and survival modes, Inversion adds a few gravity-related ones to the mix. King of Gravity, for example, has players fighting over possession of the sole Gravlink on the map. Picking up the Gravlink is advantageous to the player who controls it but everyone will want to kill that player for it. Hourglass mode is like king of the hill but with added flips in gravity, and Gravity Slaughter is a team-based mode where extra points are scored for using Gravlinks to kill other players. There are eight modes that can be played on eight different maps, and it might have been fun. However my experience with the multiplayer has been purely academic. At the time of writing this review, I could not find a single player, much less the eight required to compete in a match.

Overall, Inversion’s single-player campaign is largely forgettable, and without any players in it, the multiplayer mode is equally lifeless. The gravity-defying shenanigans are what set Inversion apart from other shooters. Or at least that was the thinking, but it wasn’t realized all that creatively. Unfortunately I don’t think the Gravlink had enough power to hoick this game out of its mediocre trappings.

Final Score: 4.5 Newtonian prawns out of 10

Detailed information:
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Distributor: Megarom Games
Platform: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox360, PC
Age Rating: 18
RRP: R599
Website: http://www.inversion.com/