With new entries in the Medal of Honor and Call of Duty series not coming until later this year, Inversion’s release is well-timed. The game resembles Gears of War in more ways than one, but also introduces gravity manipulation as an important gameplay element. It sounds good in theory, but is it enough to lure in the shooter fan looking for a mid-summer diversion?
At first glance, Inversion looks a lot like a less-polished version of Gears of War. The camera angle is almost identical, it has a lot of that familiar ‘duck and cover’ gameplay and you can even charge forward GoW-style. Unfortunately, it’s the little details that make all the difference here, and there are a lot of them. The audiovisual presentation isn’t up to the level that Gears is at, but let’s not forget that Saber Interactive probably didn’t have Microsoft-like budgets to work with here. You can expect visuals that are a little less detailed and a little less varied, with voice acting that doesn’t quite sound as inspired at times. But where those aspects can be forgiven since you’re dealing with a more budget-conscious approach to the genre, other faults are harder to ignore and start adding up.
Take the storyline, for instance. You’re part of a cop duo who are thrown head first into a hostile takeover of Vanguard City by highly armed and armored soldiers. As you scramble to get to your apartment, you notice some things that aren’t what they’re supposed to be as items float in air and enemies run up walls, completely ignoring the laws of gravity. Sounds pretty decent, but it’s later plot elements that really derail the story. When you join a group of rebels to assault a hostile base, it feels really odd to storm the base all by yourself because the rebels disappear the second you arrive at the base. Even when developing on a smaller budget, this is sloppy storytelling that shouldn’t end up in the final product.
So what about the gravity element? Well, when it works, it works well. The game has more than a handful of scenes and occasions that were designed with gravity control in mind, and those scenes feel fresh and are fun to play. Shooting at soldiers who are running on the ceiling Matrix-style is a cool experience, and there are zero gravity parts that reminded me of Dead Space. However, gravity-based gameplay only enters the fray at set intervals (sometimes complete with ‘use gravity trick here’ markers), and never feels like an integral part of gameplay.
Perhaps it’s the fact that titles like Gears of War or Portal have spoiled us when it comes to similar shooter/gravity-based experiences. Inversion isn’t a horrible game, it just isn’t a remarkable one. It’s the videogame equivalent of a straight-to-video action movie that you’ll have fun watching, but won’t ever watch again or tell your friends about. But, as is the case with movies like that, if you’re into the genre then there’s fun to be had. The campaign mode will take you about seven hours to complete, so if you’re looking for something to quench your thirst until the big holiday titles arrive then Inversion is worth checking out. Just be sure to get it at a budget price and to expect a budget production.