The thing I dislike most about gaming is non-originality. I don’t even necessarily mind if a game is bad, so long as it at least tries to do something different. Inversion, I thought, might be that game. Though it may not have had the clout of a triple-A shooter, it at least appeared to be going about things from a unique angle. Certainly its gravity-defying selling point looked good on paper, but on screen it’s a tragically different story.
See, the first thing you’ll notice about this game (other than the massive load times) is that it pays more than a little homage to a certain other 3rd person shooter. Yes, from the first time you pull the trigger, you could swear blind that you’re playing Gears of War. Literally everything from the aesthetics, character design and even bearded best friend seems to have been unceremoniously lifted from Blezinski’s epic saga.
Not a bad thing you might argue, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and after all, the Gears trilogy seems like a pretty good set of games to be borrowing from. But, even when glazing over this, the end product of Inversion still struggles to lift itself out of the sea of mediocre shooters. The characters are flat and generic, and what little story there is doesn’t really compel you to see it through. It mainly concerns a cop looking for his missing daughter after the invasion of earth from the Locust – sorry, I mean Lutadore – but other than that it’s just an excuse to glue together some fire fights.
So just what is the unique selling point, and why doesn’t it save the day? Well, gravity manipulation is the name of the game here, and it appears in several forms. Sometimes randomly occurring, sometimes by your own hand, these sections are actually pretty good fun, when they do actually crop up. The crying shame here is that so little is made of them, you can’t help but feel that it’s wasted potential. Remember that one bit at the start of Bullet Storm that had you walking down the side of a skyscraper and got you thinking “awww yeah!” but actually never amounted to anything? That’s this game all over.
The ever reliable Havok physics engine will toss the scenery around and slam cars into the side of buildings beautifully, but massive chunks of gameplay will go by with nothing of the sort happening. I wanted every level to be some sort of brain melting assault of running around on ceilings or leaping around a city in moon-gravity, but it just never opens the taps on it. There are a few Dead Space style zero-G sections, but clunky controls and linear passage make them just as exciting as the on foot areas.
Graphically too, it sits right on the fence. It’s not an ugly game, but it’s not anything memorable either. Same goes for the weapon design, musical score, endless rehashing of the same boss fights. Most things you’d care to mention, in fact. The 6 to 8 hour campaign is brief enough that it won’t flat out bore you, but you will be left with an overwhelming feeling of squandered promise.
In fact, Inversion is a game so decidedly average that it’s even a struggle to write about. I only just finished it and I’m scratching my head trying to remember it, and that’s something that a video game should never be. It’s a bit like lining up the ten greatest artworks from history, and then repainting them as one giant picture. It should be ten times better, but is actually ten times worse – just a messy impersonation. Ultimately then, it has glimmers of huge potential, but for reasons I simply can’t fathom, it just refuses to use them.