They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so then Gears of War must be blushing till the cows come home after seeing Namco Bandai’s latest futuristic shooter Inversion. While not particularly awful, Inversion offers very little to get excited about with nothing we haven’t seen before in other games of the genre.
Inversion is set in the near future, where you’re driven into the role of Davis Russell, an ordinary cop looking for his daughter after the Earth gets attacked by an invasion of a mysterious enemy known as the Lutadores who utilize futuristic gravity-manipulating weaponry. Along with his partner, Leo Delgado, the pair must master the new technology of gravity direction, find his daughter and save the world. It’s your standard SyFy-style storyline even right down to the downright awful voice acting and generic characters that when combined create a very unmemorable and enjoyable tale to follow.
Inversion is a third person shooter and borrows a lot of ideas and mechanics from so many games that come before it, from its remarkably similar weapon selection, latching to cover at the press of a button or its co-operative gameplay. That’s fine, after all many developers nowadays take existing ideas to tweak and make their own in a successful manner so why not Sabre Interactive? While you’d think a Gears of War-style shooter that throws in gravity switches would be fantastic, it’s the fact that the ideas borrowed don’t feel as good as in other games and any new elements introduced simply don’t add much to the proceedings that hurt Inversion.
Take the gravity defying mechanic for example. On paper it sounds like a great addition that could help set Inversion apart from the pack. Sadly it’s a little uneven, working well in certain situations but feeling like a mere annoyance in others. Taking the battle to ceilings and walls, floating through the air from floating debris to floating debris and launching cars into unsuspecting enemies can be good fun, it’s just a shame these moments are too few and far between. Most of the time you’ll use the ‘Gravlink’; flicking between the red link (which brings items crashing down) and the blue link (which causes them to float upward) to manipulate the environment either to remove obstructions or make a new path. Hardly inspiring to say the least. What’s more the device can hinder your ability during battle leaving you open to incoming bullets as you slowly fumble with a piece of debris or smashed car. It’s much easier to just resort to your standard machine gun than to utilize the environment around you.
While the gravity concept is an interesting one, it feels like it’s never really taken anywhere merely used as means of unblocking paths and occasionally taking the fight into new directions. There’s a tonne of potential here and none of it really explored enough.
Shooting feels decent enough with your arsenal offering a nice range of machine guns, shotguns and rifles. Some weapons could use a little more oomph when fired but popping in and out of cover, killing baddies and blowing off heads with bullets work well. Anyone who has played a Gears of War title will feel right at home with the controls which imitate even right down to the behind the back running camera the series is so famous for. Destructible environments are a nice addition that help give a sense of urgency to gunfights, as you’re always on the move as the walls and debris you hide behind crumbles away from the onslaught of bullets and explosions.
For the game’s six-odd hour campaign you’ll find yourself clearing rooms/areas of enemies, messing with the environment a little and sitting through numerous cutscenes. Too many that appear far too frequently in fact. The number of times I would battle a handful of enemies before being thrown into another cutscene and back out again became jarring. You just want to get on with the action and to have the pace halted for a short conversation that could have easily played out during gameplay become irritating. Thankfully all scenes can be skipped. Mini-boss battles repeat far too often using the same formula throughout the adventure, that perhaps feels like padding more than anything and enemies in general lack the kind of character that makes baddies like Gears of War’s Locusts so menacing to face. Never once did I really question why the Lutadores were taking over Earth and to be honest neither did I care. The campaign can be tackled co-operatively which does make it a slightly more enjoyable experience even if albeit still a pretty generic one.
Inversion features a fairly standard multiplayer with usual staples like Deathmatch and King of the Hill making an appearance. There’s even a Horde-like Survival mode included too. Small glimmers of unique ideas come in the form of kill streak rewards that allow you to alter the direction of gravity throwing opponents off as they levitate toward the ceiling or wall. It’s not a truly memorable multiplayer experience overall, but enjoyable enough especially if you have the friends to join you online.
While not a disaster, Inversion feels far too generic offering ideas we’ve seen a number of times in shooters already. Just when the game does throw one of it’s own ideas your way, it’s never really executed to it’s fullest potential only being used when absolutely necessary. Most of the time you’ll revert to treating the game as a standard shooter and in a time where we’re hardly starved for the genre, you need something to stand out. Sadly Inversion fails to be different.