Where's Marcus Fenix when you need him?
Inversion is the newest third-person shooter from publisher Namco Bandai and developer Saber Interactive. Players step into the role of Davis Russell, a police officer in the fictional Vanguard City who is caught up in the invasion of earth by The Lutadores, an evil humanoid race of aliens (or are they!?). After Russell and his partner Leo Delgado are kidnapped and placed in a prison work camp, they bust out to rise up against their oppressors and save the world. As they search desperately for Russell's young daughter and attempt to stop the end of humanity, our heroes wield power over the forces of gravity, kill a bunch of baddies and eventually unearth the truth about Russell's daughter, The Lutadores and mankind's actual place in the universe.
For the first few chapters of Inversion, things are pretty great. The story is compelling enough, and the crumbling background of Vanguad City is a detailed and interesting setting. The origin of the Lutadores is an enticing carrot which dangles throughout the campaign's 8-10 hours, and despite other games with cooler weaponry, Inversion's arsenal is varied enough to keep you wanting more.
The promise of manipulating gravity with the game's highly publicized Gravlink (a backpack-esque device marginally similar to the energy whip from Bulletstorm) is exciting to say the least, and familiar gameplay/mechanics make it easy to jump right in and start popping off head-shots. The first half of the game is graphically fantastic, and fleeting moments of gravitational weirdness add a thin layer of unique action.
In the weeks leading up to Inversion's release, we were teased with promises of a completely new kind of shooter, and most promotional images were of players blasting along the sides and ceilings of buildings with enemies on opposite planes attempting murder. And to a certain extent this does happen, only not nearly enough. In those rare moments when the game does allow us to vault onto the ceiling and take action, it's over before we know it. The Gravlink is sort of fun at first, but it won't be long before you're playing like any other third-person shooter and wondering why the hell there isn't more gravity stuff in a game that told us it would be all about gravity. Gravity...sorry, just had to say it again.
Just about everything from cover-based mechanics, sprinting animation and weaponry is lifted from the Gears of War series. There is even a drill-propelled vehicle that looks and acts so damn much like the grindlifts from Gears 2 that this gamer was wondering how the hell they got away with it. Repeated boss battles that grow far too difficult seem to exist merely to lengthen the campaign and are mind-numbingly boring. A complete lack of enemy variety (it's about 4 or 5 hours in before we're given an enemy type that's different from the initial chapters) is inexcusable.
Voice acting and music are both abysmal. Not only does it seem like the main voice actors were placed in a recording booth without any kind of contextual help to drive their performances, your AI partner shouting the same three phrases again and again and again grows tiresome within moments. I get it dude...you want me to go over that way, and i fucking will when I feel like it. The weird broken English spoken by the Lutadores may have been put in place as a foreshadow-y plot device, but it just sounds like angry babies and is laughably bad.
Online play features the usual suspects (death match and survival modes), but other than a few perfunctory matches, it simply isn't deep or rewarding enough to merit any sort of extended play. You may as well grab a Gears game and actually enjoy yourself.
The Bottom Line
Inversion is Gears of War meets Resistance 2 meets Homefront without the tightness of Gears, the enthralling fiction of Resistance or the...well, Homefront kind of sucked too, but you get the point. There's a fine line between inspiration and emulation, and Saber Interactive's inability to improve or tweak any of the concepts or mechanics that it so blatantly steals is weak. In a world where Epic's killer trilogy had never existed, Inversion might have had a fighting chance, but as it stands there are plenty of reasons to skip it. So unless you're really dying for a Gears clone while waiting for next year's Judgment, this one is a renter at best.
Let it be known to all men and women that Inversion receives 2.5 out of 5 stars!
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Rating: M for Mature