After a melodramatic opening filled with playable flashbacks and texture lag, Inversion rewinds time to place you in the shoes of Vanguard City policeman Davis Russel moments before an unidentified military force invade the city equipped with gravity-bending technology. It’s immediately obvious that this game is tailored for two-player co-op, with Russel accompanied by colleague Leo Delgado, which means players will be giving their partners boosts up to hard-to-reach ledges and lifting up gates for them to crawl under; it’s a nice dynamic when you’re actually playing with another human, and only mildly irritating when you’re trying to work with the often-vanishing computer fall-back. Single-player or not, though, Inversion has some fun moments, marred only by unoriginality and incessant cutscenes.
There’s an immediate Gears of War vibe, and I was genuinely surprised to discover this game isn’t built on Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. The cover mechanics and the appearance of the Lutadore antagonists ooze that exact feel, but cover is made more interesting by the introduction of the Gravlink. Equipped with a device which can create low-gravity bubbles (and later, high-gravity bubbles), you can throw obstacles and enemies into the air for a better shot, without a doubt the best realisation of Inversion’s gravity mechanic. The sequences in which you boost around zero-gravity areas, Dead Space style, are made aggravating by clunky controls, and while picking up and throwing explosives is fun, it’s not innovative when you remember Half-Life 2’s Gravity Gun from eight years ago.
I certainly can’t fault Inversion’s visual fidelity, though. City streets breaking into pieces and floating upwards in the explosive introduction to the campaign make for an impressive sight, and the aforementioned texture lag only seems to be noticeable when we’re switching between scenes without an adequate amount of buffering, so it’s nowhere near as noticeable as the same issue in The Last Remnant, this generation’s biggest offender. For all the graphical bells and whistles, though, Inversion’s cutscenes remain annoying; while the opening explains a lot through its cinematics, despite its occasionally unconvincing voice work, it soon becomes apparent that you can’t go five minutes of gameplay without being treated to a useless cutscene.
The “boss battles”, as it were, are also fairly formulaic and uninspired, although a number of them are still challenging. As boss and character designs go, Inversion disappoints, particularly as they pale in comparison to the well-crafted destructible environments. That said, those environments don’t enable much exploring: invisible walls plague levels, and some even have the audacity to automatically turn you around or move you back on the right track. It’s unreservedly linear, focussing on telling a story with minor interruptions to allow you to shoot at things and try out the gimmicky gravity mechanics.
There’s some terminology specific to these mechanics that’s inexplicably thrown about by the lead characters, like “we can use these conduits to change vectors”, but the ideas are pretty basic: you can walk along walls in a manner reminiscent of the iconic scene from Inception, but you can only step onto a perpendicular surface at certain points, indicated by the blue glow which accompanies areas affected by low gravity. It’s limited, so it doesn’t feel as fun as it could otherwise; freely running up walls like the Xenomorphs from Aliens vs Predator would have been much more enjoyable.
While multiplayer adds some value to the mix, and it’s nice to see another game created with co-op in mind, Inversion just doesn’t feel special. The gravity mechanics are underdeveloped, there’s no real emotional investment in the characters, and most of the game recalls aspects of years-old titles like Dead Space and Gears of War. A sequel might be able to recover some of the lost potential, but I don’t see this instalment being successful enough to warrant one.