Launched throughout North America 10 years ago today, Inversion arrived long after it’s originally intended release date. A combination of additional polishing time and the desire to make Inversion appeal to as wide an audience as possible resulted in some severe delays. It’s eventual launch in an uncluttered window and the familiarity it’s genre brings gave it ample opportunity. Sadly, the game fell flat in both critical and commercial reception.
Inversion was Confused From the Start
From its humble beginnings as a single-player experience, Inversion was touted with the possibility of having co-operative gameplay added before launch. The game eventually become an out-and-out two-player experience. Players take on the roles of Davis Russel and Leo Delgado. Two cops on duty in Vanguard City as they head back to Russel’s home to wish his daughter a happy birthday. On the way home however, the supposed tranquility of this near-future Earth is shattered by an unforeseen invasion. An enemy that is later revealed as being called the Lutadore. Somewhat bizarrely, this name does suddenly spring out of nowhere to be widely accepted by all.
The Lutadore are a fierce enemy, taking control of the city – and supposedly the rest of the planet – with both strength in numbers and technology. Despite fighting a good fight, Russel and Delgado are captured, but this is only where the story begins.
Two Characters: Identically Boring
Developers Sabre Interactive, the studio behind the recent success of Evil Dead: The Game, the game is keen to show Russel as a family man. As such the core of the plot revolves around his quest to find his daughter. However, he’s not convincing as anything more than a meatheaded washing machine; which coincidentally, Delgado does a better job of portraying anyway. Whether it’s the decision to make his appearance that of a muscle bound everyman or the fault of the wooden voice acting, Russel is simply not the attractive lead he should have been.
This results in an adventure in which many won’t strive for the good. Instead, it’s more interesting to discover intentions of the bad guys. As with many aspects of the final release version of Inversion, this didn’t appear to be the case during early previews. It seems that Namco Bandai and Sabre Interactive didn’t have enough faith in the personality of Inversion. Instead stripping it of its unique character and replacing it with a plastic identikit one.
One Gameplay Mode: Copy Gears of War
The gameplay itself adheres to the staple template that you would expect of a modern third-person action game. Just as Quantum Theory and Max Payne 3 – amongst many others – had done before. That is, of course, following in the footsteps of Gears of War. Players can lock into cover, focus with a pull of the trigger, blindfire, melee with both sharp and blunt weapons, dodge, ‘roady’ run and all the other general abilities you would expect. The weapons follow the typical assault rifle, shotgun, pistol, sniper rifle and laser based presentations. The usual assortment of grenades and mounted guns are also available. In almost every aspect, the game screams ‘checkbox development’. However, the unique offering here is not so much a weapon, but an ability that can be used as one.
The Inversion is Interesting, though?
After a short amount of time invested into Inversion players will receive the Gravlink device. This allows them to manipulate gravity in a small area. It can be made less effective, causing objects to float into the air. Or can be used to increase the strength, pulling objects to the ground. Furthermore, players can use this ability to launch attacks on distant enemies in combination with firearms or projectiles from the environment; once airborne, there are many objects that can be connected to and then fired at enemy units or other environmental objects, inviting some pretty impressive tactical options into play.
Additional gravity gameplay comes in the form of vector shifts. Anomalies in the environment marked by blue clouds will allow the player to immediately switch vectors, making the wall to the left the new ground, for example. Further still, players will occasionally encountered zero-G areas and are able to either dash ahead by using their Gravlink or propel themselves from one surface to another in a surprisingly easy – and well implemented – manner. The zero-G sections are arguably superior to that of the Dead Space titles.
Despite the gravity control being the game’s unique selling point, the best thing about Inversion is easily its destructible environments. These remarkably interactive backdrops can add a tactical edge not just to the big dramatic sequences, but to nearly every set piece for those who keenly pay attention to their surroundings. Sadly, neither this nor many of the gravity based tactics make the transition to the competitive multiplayer gameplay modes.
Inversion’s Multiplayer has Very Little Inversion
The multiplayer gameplay modes delivered in Inversion consist of the normal selection of deathmatching and objective based team matches. However, there’s also one specifically designed around the gravity gameplay. One player is equipped with the Gravlink while the rest of the players rush to take him or her down. It’s a wonderful piece of design, created long before the modern trend for battle royale. However, no compensation has been made for weaker players. They will most certainly be left out in the cold from very early on in these matches. Of course, that’s if they can even find a match these days.
There’s also a Survival mode included. Here, up to four players can team-up to fight waves of enemies. It’s actually somewhat more enjoyable than the campaign when playing with suitably skilled allies. However, it is a relatively short-lived experience. It certainly shouldn’t be given the same level of acclaim as the likes of Gears of War’s Horde or Halo’s Firefight modes.
From a technical standpoint Inversion actually performs quite well. Though it’s unlikely many players will warm to any of the characters, their stereotypical presentation does the job intended. The amount of detail in the environments is fantastic. From children’s toys and workmen’s ladders in residential areas, to the park slides and patio furniture lining the streets after escaping your captures. A lot of attention has been paid to making Vanguard City a believable real world location. This in itself is arguably the finest aspect of Inversion’s story. If you can’t put any belief in the plight of Russel and Delgado, you certainly can envision their home as a place just like any city you’ve visited. This was home, work and life to many people, and now it’s little more than rubble.
Despite showing so much promise throughout its development, Inversion is simply not the videogame experience it should’ve been. While there are many areas which invite players to develop their own set of tactics and the Gravlink does make for an interesting tool, it’s all wrapped-up in such a generic visage that it can be hard to care enough to put the effort into discovering its intricacies. There’s too much of the game that is formulaic. The core experience is based on a pattern that has been reproduced many times, and often done better. It’s not a bad game by any means, but as familiarity breeds contempt. And so it comes as no surprise that Inversion was set aside with scornful disrespect quicker than many of its peers.