Available on Xbox 360, PS3 (version reviewed), PC
“You musn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling”, as Tom Hardy’s fixer, Eames, says in Inception. Like Inception, Inversion has ambitions to be more than just another genre exercise. It wants to blow your mind – to turn your world, literally, upside down. Instead, a game that should have had you dancing on the ceiling seems scared to leave the ground. A title with the potential to do something special and interesting settles for competent but uninspiring.
Inversion is a third-person shooter from Saber Interactive, best known for its work on the anniversary edition of Halo: Combat Evolved and TimeShift, an entertaining FPS that came out in 2007. TimeShift was a decent enough shooter with a fun time-control mechanic, and in a way Inversion is a natural follow-on, replacing time control with gravity control. Through technology filched from your adversaries, the Lutadores, your hard-headed cop hero can fire out bursts of low gravity that lift heavy objects or enemies off the ground, and drag and toss these objects around at will. You can also fire bursts of high gravity, which has the opposite effect.
This turns out to be Inversion’s USP. It looks, feels and plays like a B-movie variation on Gears of War, built primarily for two-player, co-op play, and with almost identical run, gun and hide in cover mechanics. However, gravity control messes with the formula. Suddenly you can lift your enemies out of cover, grab and throw barrels or blobs of flammable oil and even – later on – toss cars at armoured foes and smear a bunch across the landscape. Combine this with some impressively destructible scenery, and there's scope for some great, playful action.
Better still, Inversion finds other ways to mess with gravity. Certain areas of the game world have become permanently caught in low-gravity, so that you’re forced to float across them, sometimes tackling floating Lutadores as you go. The Lutadores have also set up spots where gravity transitions from one surface to another, so that you’ll suddenly find yourself flung from the street to the side of a skyscraper, or even fighting from the ceiling, blasting away at foes on the ground below.
Perfectly Possible, Just Bloody Difficult
From time to time, it all comes together. Like Inception, Inversion is at its best when it glories in the impossible, with gun-battles taking place across several surfaces, or when you’re hunkering behind a barricade and watching enemies streaming down the side of a building towards you. There are moments when the action takes on a sandbox flavour, and you’re lifting cars and barrels and flinging them towards your brutish enemies with a wild abandon. The most frustrating thing about Inversion is that you can see how it might have rocked.