Sadly, Saber didn’t dream that big. Instead, Inversion seems made up of a string of dull levels which do little more than repeat what we’ve already seen in Gears of War and Army of Two, with hints of Half Life 2 in the way you manipulate gravity and mass. It’s surprising how little of the game takes place away from ground level, and how little the environments have been designed around the game’s gravity control mechanics. You keep waiting for those moments where Inversion tears up the rulebook and plays with gravity and gravity control, but while those moments do happen, they don’t happen nearly enough.
This wouldn’t be such a problem if Inversion didn’t constantly make you realise how good the team at Epic is at putting this kind of stuff together, and how mediocre Saber’s efforts have turned out to be. Inversion isn’t ever bad; the action is competent, the weapons meaty, enemy AI is a little dumb, but hardly disastrous, and the gravity stuff does add to the experience. It’s just that, the more you play, the more you feel that you’ve done it all before, and done it better. Even going up the side of buildings loses its appeal once you realise that there’s not an awful lot of difference between running for cover along a vertical surface and running for cover along a horizontal one.
What’s more, Inversion does get frustrating. If the snipers don’t get your goat, then the cheap one-shot-kill bosses certainly will. Moving about in zero gravity is quite annoying until you work out the basic trick, and in later stages the game restricts ammo to get you to use gravity instead, but using gravity means coming out of cover, leaving you a sitting duck against large numbers. Plus, if you’re not playing with a friend, your AI team-mate has a nasty habit of getting himself into trouble, leaving you with a choice between a suicide healing mission or insta-fail. This isn’t fun.
Gears of Lordi
What really hurts Inversion, however, is how uninteresting the story and the art turns out to be. The premise is the same ‘post-invasion’ stuff we’ve seen in Gears of War, Resistance and, well, a tonne of other games. The Lutadores aren’t exactly Locust clones – imagine a warrior culture created in the image of Finnish heavy metal Eurovision winners, Lordi – but they don’t feel an awful lot different. What’s more, there only seems to be a handful of Lutadore character models to go round.
The plot is nonsensical, and the acting and dialogue made us think of Team America: World Police, which is never a good thing when the game is clearly gunning for an emotional response. It’s not like Gears of War is War and Peace, but in its own adolescent way the fiction works. By comparison, Inversion feels horribly executed and misjudged.
As for the multiplayer? Well, at the moment we can’t judge it. At the time of writing it’s been out for over a month in the US, but is only just about to launch here, but we’ve yet to find enough running games to say anything concrete. As soon as that changes we’ll update this review and – if necessary – the score.
Inversion has potential, but that potential goes mostly unrealised. Even the variations in gravity and the gravity control mechanics can’t make something that exciting out of the game’s dreary Gears of War-lite levels, and there’s nothing that compelling about the graphics style, the action or the story. It’s just about worth playing if you have a friend to try co-op with and a spare weekend, but there are so many better shooters out there, and only so much time.