Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat – yes, Inversion does bear more than a passing resemblance to the Gears of War series, on a superficial level at least. There are burly hulking monster men that burrow from beneath the ground to terrorise humanity, and there are two protagonists armed with pointy spikey guns that duck behind cover.
The game’s narrative revolves around two policemen, Davis Russell and Leo Delgado, who, following the subjugation of humanity, attempt to track down Davis’ missing seven year-old daughter during all of the chaos. While the story won’t likely win any awards there are a few moments that are pleasingly bleak. For instance, early on when trying to escape from a concentration camp, you’ll have to helplessly sneak out of a room while a fellow prisoner is being battered to death.
Inversion’s big selling point is its implementation of gravity defying powers. With the Gravlink , a device used by the enemies, the Lutadores, players can either dramatically decrease gravity or increase it exponentially in a small area. When coupled with the staples of the cover-based shooting genre this actually makes for some entertaining gameplay. One shot of your Gravlink and suddenly that bundle of bricks that your enemy has hidden behind magically floats away leaving them exposed.
As the story progresses the Gravlink’s abilities are enhanced. At the start of the game the Gravlink will just about be able to lift a pile of rubble but by the end of the game players will be lifting cars and flinging them at hordes of enemies without even breaking a sweat.
Around half way through the game the ability to increase gravity will be unlocked adding new strategic opportunities. For instance, if there’s a pesky enemy that keeps darting around and dodging your fire, simply increase the gravity around him to pin him to the ground and then fill him full of lead.
The game includes a number of light platforming puzzles in the form of zero gravity sections. When floating in the air the aim is to simply glide from platform to platform until you’re able to leave the area. At times enemies will enter the zero gravity area and attack from all angles making for some challenging combat scenarios. At first these are a nice enough distraction to break up the gameplay, but by the final few missions I was completely fed up of them.
As well as having weapons that control gravity the Lutadores are able to adjust the gravity vector of an area, effectively allowing them to walk up walls and ceilings. This completely turns the traditional cover-based shooting gameplay on its head once again – when on a ceiling looking down at enemies they will have nowhere to take cover. Of course the same thing applies when enemies attack from above, further adding to the challenge.
Another impressive feature included in the game is the high level of destructibility. Almost everything that can be shot will crumble to dust at the lightest provocation, and there is a ample supply of explosive red barrels in every environment. There are also yellow barrels that, once shot, leak flammable fluid that can be formed into a ball and launched at enemies, dousing them in deadly flames.
Much like the Gears of War series the story mode can be played entirely in co-op online with another human being. Disappointingly there is no split-screen option to speak of. Fortunately, if you’re the antisocial sort, it is entirely possible to play through the story mode on your own in single player.
Played in single player you are joined by an A.I controller partner. However this proves to be nothing short of an arduous task of herculean proportions. While your partner is there physically you can tell that his heart isn’t in it – sure he’ll occasionally fire off the odd round, or maybe even throw a grenade if you’re lucky, but he brings so little to the fight that he may as well not be there at all.
Adding to the frustration is the fact that the majority of enemies tend to completely ignore the partner and just shoot at the live player instead. This is especially annoying when facing off with gangs of snipers, whose bullets are able to kill you with a single hit in some instances. None of this would matter too much if you were able to be revived by you’re A.I partner, but alas that privilege is reserved only for when playing with human players online. Yes, when playing online co-op players are able to revive each other, however when playing in single player whenever you are taken out that’s it, game over, and back to the last checkpoint. Said checkpoint is usually quite some time ago, normally before a cut scene, which dramatically adds to the frustration levels.
While playing the campaign in single player can best be summed up as a test of patience, playing in online co-op is a far better experience. When two human players are playing together all of the problems from the single player experience fall away to reveal a genuinely fun, if a little derivative, game.
Similarly when playing in co-op with a good partner there’s much more room for strategic gameplay. A personal favourite tactic of mine was to get my partner to pin a group of enemies to the ground just as I threw a grenade at them.
Elsewhere the other multiplayer modes offer a less even experience. Generally speaking the competitive multiplayer is enjoyable, with a variety of objectives to engage in. In one mode, Hour Glass, the two teams have access to one gravity power each and, upon capturing the objective, the gravity of the map flips upside down, sending opponents flying to their doom. Once a round is completed the two teams switch powers and the whole merry battle resumes until one team triumphs.
The co-operative Survival mode however is a bit wonky. Up to four players must defend an objective and take on a near endless supply of enemies (usually consisting of large numbers of weak, but rampantly flailing enemies that can kill players in a few hits) within a set time limit. Generally it’s all quite uninspired and pretty tedious.
Still, don’t let that put you off, most of the less impressive parts of the game can be ignored entirely. If you’re looking for a decent co-op game, particularly on PS3, then you could do much worse than trying out Inversion.
Graphics: 4/5 – Some character models are a bit rough looking, but generally speaking this is a good looking game.
Sound: 3/5 – Perfectly functional music and fairly decent voice acting. Not exactly a standout feature, but perfectly enjoyable.
Gameplay: 2/5 – Perfectly fun in online co-op, but played in single player it’s a massive chore. Cheap death after cheap death is compounded by some pretty lousy checkpointing. All of this could’ve been avoided if they just let your A.I partner revive you.
Longevity: 3/5 – There are about a dozen chapters to play through and a wealth of multiplayer modes. The poor checkpointing makes the game feel a lot longer than it actually is.
Overall: 3 out 5
Despite being pretty derivative Inversion has some pretty good ideas of its own and even manages to be a lot of fun at times. The use of gravity powers makes for some entertaining tactical gameplay, so long as you have a human partner to play with.
- Luke Mears