You can’t help but be reminded of Gears of War when firing up Inversion for the first time. The look of the weapons and the Lutadore enemies, as well as the cover and constant push forward nature of the game just draw a few comparisons. Albeit a relatively different story with a gravity spin thrown in, I go into this wondering if it’s enough to set the game apart, or even a just comparison.
Dropping into the narrated flashbacks of a cop in Vanguard City, you get a glimpse of what’s happened without revealing too much. This gives you a pretty good feeling of the sense of loss your character, Davis Russel, is going through, as well as some minute playable flashbacks, a peak at the enemies you’ll be fighting and how destructible the environment can be.
From here you’re taken back to the time things changed, 38 days earlier to be exact, going about your day with your partner. This is when a lot of strange things start happening; car and truck crashes out of nowhere, bodies lying around and people running for their lives. This is also when you start to actually get into some gameplay and combat, but it still has a “tutorial” feel for much of the time, leading back up to one of the last flashbacks you went through, some chapters away.
Control-wise this plays as a typical third-person cover shooter, maybe with slightly more fluid cover and aversion mechanics than some, but nothing too swayed from the set path. The aim shoot mechanism plays as most do and personally needed a lot of tweaking of the sensitivity to get it running at a decent speed. The reward for a more accurate shot being more headshots and seeing a Lutadore’s head explode, rather fun and a definite goal in combat from the first time.
As far as environments go, Inversion looks great. Awesome detail, and gives the sensation of a relatively open and somewhat interactive game-world in that you can destroy and manipulate a lot of it. Unfortunately because of the linearity of the game, this sense of openness is somewhat lost, and while you can roam a little, as you’d want to in something that looks this good, there's not much point with how the story plays out. There wasn’t much looting to be had either, much to my disappointment.
The destructible environment does add a progression in battle in that you can’t just sit there for too long, otherwise your cover will be taken out and you’ll be a sitting duck.
The most unique aspect to Inversion is no doubt the gravity component. The Lutadore’s have brought with them a mysterious phenomenon causing gravitational disturbances throughout the city. As you progress through the game you come across portal bridges to different gravity planes in the environment. This, in theory, opens up more surface area to battle on with walls of buildings and, if inside, the roof as well. And therefore the possibility for some interesting cross gravity plane battle. Unfortunately this is grossly underused again due to the linear story and the paths you are forced to take and seems barely skimmed on.
Davis’ driving force from the beginning is his wife and daughter, and what happens to them in all the chaos. Due to the disappearance of all the children, Davis is on a mission to find his daughter and has a strong belief she is still alive and is still out there somewhere, waiting to be saved, perhaps along with the rest of the missing children from the city. This sees you and your partner come in and out of interactions with some friendly mercenaries, happy to help you along your path, as long as you are able to help them.
The story is actually put together reasonably well and almost becomes the main focus of the game, over gameplay. Unfortunately this compounds the linearity of it and you end up facing a lot of cut-scenes and single pathways to an objective. Outside of combat situations you get an observer feeling more than a sense that you are controlling the characters.
Once you’ve gone through the “tutorial” chapters of the story the game really ramps up almost immediately and the battles are a lot fiercer. It is often unclear how to progress through a heavy battle or major objective though, with a lot of them having multiple sequential parts to complete the whole. So I found a few deaths were necessary at each stage of this just to work out what to do.
The other more beneficial but perhaps slightly less unique element is the use of a device you pick up early on and upgrade throughout the game. When shot at enemies or objects in the environment, the effects of gravity are temporarily reduced on them and you gain a grappling control over them. This creates a variety of combat options such as shooting a power surge at an enemy as an additional weapon, using it to float an enemy in the air to either shoot -- which is particularly useful when they are behind cover or using a shield -- or to manipulate and slam them into the environment or other enemies. Using this on the environment gives you stuff to throw at enemies as well as portable barriers, either to move with you or to put down where you want and push to. This was the most engaging part of the game for me. And while we’ve seen a similar enemy floating component elsewhere in games, being able to do that with the objects around you and add this to battle really had me wanting to see how many ways I could take the enemies out with pieces of the environment.
A fun game for cover shooter fans who don’t mind linear progression and a decent amount of cut-scenes. Online modes include co-op, team and free-for-all multiplayer (which I couldn’t dabble in due to the debug nature of the review code) and later in the year we’ll see the release of The Inversion Project for Android and iOS.