Inversion [5 Minute Review]

How many ways can you skin a cover-based shooter? Inversion suggests that it can be done on the walls and ceiling with liberal amounts of gravity manipulation. It’s another case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, and despite some fairly stable gameplay fundamentals, there’s little innovation to be found in Saber Interactive’s latest offering.

Players assume the role of Davis Russel, an ordinary cop thrown into a chaotic situation, hell bent on a mission to find his missing daughter in a world invaded by aliens etc. etc. The plot is numbingly dull: characters are lifeless, the enemy is uninteresting, and there doesn’t seem to be any theme running through the plot other than “The Enemy is Bad and We Should Shoot Them With Extreme Prejudice”. It was similar to eating brightly coloured sand. All the explosions and epic set pieces may look nice, but the overall experience is left wanting.

Thankfully, the action is reasonably fun, although it tends to feel a little too safe. The Lutadores are uncomplicated enemies, taking cover and yielding to headshots like any other foe we’ve encountered over the years. Some are equipped with sniper rifles or riot shields, and there are some oversized Behemoth units too, but so do other cover-based shooters. It may not feel as solid as Gears or as polished as Binary Domain, but it’s not a bad experience.

The Gravlink is meant to be the star of the show. It sounds good on paper: enemies can be suspended in mid-air or pinned to the ground, heavy objects can be flung into squads, and roofs can be brought down on heads. In reality, it’s an awkward system. Items need to be levitated before they can be thrown, and targeting cover to suspend hidden enemies can be finicky. Disappointingly, shifts of gravity (i.e. fighting on walls) only happen in certain areas and is not player controlled, so there’s no opportunity to use it for strategic value. Some environments are played in zero gravity, but the majority of these feel more like a 2.5D playing field.

The level of detail is reasonable. Player models look great, and environmental effects aren’t bad. Cover degradation and environmental destruction was implemented quite well, and adds a touch a spice to skirmishes. Unfortunately, the rest of the game looks rough-cut and unpolished. Intense scenes suffer slowdown as grubby particles barely render while levels suffer from aliasing issues.

The game attempts to incorporate a co-op mode, but it is merely limited to contextual situations where an obstacle requires two players to pass.  There is no dependence on the other character in battle, such as Army of Two‘s Aggro system. Inversion merely gives players two sets of Gravlinks to use; it’s hardly a feature that encourages co-operative play.

All in all, Inversion is simply more of the same. The campaign is linear and heavily controlled. You fight on walls and the ceiling only when the game wants you to go that way. Prey did a better job of making us feel like we were fighting in an Escher drawing. The game does have some competent gunplay, though. If that’s your only objective, Inversion should be enough to clear your lowest expectations.

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