Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: Inversion

Inversion is a game with great ideas and a solid foundation, but it's nothing ultimately special at the end of the day. It reminds me of this other game Saber Interactive developed called Timeshift because that also had great ideas and a solid foundation, although Timeshift did fumble with its ideas more often than not. Inversion's ideas are more gimmicky in practice than they are actually practical or even all that well used. So ultimately, it's a decent third person shooter that tries to separate itself from the competition, but winds up just going through the motions. Damn, I love the ideas this game has, too!

In the future, an alien race that looks almost human known as the Lutadore has taken over Earth and kidnapped a bunch of children. Amongst them is the daughter of our wise cracking protagonist, Davis Russell. Meanwhile, the Earth's gravity has been all out of whack, leaving sections without gravity and others with vector changes. As cool as it sounds, expecting a half decent plot is a big, big mistake. Any and all attempts at emotionally connecting with the characters is bitchslapped with the other guy going "be a manly man and stop your crying you little bitch", meaning there's no real time to connect with them. Any attempt at explaining the plot is cut short by the need to shoot more aliens. I've found more clarity inside a deep fat fryer. It's not even good as a B-grade action story because the one liners are just bad (as in they make me want to vomit due to how half assed they really are) and there's no amount of masculinity to be found. It's like a bunch of out of touch middle aged men wrote this shit.

Let's just get the big thing out of the way - Inversion allows you to manipulate gravity using the GravaLink. You can use it to manipulate the gravity of objects and enemies, either pulling them towards you, swatting them away or making them float in midair. It's a lot like the Gravity Gun from Half Life 2, except it's a whole hell of a lot more gimmicky. There aren't that many segments where you'll be required to use it to move shit around, so really, it's just another means of taking down enemies outside of simply pumping lead into them. While pushing enemies up into the air and screwing with gravity to make them float in the air can make you feel very powerful when you gun them down, there's a very high chance of getting shot by surrounding enemies.

Another big thing is that there are segments with no gravity, which means you'll be given free reign to float around and shoot stuff. Course, given that we're playing a cover based shooter, the idea is to propel yourself towards floating cover so that you'll be safe when you're against midair enemies. The major issue I have with these segments is that you're encouraged to play conservatively, as flying around from cover to cover actually paints you as a big fat target for enemies to shoot down. Nope, you'll be shooting enemies from where you are and usually just where you are as enemies are coming towards you. The only difference is getting to cover in the first place – highlighting what cover you want to head behind is a lot more tedious than it should be as it'll basically randomly choose which one within that bit of space you're facing you'll go towards, and while you're fiddling with it all, you'll get violated in every oriface by enemy gunfire. Same sort of deal with when the gravity changes – as in, you'll be flipped to the side of buildings. This could've been cool if it had any actual impact on the gameplay. What I mean is that you're just shooting enemies that are on a 90 degree angle to you. Yawn. This is definitely the weakest element of the game, which is a crying shame because if this was improved on to be fun and not clunky or merely superficial, Inversion could very well be on everybody's game of the year lists.

At its heart, it's your standard cover based shooter where you'll need to rush to cover and take down aliens. You'll get to use pistols, machine guns, shotguns, flamethrowers and even the occasional rocket launcher so it at least has its arsenal of weapons covered. Well, somewhat. I don't remember the last time a shotgun had the range of an assault rifle, and an assault rifle being like an automatic sniper rifle. But that's at moot point when the structure is so mechanical. Go to cover. Duck behind cover. Peep out and shoot when enemies stop shooting. Repeat step 3 until all enemies are taken down. Head to next section. Repeat until you get to some some arbitrary zero gravity section or until the game ends. Realize you wasted $60-89 on a game that just goes through the motions unless you were smart like me and got a second hand copy for $27.

Seriously, fun is not something you'll find all that often in this game. There are some decently enjoyable sections where messing with gravity is less of an inconvenience and more of a way to truly dominate, but that's about it. There is co-op mode available, but that's a moot point because people make watching otherwise boring movies at least somewhat entertaining. There is barely anything that's interesting about this game and even though cover is fully destructible, it still amounts to just going through the motions. Multiplayer modes outside of co-op exist, but it's nothing special. It mainly has deathmatch, king of the hill and a survival mode of sorts every fucking shooter these days has to have. Oh, and it's a ghost town, so good luck getting into a match... unless I somehow convince hundreds of people to buy this game even though I'm trying to make it look as mediocre as it actually is. Seriously, it's like Saber Interactive had a laundry list to go through - make sure to tick all the boxes and maybe add a little something so that it doesn't come across as that, but half ass the shit out of it so that it doesn't even matter.

Even the presentation is mediocre! The game looks like a launch title for the 360, not something that even comes close to pushing the hardware. The colors are the dullest shades of brown, gray and dark navy I've seen in years – hey, at least Gears Of War makes vibrant use of otherwise dull colors; this is just borderline fucking boring to look at! The textures are there, but they're not all that detailed. Hell, some objects barely have textures in the first place!The character models animate alright and actually don't like half bad, but there's nothing to really be wowed by.

Same deal with the sound design – nothing that makes you go wow. The voice acting will make you go yawn because of how wooden it is. It really drives what I said about the story even further home because it's like nobody gave a shit. As for the soundtrack, it's just do nothing OH SO DRAMATIC background noise that simply exists because... well, what game doesn't have “sweeping epic” orchestrated songs nowadays? Nothing that'll brighten your day; nothing that'll make you want to go deaf – it's the very definition of mediocre.

To be fair, Inversion isn't a bad game – it passes off as a decent game by the hair of its chinny chin chin. The issue is that it squanders its potential by not implementing all of these gravity-based ideas all too well. Zero gravity is lame, inverted gravity is only aesthetic instead of being a gamechanging element and the actual gunplay is fucking mediocre at best. There's nothing to really write home about here, and... well, I'm going to play something else so I can get this glazed look off of my face.

5/10 (Average)

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