In this regular retrospective, I trawl the bargain bin and play some of the generation’s forgotten titles and let you know whether they are any good.

inversion 1Inversion, contrary to its title is not a gaming sequel to Christopher Nolan’s superlative dream-based thriller Inception, it is an equally high-concept third person shooter about gravity. Its USP is this;…. instead of shooting people in the melon normally, in this you can shoot people to death whilst upside down.Now I know you will probably need a sit down after hearing of a game with such an exciting twist on quite a rote genre but keep reading.

Ok…. pithy comments aside, admittedly that is a decent idea they came up with, one that could add quite a lot of value to a genre that really needs a shot in the arm. Unfortunately Saber Interactive/Namco Bandai’s 2012 effort leaves quite a bit to be desired, especially for those who have played the best the field has to offer.

inversion 2Davis Russell is a cop, a very angry cop. This is either because his name is mysteriously backwards or his family are dead/ missing due to an alien invasion…or both. His partner and best friend Leo, is the sort of surly, hard-bitten policeman that shoots first and asks shouty, unhinged questions later, a vaguely Hispanic Ice Cube if you will. Both of them have to contend with a world full of jabbering cretinous aliens, all of which look like humans with face paint and Bane masks on. They do this by shooting them in the face until they die, yes….sometimes whilst upside down, or when they feel especially interesting sideways on.

Whilst Saber Interactive do gain a few brownie points for making plot twists which are pretty out-there or in the case of one scene actually quite clever, they urinate all of this kudos away on some of the worst gaming characterisation and writing in this gamer’s experience.

inversion 3You know how in films when a foreign bad guy who speaks patchy English is captured by American Forces he starts to say stuff like “I love America, Mickey Mouse, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, please no shoot me!”?. well this game was probably written by one of these guys. It’s an American set action game made by non-Americans who have watched Bad Boys 1 and 2 too many times and drunk too much Pepsi. Gears can just about get away with its archetypes and pompous over-blown tone because it acknowledges at its heart that it is silly and it has the occasional joke. Inversion on the other hand is so po-faced and bereft of humour it probably has no idea why the chicken crossed the road.

Gears can just about get away with its archetypes and pompous over-blown tone because it acknowledges at its heart that it is silly and it has the occasional joke. Inversion on the other hand is so po-faced and bereft of humour it probably has no idea why the chicken crossed the road.

Inversions protagonist Davis however, is a tool. A man who shouts at war traumatised orphans and his partner veers between the thickest man in the Universe, to expert in alien spacecraft propulsion technology the next. These are not two people you would want to go on a kayaking holiday in The Rhineland with, or will care anything for and as such the numerous plot developments will likely mean less to you than what flavour the soup of the day is in that restaurant you have never been in but walk past on the way to the deli.

inversion 4The bad guys are based around four character models and are led by a villain you are supposed to hate but who is only really introduced in the final scene, meaning you probably dislike your sandwich crusts more than him.

What about gameplay though Marb?! It is a game after all, this isn’t FilmOnDaily you waffling idiot! Ok well Inversion though actually pretty solid on most counts is hampered by clunky control features that will have your teeth grinning like milk-coloured millstones.

Take the shooting and cover mechanic, it’s pretty standard stuff really; swap weapon, iron sights, radial dial for weapons, a hodgepodge of ideas taken off Gears of War, Uncharted, etc. When in cover and shooting the game kinda works, it’s certainly not the smoothest experience out there but perfectly good nuts and bolts stuff.

When in cover and shooting the game kinda works, it’s certainly not the smoothest experience out there but perfectly good nuts and bolts stuff.

The issues occur when you want to do anything else but shoot and inversion 5sit in cover. When you go down for example, your mate can revive you, unfortunately they can’t do it whilst in cover and have to be stood up, and you cannot crawl towards them. Once both up, you then can’t move for a second whilst the animation plays out, all the while you are being shot in the balls by an angry bald alien. What this usually means is in the process of rescuing your comrade, you usually get taken out yourself and your newly revived friend play a morbid game of tag.

The games gravity mechanic also comes into play during combat and you at some stage are given the mastery over both low and high gravity via the power of a power pack and wrist launcher which looks like little like a Ghostbuster proton pack crosses with a metal squid. How these gravity powers manifest are you can make things float or make them heavier or throw things. Not everything though, mostly superfluously placed barrels and some bad guys. The powers are really a re-badged adaptation of Half Life 2s gravity gun and Red Factions deterioration powers. Lets face it, the gravity gun has now been subject to ‘homage’ by so many subsequent games (Dead Space, Singularity), it probably has its own cult. Anyway, when even your USP is a little familiar to even the most amateurish gaming writer (moi), you are perhaps in choppy waters.

So when cover shooting has been all but perfected by titles such as Gears, Mass Effect and Uncharted, making a game merely passably playable is no longer quite good enough to make a lasting impact.

So when cover shooting has been all but perfected by titles such as Gears, Mass Effect and Uncharted, making a game merely passably playable is no longer quite good enough to make a lasting impact.

inversion 6Graphically, the game is a mixed bag, some character models and landscape are actually really impressive, an early prison set level and the main characters themselves being the prime examples, but some of the game looks more dated than Brian Harvey’s beanie collection. Plenty of games look worse but the inconsistency is a bit distracting at times.

The campaign itself is of a decent length, clocking in at around 10 hours and rather pleasingly has an online coop function for the entire thing. It only supports two players but it’s certainly a welcome addition and one that is reasonably enjoyable, even when the clunky controls are taken into account. The coop campaign is Inversion’s main badge of honour. In fact, the only issue you may have is how to actually find the option on the menu. Is there an option for coop campaign at the title screen? Nope, not unless you have already sorted your party and set up a game between you before going to start.

It also has an online versus and team based multi-player function, but as the servers are more deserted than a Westlife tribute concert in the Australian outback, good luck scraping together enough gamers to get a match, especially two year’s after release.

VERDICT: GUILTY!
Inversion’s high –concept, ballsy plot twists, occasional good looks and sporadic meaty shooting charms are undermined by its often teeth-gnashingly frustrating gameplay quirks, awful lead characters and sub-Hollyoaks standard writing. It’s a game you will probably enjoy once in coop campaign then load into a canon and fire it into the nearest supernova to avoid having to look at it again. An overall failure on gameplay grounds but an admirable attempt at tweaking the third person formula and Gears can rest easy in its blood-spattered throne for now. For coop completists looking for a new fix only I’m afraid.

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Ed F

I am a keen amateur gamer who has always found himself slightly behind the times. My interest in gaming piqued with jealous looks at my friends copy of Duck Hunt on the NES all the way back in the early 90’s. Since then I graduated to a Sega Mega Drive of my own, a late 90s obsession with PlayStation One and then an ill-advised GameCube phase in the early noughties. Since my relatively late introduction to the Xbox360 in early 2009, I have being playing catch up. Among my other interests are comics, movies and boring my wife to death with talk of ‘cinematic tropes’ and ‘narrative arcs’. I am currently gorging myself on the next gen whilst keeping one foot in the previous one.

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