The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Whenever you see a happy family in a game’s opening act, chances are the children are going to be abducted, infected, or worse before the credits roll. Inversion follows the increasingly popular vengeful dad template, with a missing daughter giving Davis Russel the motivation he needs to do a lot of crazy stuff.
A mysterious force has invaded his home turf, and in the ensuing chaos, Russel’s wife is killed and his daughter has gone missing. Russel, a police officer, and his partner Leo Delgado set out to find her while uncovering the mystery behind the assault. Who are these hulking monstrosities? Where did they come from? Where are they taking Earth’s children?
Russel leaves no stone unturned during his rescue mission. Fortunately for his lower back, he quickly gains access to the invaders’ Gravlink technology, which allows him to manipulate gravity. It’s a powerful tool – conceptually, at least.
As he searches for his daughter, I understand that Russel is supposed to feel powerless against this massive alien threat. Unfortunately, that sensation bleeds into the actual gameplay. I felt impotent and ineffective throughout the entire game, whether I was wielding one of the conventional weapons or the Gravlink. Targeting is sloppy, and every burst of fire forces the reticule to erratically creep upward.
The Gravlink doesn’t fare any better. Using it, Russel and Delgado can either reduce or increase the gravitational pull in a small area. Affected objects are then temporarily made weightless or yanked down to the ground. You can also pull off a couple of additional maneuvers, such as blasting nearby enemies with a concentrated dose of deadly gravity or covering yourself with a puny shield. Most of the time, I used the Gravlink to pull the bad guys out of cover and fling them away. Thanks to their limited range of animation, they don’t seem to mind much when you render them weightless. Actually, they don’t seem to be bothered by any of your actions, whether you’re shooting them in the face with a plasma rifle or tossing them into pools of lava.
Inversion’s gravitational gimmick extends beyond the scope of your arsenal. Some levels feature glowing gravity pools, which rotate the world when Russel and Delgado step on them. Suddenly, the floor becomes another wall, and enemies are firing at you from what was once the ceiling. It’s disconcerting at first, but at least it’s a little interesting. The same can’t be said for Inversion’s horribly tedious bosses. They’re cheap and frustrating, and most of them are the same guy, who you end up killing several times over the course of the game. It’s easy enough to deduce the patterns, but surviving the waves of cheap fodder enemies while waiting for the boss’ shields to deplete is an exercise in patience that frankly isn’t worth it.
Unlike the rest of the game, Inversion's competitive multiplayer is actually quite fun. There, teams are grouped by having Gravlinks with weightless powers or the mass-increasing ones. Levels can rotate 180 degrees depending on who has the upper hand in the matches, and it feels like a great home for what should be an interesting gameplay mechanic.
By the time the final encounter came around, I wasn’t looking forward to a satisfying conclusion. I was just ready for the game to conclude. Other games have toyed around with gravity in the past, and most of them have had more success. As far as Inversion goes, it’s a completely mediocre shooter that’s actually weighed down by its distinguishing gimmick.
Email the author Jeff Cork, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.