When I first heard about Inversion and saw a trailer for it, I thought, "Ooo! A video game that might actually let me play out my fantasy of fighting in the corridor scene from Inception without actually waiting for a decent video game adaptation of the movie!" Then I laughed at myself for thinking that there was such a thing as a good video game adaptation of a movie. That was followed by me being immediately eager for the release of Inversion. I have to say that I'm incredibly disappointed with myself for my naivete and that I'm ever so sorry to be speaking of this game to you. However, I feel a civic duty to warn you away before you are suckered into trying to play.
Inversion is a third person shooter where you get to play in probably the most poorly written buddy cop movie ever. And it's the type of movie where you sit there and think to yourself, "Why wasn't this over thirty minutes ago?" Your main character Davis Russell leaves his police officer job one day with his buddy and partner, Leo Delgado for a midday break. The two of them drive to Davis' home because he wants to give his daughter a present or some other drivel; it doesn't actually matter why he's going home, because he doesn't actually get to do what he wants. Instead, a group of oddly dressed humans with strange weapons burst out of the ground and start mowing down civilians. The two partners step up to defend them, the forces of gravity start forgetting that people are supposed to stay on the ground and there's your basic premise for the game. Oh, and you're supposed to be rescuing your daughter or something.
The intro to the game has one of the oddest sequences I've ever experienced, with a combination of flashbacks and cinema that I found distracting and annoying more than I found them to be engaging or interesting. During the flashback sequences, you get to control Davis shooting at the enemies (called Lutadores for some ungodly reason). You're totally thrown in to a situation with no orientation as to what's going on and just as you start to get a little comfortable, the game developers drag you out to watch a boring cinema. Did I mention that the oddly dressed human Lutadores don't really speak in any intelligible language? And that when they babble, 'carefully' chosen words are translated on the bottom of the screen so you can get the gist of what's being said. Then after a few moments of cinema, you are thrust into a different flashback entirely, once again controlling Davis to shoot at enemies with no context for where you are. It's very disorienting and wasn't enjoyable in the slightest.
When the actual game gets started, I was relieved to be past the intro for the game. I thought that I could actually get into the action now and sink my teeth into the game. I was once again sadly disappointed. Instead of giving me actual sequences of the game where I was able to control the character and progress through the story, I was treated to mini snippets. I was constantly stopped for more cinema, more talking and more attempts at an interesting story. The dialogue was bad, the scripting was worse and the acting was passable at best. I felt like I was watching a middle school play where the kids were forced to participate or get a bad grade.
After some very stilted sections of fighting Lutadores, the main characters are captured. And of course, after only being stuck in captivity for a few weeks or so, the characters are suddenly able to pick out a few words here and there of what their captors are saying. This is after being forced to work drilling into the ground for the whole period, by the brutish, stupid Lutadores who somehow have some amazing technology; a device that lets you control high and low gravity. Which they inexplicable outfit your character with and then send down into a cavern with.
Now, I understand that the developers were trying to give an introduction to the low and high gravity controls so that later on, when you slowly gain the abilities back you understand how to use them. However, I strongly object to the lackluster and lazy way they introduced the character to the device. The Lutadores just give it over. For no real reason. There IS a flying robot fight in the bottom of the cavern (yes, a flying robot), but the Lutadores were already down there themselves with their own packs. They could have fought it. And if you were being sent down specifically to take care of that flying robot, why are you not escorted to where it is? Why do they let you wander the caves with an advanced piece of equipment that you could theoretically use to escape? Also, while down there, you're attacked by some of the Lutadores. So it seems like one group of them decided to send you down below without alerting their buddies that they were about to send in a couple of slaves. With the mega awesome gravity packs, no less.
And of course you later escape, through one of the most stupid contrivances I've ever seen. A brand new slave 'sacrifices' themselves so that you and your friend can escape. So for no good reason, they decide that the two of you are just going to die a horrible death if you stay any longer, despite the fact that you seem to be surviving just fine so far. And he decides that you're more important than him, even though he was just working with a resistance group to fight back the Lutadores. You would think he would be trying his best to escape, not jeopardize his own existence just to get out a couple of shmucks that he's just met and has barely spoken to. Though in one of the most horrible coincidences ever, you find out later that he actually DID escape. Of course he did. How silly of me to think that a lone man would have an easier time than you and your cop buddy. After you obviously needed help to get out in the first place.
But you escape, steal gravity packs and get back out into the world, a mere month after hell's broken loose. You try to make your way to some holding area where people think the kids are being brought to, all in an attempt to get back Davis' daughter, whom he hopes has been captured and taken alive. This of course, is supposed to be the real meat and potatoes of the game. Sadly, however, it still takes a while before the game stops jumping you back and forth between bits of cinema and gameplay. I kept fighting my way through the streets, trying to enjoy the game. It was nearly impossible because I kept being stopped. All I wanted to do was shoot some Lutadores in the face and the developers wouldn't let me. And by the time I was actually able to enjoy long, uninterrupted stretches of fighting, I wasn't enjoying the long uninterrupted stretches of fighting. As a matter of fact, I was only a few chapters in before I started wondering why the game wasn't over already. It seemed as if I had been fighting and killing Lutadores for more than long enough to have progressed through the main story. The game was incredibly tedious and, quite frankly, boring.
And as the icing to the cake it had some really bad boss fights. One that stood out was The Butcher. He's a Lutadore in a giant mech suit that throws explosives at your character. The way to beat the boss is by throwing explosives until he drops, and then moving to an indicated spot to throw another one directly into his suit. However, because I was constantly moving around the battlefield, I missed seeing the indicator and it took me dropping him multiple times before my partner decided to speak up and inform me that I needed to get close to actually have an impact.
While that was annoying, it wasn't anywhere near as frustrating as the Slave Driver. He's a huge, bloated Lutadore that controls brainwashed humans and high gravity lashes to knock your character to the ground. When I fought him for the first time, he was annoying and a little frustrating. When I had to fight him a second time (with enhanced human goonies), I was agitated that they were repeating the exact same frustrating boss. By the time I got to him a THIRD TIME (with the addition of gun wielding enemies now) I was incredibly pissed off at the game. To add insult to injury, one of the Slave Driver fights came immediately after dealing with another repeat boss.
Navigating through the game could also be a hassle. Because it's a destroyed cityscape, some of the broken buildings are actually traversable while others are just decoration. Every so often the game will give you a blue indicator to tell you where to go next, but it's not consistent. There were a few areas in the game where I ran around trying to determine which piece of scenery could actually be walked on so I could proceed. At other times, I had a helpful blue indicator to show me the way. It usually wasn't a problem, but every so often I was stymied in progressing because I wasn't sure which way was forward.
Other sections of the game feature the nonexistent gravity fields that were advertised for the game. In these sections, the characters float around and use a combination of kicking off objects, acrobatics and their energy packs to maneuver the fields. There are also several fights with enemies in these sections. These sequences were few and far between and either utterly boring or frustrating. There wasn't really any middle ground with them. I either had an easy time navigating the field and killing all of the Lutadores, or I had enemies coming from places I couldn't see and killing me before I figured out where they all were. Then I couldn't escape the gravity field because it wasn't very clear which ledges I had to fly my way over to in order to continue on.
The landscapes and backgrounds of the game were also a big letdown. Scene after scene of demolished city buildings and pseudo construction sites greeted me throughout the game. Yes, when you get a little further in they've got some high tech futuristic looking backgrounds and environments, but nothing too spectacular or mind blowing. It was all very average. The soundtrack was very generic and didn't really stand out too much. What did stand out was the horrible dialogue and story writing.
Now I know everyone is going to say that a buddy cop movie/game doesn't really need a good story. I'm going to have to disagree there. It should at least have a story that makes sense, doesn't make you roll your eyes and that doesn't leave you smacking your head in frustration. Inversion doesn't have that kind of a story. One of the things that bothered me was the way the developers handled the characters understanding their captors. After thirty some odd days of dealing with an unfamiliar enemy, the developers show that the characters are able to understand some of the language by giving you selected words at the bottom of the screen. Logically speaking, yes, the characters might learn to pick up some of the words. But some of the choices made seemed pointless and silly. For example, in one of the sequences, the cops are specifically able to understand a Lutadore calling a shared enemy a "female of the canine species." I've got a mouth that would make a sailor blush and I found that inclusion excessively juvenile and pointless.
That being said, I will give the game a big thumbs up for actually working. The controls do exactly what they're supposed to do. They are actually very responsive and give you a good amount of time to respond to what the enemies are doing. The actual combat sequences are, for the most part, manageable. And the low and high gravity which lets you lift enemies and objects or bog them down respectively, is actually easy to control. A simple click of the analog stick allows you to switch back and forth between modes rather easily.
Ammo is usually fairly easy to get your hands on, as well as replacement guns. The game did have at least a few sections where they essentially force you to pick up rocket launchers; in one of those sections that I remember, the game didn't give me time to recover my weapon before moving me to a new section. But even in sections where weapons and ammo may be scarce, the gravity controls give another combat option. It was very satisfying to pick up a ball of propane, fling it at enemies and light them on fire.
But being easy to control doesn't make a game good. Neither does mostly manageable combat sequences. Between the horrible story, the repetitive boss fights and the tedious sections that seemed like they'd never end, I had lost all investment in the game long before it was actually over. It stopped being enjoyable well before it should have and actually crossed the line into being maddening to play. I really wanted to have fun with this game and thought that the gravity manipulation would make it a whole lot of fun. Instead I ended up playing a game that was lackluster at best and slightly insulting at worst. It doesn't even work as a mind numbing shooter; the constant interference of the bad story prevents it from being able to fall back on even that. Spare yourself the trouble and look elsewhere before trying Inversion that, or wait until the price is very low.