'Inversion' Is a 'Gears of War' Imitator

Inversion feels like the first draft of a game.


Publisher: Namco Bandai
Rated: Mature
Players: 1-2 players
Price: $59.99
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Developer: Saber Interactive
Release Date: 2012-06-05

Inversion quickly establishes itself as a Gears of War imitator, a game in which two burly guys shoot lots of bad guys from cover. It even uses the same controls: the d-pad switches weapons, the A button goes moves your character into cover, etc., etc. -- though it adds enough new ideas to not seem like a blatant ripoff. Like most imitations, however, it copies the most memorable mechanics of its inspiration without understanding what makes those mechanics fun.

The shooting is immediately awkward. Inversion gets the basics, left trigger zooms and right trigger shoots, but it is missing the important subtleties. Enemies don’t react to getting shot, so it’s hard to know if you’re actually hitting them. There’s no blood splatter, or even a game-like X that appears in your crosshair when a bullet makes contact. The only sign that you’ve done damage is that your enemy eventually dies. Because of this lack of feedback, you’ll spend much of the game second guessing your aim.

The big hook of Inversion is how it integrates gravity into combat. Early on you’ll get the Gravlink, a weapon that’s attached to you arm (so it doesn’t take the place of a gun), which shoots out a blue burst of energy that negates gravity wherever it lands. It’s an easy way to get enemies out of cover and turns random objects caught in the field into potential cannonballs, but it takes a while to upgrade the Gravlink to a point where it’s actually useful in combat.

When you first pick it up, you can only use it twice before it runs out of charge. Even after upgrading the Gravlink there’s never a moment when it feels necessary. It’s easy to forget about. This disincentives its use, so you’ll go through several chapters playing Inversion like any other third-person cover-based shooter, and it’s not a very good third-person cover-based shooter. If/when you do remember the Gravlink’s is there, it does change up combat in some interesting ways.

When objects are floating in the air you, can grab them from any distance with the Gravlink and shoot them back as projectile weapons. Rocks, barrels, bodies, and even live enemies become ammunition. Eventually you’ll be able to pick up and throw cars, which is undeniably satisfying. This is a good use of the environment and had the potential to redefine the “shooting” part of this shooter, but it doesn’t. You’re inundated with so much ammo for every kind of gun that the Gravlink never becomes your main weapon. It’s always a secondary tool, and the sub-par shooting always remains the focus.

Sometimes the gravity of the world will shift, and you’ll find yourself fighting on a wall or ceiling. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a cool idea that when you have to flank an enemy encampment you do so by scaling the side of a building, literally going up and over it, but this changing perspective doesn’t actually change the gameplay in any way. All these inversion points are predetermined, the enemies are right there with you, and there’s still plenty of cover. Your perspective may change, but the game doesn’t.

The parts with zero gravity are more interesting. Floating debris is used as cover and you can only move from one piece of debris to another; once you start on a trajectory you can’t change course. This adds a bit of tension to the mere act of movement, and you won’t mind that you’re still pretty much locked on a horizontal plane. Unfortunately, some of the enemies that you fight in these areas aren’t locked on that horizontal plane, so while you can only move forward and back, they jump up, down, side to side, and everything in between. These fights are annoying because your perspective and movement are forcibly limited while theirs is not, and you’ll come to dread these zero gravity sections.

Near the end of the game, there’s an insane story twist that completely changes the nature of the world. Suddenly, the bland and boring story becomes a fascinating mystery that will propel you through the final chapters. Sadly, the plot goes nowhere from there. That awesome and crazy twist is never explained. It seems to exist only to set up a sequel. The entire story is like that, actually. There’s an ambition in creating a plot and even a character that’s admirable, though none of it really works.

Inversion feels like the first draft of a game, a proof of concept that just shows all the systems working together but that is missing the important refinements necessary for a final product.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.