What if an evil, aggressive extraterrestrial race dropped to Earth one day, unannounced, and took over your beloved city? What if they started slaughtering men and women, snatching up children, and your family became their latest victims? What if you were a foul-mouthed cop as adept at dropping an f-bomb as you were at dropping high-caliber hurt on outer space baddies? And what if, to top it all off, you learned how to manipulate gravity?
Well, then you’d probably be in a video game called Inversion. And before long, you’d likely be thinking things felt awfully familiar.
Out With the Birthday, in With the Bash
In this new sci-fi shooter from Namco, players inhabit the virtual skin of one Davis Russel. He’s a hardworking-but-hotheaded policeman in a place called Vanguard City. At the beginning of his tale, he’s just wrapping up a long day on the streets. He’s thinking about his young daughter’s birthday bash that night and the gift he has for her.
But that focus is short-lived. Because about as soon as he and his crime-fighting partner, Leo, head to the party, the whole city goes crazy. The streets break up into large, levitating chunks of rubble. Worse, enormous armed goons called Lutadores start hacking and blasting the local residents. They look human—except they’re bigger and nastier.
The two police officers quickly regain their footing. And, after a short period of running and Lutadore-zapping, they make it to their destination just in time to see Davis’ wife die. Before they can figure out where Davis’ little daughter Leila is, though, invading Lutadore hoards swarm the place. And just like that, these two street-smart toughs are propelled into a desperate quest to save a little girl … and perhaps the whole world.
The Grinding of Gears
If that sounds like a pretty typical sci-fi video game plotline, it is. In fact, this whole bombastic kill-’em-all adventure feels so typical that you’d almost swear you’ve played it before—especially for players who’ve ever hoisted a digital shotgun in something like, say, Gears of War.
The cover-based gameplay, running and ducking through a trashed city, feels the same. The trigger pulling and exploding environment feels the same. The rampaging brutes feel the same. And all that spattering red stuff—splashed about over and over again on every blasted bit of pixelated concrete and rubble—feels unsettlingly familiar too.
Assault rifles, shotguns, grenades and building-demolishing miniguns are the most common weapons players use to pulverize their enemies. A flamethrower turns foes into screaming, writhing E.T. flambeaux. The assault rifle also has a huge meat cleaver-like blade up front (again, similar to Gears of War) that can be used for up-close gutting. As the game progresses, dead, dismembered human and Lutadore bodies are strewn across every surface, from their alien altars to city streets to subterranean passageways.
From Inversion to Aversion
As I mentioned above, gravity manipulation plays a significant role in this game. And this is where Inversion tries to separate itself from the standard run-and-gun pack.
An enemy device called a Gravlink can be used to lift up or pull down heavy objects, as well as toss deadly things like explosive barrels of oil, blobs of lava or smoldering vehicles in the bad guys’ direction. Players can also use the Gravlink to yank baddies out from behind cover, lifting them up for a few bloodying gun blasts.
But as much as the gamemakers obviously want this physics-defying element to be an exciting addition, its execution in the game ultimately feels pretty old hat. Not too surprising since Inversion is chock-full of tired and gratuitous third-person splattering and profanity-laced dialogue. Even the search for Davis’ missing daughter meets with a disappointing and depressing resolution.
Suffice it to say that if you’re looking for a gravity-twisting title that will turn gaming on its head, Inversion isn’t it. Instead, we tricked into trying yet another soul-numbing shooter that simply blasts many a head into bloody chunks … and leaves them floating for all to see.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.