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Inversion Playtest: A Little Too Unambitious


Perhaps the problem with Inversion is that it’s not much more than the skeleton its genre provides. As a third-person cover-based shooter, it plays like a poor man’s Gears of War with its grenades mapped to up on the d-pad and its "hold A to run" mechanics in place. There isn’t anything particularly special about the game’s guns or the melee. It’s the bare minimum that a third-person cover-shooter can be.


Inversion’s moment-to-moment shooting works, but it’s unfortunate that the enemies you fight, the Lutadores, all look like scrapped enemies from Unreal Engine 3-powered games from 2008. They’re guys with facepaint and impractical armor who possess gravity-controlling wristbands alongside their makeshift guns held together with what appears to be duct tape. Occasionally, you’re even able to fight a fat, heavily armored Lutadore or a flying robot that makes cover mechanics useless Who are the Lutadores? Why is their technological knowledge so uneven? Why does their language contain bits of broken English? I don’t care, and the game gives me no reason to.


Perhaps my apathy towards the game’s universe stemmed from the completely unlikable characters and inane writing. Our heroes Davis Russell (the main character, whose name sounds like it was put together backwards) and Leo Delgado are two police officers from Vanguard City. One day, while Leo and Davis are joking around about Davis going home to have sex with his wife, Vanguard City is attacked by Lutadores and things start falling apart and floating around. Davis, the family man, worried about his wife and daughter, arrives at his Lutadore-infested apartment just in time to see his wife die and get knocked out and taken into a Lutadore prison camp.


Why Davis and Leo get taken to a prison camp when everyone else around them is murdered on the spot and they are obviously the most dangerous people in Vanguard City, I don’t know. But the story just goes downhill from there, with the Lutadores giving our heroes gravity controlling wristbands for no reason (then taking them back), a soldier named Fitzgerald really awkwardly sacrificing himself right in front of our heroes’ cell so that they could escape with the lockpick
he gave them (not sure what the point of Fitzgerald’s sacrifice was), and Davis getting the one wound he couldn’t simply hide behind cover to heal. On the whole, it just feels like all of the gravelly-voiced main characters are competing to make the most cliché statements about how their lives have been changed by war.


I’d be a bit more forgiving of the game’s writing and story if the game’s main gimmick was used in an interesting way. Instead, Davis’ gravity wristband, called a "Gravlink" is essentially used as a more annoying version of the Gravity Gun from Half-Life 2. Part of the fun of the Gravity Gun (for me, at least) was being able to grab practically anything from the environment for use as a projectile quickly and with often hilarious consequences. Inversion requires that you first hit an area with a low-gravity blast (RB), then when things start floating in the air, you grab something with LB and throw it.


Well, assuming that you’ve grabbed something that the game deems appropriate for you to throw. Bodies are off-limits, for instance, despite the fact that they float, as are some rocks. By the time you’ve selected something that Inversion has approved for you to throw, you’re often riddled with bullets (since you’re out of cover to control gravity). Grab an explosive barrel and your opponent might shoot it as you hold it, killing you instantly.


The frustrating thing is that the arbitrariness of what you can do in Inversion extends beyond just trying to control gravity. You can’t take cover behind some large, immobile objects, but can take cover behind smaller things that can be destroyed and moved around.


There are a couple of other uses of the gravity mechanic, like using heavy gravity to pull down an item in the right place to make a bridge, or the occasional gravity-shifted fight that allows you to float between pieces of cover, but on the whole, the Gravlink almost feels completely ignorable with the exception of certain fights that would be even more drawn out and infuriating without tossing rocks at people. I wish Inversion would have been a bit more ambitious, because the game’s core is fine. There’s just nothing interesting or worthwhile around it.