Inversion, The Gears of War-style cover-based shooter, has at last come to PC after releasing for consoles back in June. If you’re unfamiliar with Inversion, it’s basically a game for bros, where bros bro it up together (bro-ily). It also features gravity-manipulation as its core gameplay twist, and makes sure you use it, for better or worse, about once every thirty seconds.
Players fill the shoes of Davis Russell who, on his way home from work as a police officer in Vanguard City, happens upon the curious sight of painted men with guns killing innocent civilians. He and his partner rush to the aid of the civilians by blasting these painted men in the face and extremities (all of which pop like grapes) with shotguns. Yet not all is as it seems and hell begins to break loose, resulting in the hasty fall of humanity and a life of servitude under the Lutadors – the apparently-alien race these painted men are members of. From here, Davis and his partner must break out of prison and wreak havok on their new overlords.
Inversion suffers from terrible-beginning-syndrome (Cure TBS now!), and the first half of the game is horribly generic. The stages for gunplay are simple and straightforward, and while that doesn’t necessarily change later, the addition of certain gravity elements and free-floating zones begin to complicate things. Also, the story is absolutely ludicrous until you learn a key fact towards the end of the game. That said, even the big reveal doesn’t explain why Davis is completely obsessed with his daughter’s kidnapping, but showed no apparent grief for the death of his wife in the first ten minutes of the game. It also doesn’t explain why a fully-grown, highly-trained police officer needs a second fully-grown, highly-trained police officer to help him lift a roller-door every five minutes.
If you’re going to pick up Inversion, you’re going to pick it up for the gravity-themed mechanics, which vary in quality. The “Gravlink” tends to function basically like the gravity-gun from Half-Life 2 with an additional lock-down ability, and estimating its area-of-effect can be difficult and can result in some frustrating moments. The free-floating areas, on the other hand, provide new territory for the cover-based shooter genre, and can make choosing when to slide between spots of cover challenging and rewarding. There’s also something weirdly satisfying about watching an enemy spiral away after being shot between platforms.
The Gravity Anomalies which hurl the player into new gravitational vectors provide some stellar-looking moments (like running down the side of a sky-scraper as a firefight happens on the ground), but are ultimately underutilized as a gameplay mechanic due to Inversion’s ultra-linear design. There’s never a moment where you get to flip back and forth between Gravity Anomalies as you’re swarmed by enemies, trying to get the best angle or lose them behind interestingly-placed cover. They end up being used mostly for the brief disorienting effect.
Coming from the consoles, Inversion has a decent set of compatibility options, with a few different shadow and texture quality settings to choose from, and the ability to toggle on or off various fancy lighting and anti-aliasing options. It’s nowhere near as many as your standard PC exclusive, but it’s more than many other recent ports have offered. And it runs extremely well, though it’s also not exactly a graphical powerhouse. If your PC was top-of-the-line three or four years ago, you should have no problems popping a few Lutador heads.
- Free-floating areas breathe fresh air into cover-based shooter’s withered old lungs.
- It gets better after the first half.
- The crazy reveal kind of makes most of the plot oddities (and the whole gravity mechanic) make sense! Kind of…
- Some of the dialogue may make you cringe so hard your teeth explode in your mouth.
- Most of the gravity mechanics are underutilized or end up being simple puzzle-fodder.
- It doesn’t necessarily get better-enough after the first half to make playing the first half worth it.