Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Review: Inversion (360)

All Davis Russel wanted to do on a sunny, tranquil day is visit his wife and daughter as a noon respite from his tough and demanding job as a police officer. However, as he and his partner, Leo Delgado, head off to Russel's apartment, their world and lives and everybody else's gets turned upside down, literally, in the new third-person shooter on the Xbox 360, Inversion.

Borrowing heavily from the Gears of War franchise for its style, substance and gameplay (including "roadie running") Inversion plays like a Gears of War game, with one signature difference: the Zero G "flying" and offensive abilities as well as the inversion of the gaming environment, twisting and turning it in a manner reminiscent of an M.C. Escher work.

However, with absolutely awkward transitioning from gameplay into ill-timed cutscene, a dark and deeply depressing story (with humongous plot holes throughout), especially the demoralizing ending that makes gamers feel as they just played through a single-player adventure of 12-15 hours for pretty much nothing, and barren online play, Inversion -- even with diverse gameplay and sometimes hot and heavy enjoyable gunplay -- is nothing more than a mediocre emulation of the Gears of War.

At the beginning of Inversion's single-player story, gamers get a quick introduction to the game's main enemies, the Lutadores, who have initiated a hostile invasion of a future world. And yes, those Lutadores have a striking resemblance to the bad guys in Gears of Wars. Gamers also start to get familiar with the "Zero G" gravitational anomalies that have terra firma and other debris floating in zero gravity. Racing home, Russel finds his wife dead and daughter missing. Apparently, the Lutadores are gathering the world's children, and Russel sets off to rescue his little girl. But that's where plot holes start to widen into Grand Canyon sized chasms.

Gamers never really find out why the children are taken by the Lutadores. Although it seems that the physically strong but cerebrally challenged Lutadores have gotten their highly advanced weaponry and gravity manipulation from a mechanized intelligence, exactly why they did get that weaponry "upgrade" (and later, why they are fighting not only the humans, but each other) is never really explained. How do Russel and Delgado survive nearly a month imprisoned, when the same treatment has driven other human captives insane? Why were they not used as slaves like the others? Why did the Lutadores give them Gravlinks in the mines and practically let them walk out the door to freedom? How could Russel and Delgado not be aware of one of the "big reveals" about where they call home? Why is the Lutadores home seemingly a destroyed version of Russel and Delgado's world? Why the hell would Delgado not tell Russel the truth in the very beginning instead of setting out on an impossible suicide mission (and saving everybody playing the game from a thoroughly depressing story conclusion)? So many questions with no obvious answers creates a confusing and confounding tale.

Making that vexing story worse is the absolute worst flow of gameplay-to-cutscenes I've seen in a long time. Just as gamers are in the heat of a fight, up pops a cutscene. There's such an uneven structuring of when there's in-game gameplay and gameplay-pausing cutscenes that it is rather easy to get completely annoyed.

But if gamers can ignore the plot failures, there is some entertaining gameplay in a diverse range of gaming environments against plenty of enemies, although most don't present too much of a challenge to defeat, even the level bosses, although the latter bosses deep in the game can be difficult.

Along the way, the two heroes Russel and Delgado will learn, through the implementation of the Gravlink, to manipulate objects with the "blue gravity" by grappling onto them and then using them as projectiles against enemies, or the "red gravity" to repel and shoot enemies with a gravity force. It also allows them both to "fly" in Zero G areas, which is overall generally problem-free, but more than once it took multiple attempts to touch down in the landing zone to get out of the Zero G field. But using the Gravlink and the other heavy-duty weaponry provides plenty of explosive and invigorating gunplay, especially with a highly combustible and destructible gaming environment. Inversion's fights and gameplay are similar to Gears of War, including its "roadie running" and taking-cover system, but Inversion certainly doesn't have the same graphical quality.

Online, Inversion has a good selection of maps that include usage of the Gravlink, and plenty of game modes to fight with and against other gamers. The huge problem I encountered, though, was a total lack of online Xbox Live gamers, finding a completely barren online landscape of available players no matter when during the day or night or week I attempted to play online. I'm not sure if that had anything to do with my connection, the game's servers, or if it's simply just that not many gamers have picked up a copy of Inversion, but I have no similar issues playing online with other recently released games.

As a third-person shooter, Inversion has some fun and long-lasting single-player gunplay (even if it does a huge amount of copycatting off of Gears of War). That's despite an utterly incomprehensible and confusing single-player story filled with too many plot holes along with a very sparse online presence to date.

Lee Cieniawa

The Good:
‑ Using the Gravlink and the other heavy-duty weaponry provides plenty of explosive and invigorating third-person gunplay, especially with a highly combustible and destructible gaming environment

The Bad:
‑ Completely depressing single-player story with an absolutely disheartening ending
‑ Ridiculously awkward transitions throughout from gameplay to cutscenes
‑ While multiplayer maps use of Zero G and the variety of game modes are good, it's barren online with hardly any other players around to play in matches

Score: 6.5 / 10