Review: Inversion

No Upside To Upside-Down

Inversion doesn’t seem to give a flip about its world-turning premise.

By Steve Heisler • June 11, 2012

Imagine if when you were 10, you got a sweet Huffy mountain bike as a present. Rad! You can go anywhere, see anything, take on the world (and theoretically a mountain)! Now imagine your mom stuck a heavy sidecar on that bike, and forced you to bring around your little brother at all times. He’s a pretty heavy kid, too, so you have to pedal until you’re winded just to get down the block. Plus, he won’t shut up. “What sorts of crazy things do you think we’re going to find three miles from now?” he asks, seemingly unaware that you’re moving at a snail’s pace past rows of cookie-cutter suburban houses. “Don’t forget we have to be home by nine!”

This is roughly the experience of playing Inversion, a cover-based shooting game that gifts you a whole bunch of toys and then limits them substantially. A backpack that shoots gravity-controlling lasers? Awesome! If only there were more occasion to use it. Portals that flip your perspective so you’re running up the sides of buildings? Awesome! It looks…exactly like the ground did. All sorts of interesting guns and enemies? Freakin’ A! Too bad Inversion put them all in the first hour of play and didn’t mix it up after that. Inversion is a mediocre game wrapped in the promise that something really cool is about to happen. It never does.


To be fair, Inversion thinks it’s blowing your mind. You play as Davis Russel, a city cop with two last names and no nonsense. On the day of his daughter’s birthday, the world is invaded by bloated hooligans called Lutadores, who look like bald Mickey Rourke action figures that were melted in the microwave for a few seconds. They quickly level buildings and wreak chaos, compelling Davis to run back home to check on his wife and daughter, with his partner Leo Delgado in tow. He finds his wife killed outside; his daughter is nowhere to be seen. Davis and Leo are captured and taken to an internment camp, but they escape, stealing a pair of gravity-manipulating packs, and set out to discover the whereabouts of little Leila Russel.

There’s a grand mystery at the center of Inversion: Who are the Lutadores and what do they want? The game feeds this curiosity as Davis and Leo continue their search, introducing incongruous facts meant to pique our interest, like the fact that the Lutadores are drilling down to find…gravity, or something. This could make for a pretty intriguing game if the characters weren’t asking these questions, and more, all the time. The game doesn’t trust that its setup alone, which thrusts players into a world that’s completely foreign, will have you wondering what the fuck is going on. Instead, Davis says, “What the fuck is going on?” at least once a mission, along with, “I won’t rest until I find my daughter.” The worst is Leo, who won’t shut up, even when there’s really nothing to say. At one point, as a battle winds down, he offers this irrelevant non-sequitur: “Hey Davis, remember how wild I was before we met? You took a chance on me, and I’ll never forget it.”


But wait, nobody’s playing Inversion for the script, right? You’re playing to run up some walls! Arm yourself with anti-gravity firepower! Perform impressive flippity-doos! Well, prepare to be disappointed: Inversion is a far cry from the scene in Inception where Joseph Gordon-Levitt fights bad guys as the world turns upside-down. It’s a fairly rote shooting game that requires you to take cover behind roadblocks and cars to heal, popping up to snipe unwanted Lutadores. Whether the level is on the streets, in the camp, or along the side of a building, the environment essentially remains the same, as do the enemies and weapons. There are barriers big and small, a horde of Lutadores, a machine gun with a sword at the end of it. Plus, there are only about five bosses, and each one reappears a handful of times as the game goes on. Around the fourth time you slavishly take out the “Slavedriver,” it feels like work.

The shifts in gravity, arguably Inversion’s distinguishing feature, fall flat. You have two color-coded gravity-altering powers: Blue creates a zero-gravity chamber where floating items can be grabbed and thrown, and red makes things heavier, slowing down enemies and pulling down crates from high places. It’s occasionally fun to float enemies from behind their cover, but it’s far more effective just to shoot them. Other than those areas where you are required to manipulate gravity to advance, the device feels superfluous. Wall-jumps and zero-G free-floats only happen when the game dictates they do.

Even the basic controls, which assign the same button to “run” as “place you in immovable cover mode,” ensure that you’re not nearly as nimble as you’re led to believe. Other than an interesting twist at the end (despite an incredibly ham-fisted one about two-thirds of the way through), playing Inversion is a sluggish routine. Buy a bike.

Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed On: PlayStation 3
Price: $60
Rating: M

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

50 Responses to “No Upside To Upside-Down”

  1. Cornell_University says:

    the greatest mystery to me is why they didn’t have the entire game focus on PIZZA MANIA.  that sounds delicious!

  2. ToddG says:

    Don’t most cover-based shooters map “run” and “cover” to the same button?

    • alguien_comenta says:

      Yeah, and this has always bugged me. I hate it in ME3 when to revive, to cover and to run you use the same button. I always mess it up when I’m trying to revive someone that’s near cover

  3. ShitMcFuckensteinAVC says:

    I really liked Gears of War. I didn’t like it so much that I want it to be every game. It seems like every game series that I really liked from the last generation is being turned into a cover based third person shooter.

  4. Carlton_Hungus says:

    Sigh, chalk this up with Dark Void as games that looked awesome but turned out to just be shitty cover based shooters failing in their gimmick.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       That seems to be the trend in game companies who took the wrong messages from Half-Life 2 and Portal: 

      Game Dev:  We worked forever on this, but we finally got it working!  We coded this gameplay mechanic where your player can turn into any real or fictional animal!  Go on, try it, anything you can think of:  macaw, anteater, humpback whale…

      Game Publisher:  Yeah, I’m too busy for that right now.  Juggling a lotta balls right now.  Could you just go ahead and build a cover-based shooter around that?  We call it…oh I dunno…”Bears of War”.  We can’t get sued for that, right?  While you’re at it, you want to take out all the powers that aren’t bear-related.  Oh, and you’ll want to partition off “polar bear” and “grizzly bear” for the DLC, naturally.

      Game Dev:  But…but… I don’t think you heard me right.  Your player can transform into ANY ANIMAL EVER!

      Game Publisher:  Oh, are you still here?  I thought you had left already.  Huh.

  5. Sarapen says:

    Kill/Switch was awesome but it appears from the comments that every other cover-based shooter that came after it sucked complete dog dick. Gears of War could have been fun if it weren’t for the hyper-masculine-bordering-on-homo-erotic hoohah!-ness of it all.

  6. jarviscockblocker says:

    I’d really like to know what’s the interesting twist, of course without playing the actual game.

    • Electric Dragon says:

      It turned out he’d kidnapped his own daughter but had a psychotic break and constructed a fictional universe to escape from that reality. Also he was dead. And the whole thing was taking place in the dream of a butterfly.

  7. ryanthestormout says:

    Hey! A game I’ll buy for three dollars on Steam in a month, play for an hour, and then never touch again! Hooray!