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Inversion

Review: Inversion

Jun 12 // Jim Sterling
Inversion (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Saber InteractivePublisher: Namco BandaiReleased: June 5, 2012MSRP: $59.99 There is not a single original idea to be found in Inversion. That's not inherently a bad thing, but for all the game's attempts to stand out from the crowd, it really doesn't do anything to differentiate from the titles it liberally pinches from. A third-person cover-based shooter with gravity manipulation, Inversion is basically Gears of War with Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun and Dead Space's Zero-G sections. Again, not a bad thing on its own, but Inversion does none of its pilfered concepts any real justice.  Standing in for Gears' Locust horde are the Lutadores, a group of bulky barbarians who look like they could exist in any of Epic Games' recent titles. These bellowing raiders have invaded a place at a time to do things, kidnapping the wife and child of a protagonist who probably has a name. The story earnestly attempts to make the player care, but the delivery is so lacking in energy and the scenario so vague that my mind glazed over with every cutscene. It's telling that the game's primary antagonist is reintroduced in passing roughly ten minutes before the final boss encounter, as if the developers suddenly realized they were building to a fight with a guy who had, until that point, done absolutely nothing. As a shooter, Inversion is not too terrible, serving up a bowl of straightforward, paint-by-numbers cover-centric combat. You go from point A to point B, hiding behind convenient walls and shooting at chunky opponents with a range of bog-standard guns. Every now and then, a drill will come out of the ground and unleash more enemies until it's destroyed with a grenade -- yes, just like Gears' Locust holes. There's room for one online co-op partner, and the occasional machine gun turret to mow down waves of incoming enemies. It's a guided tour through every single third-person shooter ever released, only the guide is a tired old man who's counting the minutes until his shift ends.  [embed]229400:44061[/embed] The ability to manipulate gravity serves as the dividing line between this game and the one it's copying, and it admittedly adds a little more fun to the fights. The so-called GravLink has two settings, one that reduces the gravitational pull within a certain radius, and one that increases it. Using these two settings, players are able to aim at a chosen spot in the environment and cause items to either float or stay pinned to the ground. Floating objects (and enemies) can be pulled toward the player and shot back with a huge amount of force, making for some nice improvised kills. A nice touch is the ability to raise balls of gas or lava and fling them around, directing explosions and spreading fires.  For the most part, the gravity manipulation is somewhat amusing, though it can be fairly unwieldy. With so many objects floating around, it is sometimes difficult to grab the thing you want, and the GravLink blasts have a nasty habit of hitting cover and other objects, regularly failing to land on their intended targets. Still, being able to lift annoying enemies out from behind cover and riddle them with bullets is a pretty sweet feeling.  At various points in the adventure, players will enter areas of zero gravity where they'll need to float from cover to cover. As seen in Dead Space, it's a simple case of selecting the next bit of debris and tapping a button to fly over, though enemies may turn up to initiate a zero-G shootout. There are also areas where the gravitational pull can be shifted by walking into various hotspots, making the entire world spin as players run up buildings, cling to ceilings, and fight enemies who may be stood on separate gravitational plane. These fights in particular are surprisingly well executed and quite remarkable, but there's simply not enough of them. Over the course of the six-to-eight hour campaign, only a handful of minutes are dedicated to these sections, when they ought to have represented the full product.  Outside of these inventive arenas, the majority of the game is a straightforward and uninteresting slog from checkpoint to checkpoint. It lacks the intensity and personality of Gears, it misses the atmosphere and storytelling of Dead Space, and generally feels like a mediocre retread of everything we've seen before. I'm all for games stealing ideas if they do the ideas well, but so much of Inversion simply staggers through the motions, seemingly pleased with itself while ticking boxes on a checklist of established game features.  Nowhere is the game's lack of creativity more apparent than in the boss encounters. There are maybe five bosses in the whole game, but more than double the amount of boss fights. Expect to see bosses -- with inventive names such as "Butcher" and "Brute" -- return at least two or three more times after their initial defeat, and expect them all to be fairly aggravating. The only real "challenge" is derived from Inversion tossing a ton of minion enemies around the arena, and opponents that can destroy the player in two or three hits. It's the kind of challenge that is never too hard to beat -- it's just annoying and demands success through stubborn attrition.  Outside of bosses, this principle of challenge continues. Enemies hidden behind doors or around corners that will chew the player to death before they can find cover. Flying robots that ignore the cover system completely and punish our hero for playing the game as intended. The usual ways in which an otherwise easy game tries desperately to increase the running time by making the player retry various sections. Again, this isn't a difficult game at all, it just tries to ambush you and score a free kill that you will see coming next time.   Still, like I said, the game's not horrible. It's not very good, or compelling, but it's far from offensive. It's just another shooter that pinned all its hopes on one gimmick that wasn't quite good enough to make us forget how mediocre everything really is. It's just there, showcasing its potential and betraying it with a lack of verve and an unwillingness to stray too far from the well-worn path.  Speaking of the well-worn path, there's an obligatory multiplayer mode, though it won't surprise anybody to learn that very few people are playing it. After wasting a lot of my time, I was able to get into a Deathmatch mode consisting of me, one other person, and an idle player who served as free target practice. Combat consists mostly of seeing who can be first to hit the other with a heavy gravity blast before shelling the crap out of their prone body. There are some objective-based anti-gravity modes to keep things interesting, but absolutely nobody is playing them. Still, if you manage to find some friends to play with, there's an experience system with custom loadout weaponry to unlock. All the usual stuff, really. I am surprised by how good Inversion looks, though not because it looks particularly wonderful. It's riddled with texture pop-in and the colors are blandly brown, but I expected it to look like a terrible budget game and was shocked to find something rather competent. There is a nice style to it, even if that style has been largely appropriated from Epic, and the gravity effects are very well done indeed. The voice acting is forgettable, but there's some surprisingly nice tunes hidden away in the soundtrack. For a relatively obscure "middle shelf" game, I'd say Inversion does its level best to look and feel like a big-budget experience, and sometimes comes close.  Inversion could have been so much worse than it is, but there is evidence suggesting it could have been better. Flashes of genuine brilliance occur during its most inventive segments, and I can tell that the team behind it really did care about what they were doing but lacked enough of something -- be it money or skill -- to see Inversion become an exciting prospect. Perhaps it was believed that it had to stick to formula in order to be successful, or maybe those in charge just didn't know how to capitalize on its own ideas. All that matters is that there's a lot of heart in Inversion, but absolutely nothing going on the brain department. There is desire, with absolutely no thought.  A real shame, but an expected one.
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Inversion is one of those games that seem to have been around forever, quietly popping its head up out of the bushes every few months to remind us it still exists while we continue living our lives and barely so much as grunt...

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Oh look, a new Inversion trailer


Feb 21
// Jim Sterling
Here's a new Inversion trailer for you. It's that game, you know the one. No, not that one. The other one. What? No, that was Mindjack, this is something else. No it's not Timeshift either. It's the one you saw with the things and the thing ... oh, forget it.  Just watch the trailer and try to remember.

Inversion: why you probably won't care

Jan 26 // Abel Girmay
Inversion (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Developer: Saber Interactive Publisher: Namco Bandai Release: Early 2012 We started with a basic free-for-all. You all know the drill here: kill as many people as you can, as fast as you can, until you hit the score cap. What stood out to me immediately was how rough the aiming felt. The game was certainly playable, but anyone who plays shooters extensively can tell the difference between weighty and irregular aiming. Inversion definitely features the latter. As Casey stated in his preview, manipulating gravity is a necessity. To reiterate, players have two variations of gravity manipulation. The first creates a small pocket of low gravity, sending your opponents floating and making them vulnerable to gunfire. The second creates a field of dense gravity, knocking players down into a last-stand stance. You aren't completely screwed if you get hit with a gravity field, however. You can still shoot back at your attacker, but your aim is disoriented and your movement hindered. Thankfully, players are kept from spamming their powers via a four-bar meter that drains a quarter each time you use a power. The meter can be refilled through pickups placed around the map. While waiting for the next game to start, I had the opportunity to poke around the upgrades menu. Like most contemporary shooters, Inversion's multiplayer features a progressive leveling system. It's not as in-depth as in the Call of Duty or Battlefield games, so don't expect customizable loadouts, perks, and the like. Inversion's customization focuses more on the player's avatar and acquiring new clothing options such as helmets, pads, color schemes, etc. You can unlock upgrades for you default spawn weapons, but the weapon upgrades don't seem terribly involved. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since Inversion takes a Halo/Gears of War approach to weapons. Success depends greatly on your ability to ditch the default rifle and find the power weapons spread across the map. The second mode we played was deathmatch free-for-all once again, but with a twist. Regular kills counted as one point while kills involving gravity powers were worth more. Since using gravity is already paramount to doing well, this mode more or less played the same as standard deathmatch, but with a greater emphasis on learning where the refill pickups were placed. Unfortunately, with so many people throwing around gravity fields and firing off explosives, our matches became increasingly laggy, necessitating restarts or crashing outright. It was a common and very disconcerting occurrence, especially considering how close the game is to release. I should also note that it was about this time that I started to notice the cover system, or rather how little I was using it. Cover in Inversion is somewhat messy. Moving from in and out of cover and from cover point to cover point isn't as smooth as it should be, as characters have a tendency to get stuck on objects. Ironically, it is the cover system and the awkward formations you get stuck in that will occasionally contribute to an untimely death. Personally, I found it much more viable to use the roll to avoid enemy fire when low on health. The last mode we spent time with was a twist on king of the hill, called King of Gravity. In this mode, one player spawns with a Gravlink -- the source of your gravity powers -- while all other player must work to bring him down and take the Gravlink for themselves. Only the kills you earn when you have the Gravlink equipped count towards your score. The time I spent with King of Gravity was by far the most fun I had in Inversion. The chaos that ensues as five or six people try to take down one powered-up player is an odd and satisfying blend of quasi-teamwork (its still free-for-all, but team shooting is the best way to take the current king down) and waiting for the perfect moment to kill the guy next to you. That isn't even mentioning the satisfaction from rushing in and stealing the Gravlink from the poor saps who did most of the work on the previous King, then mowing them down in their weakened state for a couple quick points. Looking back at my time with Inversion, I can say that I had some fun with it. Still, that fun is bogged down by all the baggage of its blemished cover mechanics, awkward shooting, and spotty net code. I'm always looking for something to play as a break from Call of Duty or Gears of War 3, but I don't see this spinning in many disc tray for long.
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We've been following a little game called Inversion for some time. Our own Maurice Tan walked away underwhelmed by the single-player portion, while Casey Baker seemed a bit more optimistic about the multiplayer. For our final...


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Inversion's going upside down in this new trailer


Oct 24
// Harry Monogenis
Aside from its most recent trailer a couple of months back and our preview of the game's multiplayer not too long after, there really hasn't been much news on Saber Interactive's third-person shooter Inversion that allows pl...

Inversion: Why you should care

Sep 12 // Casey Baker
Inversion (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Developer: Saber InteractivePublisher: Namco BandaiRelease date: February 7, 2012 After a brief rundown of the vaguest elements of the single-player campaign (Two cops undergo personal tragedy when creatures kill/kidnap people close to them, now they must find out source of creature origin and take revenge, rinse and repeat), we were launched into the first of three multiplayer modes -- a free-for-all, 16-player Deathmatch mode on a map simply called Plaza. The multiplayer map in Plaza immediately resembled maps from certain other games, so those of us in attendance knew more or less what to expect. The biggest difference between this map and others like it were the bits of rock and other debris just floating around in the dead center of the map, which allowed for players to jump in zero gravity from rock to debris and then on to the other side of the map. The competitive advantage of this was immediately obvious, as it allowed players to quickly shortcut from one well-covered section of the map to the other and quickly regain cover away from or near enemies. The biggest drawback of this area was that it left the player more exposed to gunfire from pretty much anywhere except right in front of them. Gameplay-wise, it does add an interesting wrinkle as it could potentially help a player gain an advantage with some quick thinking while in the midst of a firefight. It's also amusing to watch other players go floating across the map only to be gunned down and then drift away as a lifeless corpse. Overall, this particular example of gravity manipulation left a little to be desired as you couldn't just float anywhere you wanted à la Dead Space 2 and so players are limited to taking exact routes to shortcut across the map. In a competitive arena, I can see how this sort of linearity make sense as I've seen plenty of gamers take advantage of extra freedom to find ways to glitch out and generally be cheap, but if the developers give you the freedom to float about you'd expect it to be a little more...well, free. Much of the control was also liberally "borrowed" from other similar games, though this actually helped to make everything feel familiar and comfortable. The biggest difference here came in the form of the player's own gravity manipulation powers. This is also where the gameplay gets interesting and dare I say it -- even quite fun. In classic Deathmatch mode, the player is given two gravity powers that are used with a press of the right bumper and switched by clicking the right analog stick. The first one allows you to peg other players with a sphere of high gravity, in effect pinning them to the ground and making them extra vulnerable to your attacks. You know that you are using this power because an attachment on the back of your shoulder strap acts as an indicator and glows red when the high gravity power is equipped and the sphere that surrounds your enemies is also red. Conversely, this attachment glows blue when you equip low gravity, which throws enemies into the air in a blue sphere to dangle helplessly as you pump them with bullets. While enemies are in this vulnerable state, they are still able to pivot around to shoot at you and to "shift" to the left or right to dodge bullets and projectiles. I found using these weapons both immensely satisfying and helpful to gain a competitive edge on the battlefield.  One of the other journalists I was competing against seemed to keep seeking me out and getting in cheap kills until I got the hang of the high-gravity power and doled out revenge by pinning him to the ground and dropping a grenade next to his face before leaping off into the center of the map where he was unable to shoot me. Scenarios like this cropped up with relative frequency and at times were quite amusing, such as when I watched two players pin each other to the ground with high gravity and ran by them guns blazing, effortlessly taking both down. With low gravity enabled, you could also grab objects and throw them or use them for cover. I experimented a couple times by grabbing barrels and tossing them across the map, though the only hit I got in bounced uselessly off of the player I was aiming for and instead simply alerted him to my presence so that he could easily mow me down. When the Deathmatch mode got especially hectic, my game became incredibly laggy. It started off with just a stutter here and there but after a few minutes I might as well have been playing the game through a flipbook filter, as my character lost several moments of animation with every minute that passed. When I looked around, I noticed that about half of the other players were experiencing lag that ranged from moderate to severe while the other half kept right on playing with silky smooth frame rates (at minimum 30 fps). The representatives who were there noticed our concerns and assured us that the developers were still hard at work on this issue. The build we saw is still pretty early -- the game won't be released until February of next year, and one can only hope that Namco holds true to its promise and really cleans up these frame rate issues, as the game will be a nightmare for some if they experience the sort of lag we were seeing in Deathmatch. After I did fairly well in Deathmatch despite the aforementioned problems, our group of journalists were introduced to the next mode, called Hourglass, that was a Team Capture the Flag mode within a huge Satellite drifting in space. (The map was called Satellite, of course.) Each team was given only one of the two gravity manipulation powers, and I was quite happy to be paired up with the high-gravity power again. Interestingly, my character and the other characters on my team seemed to have at least a passing resemblance to a character from another team-based shooter. The biggest twist to the formula presented in this map revolved around the actual capturing the flag. Every time either team captures the opposing team's flag, the entire center of gravity is switched from the floor to the ceiling, and there are always a few moments between switches where everyone on the map is floating freely in space. While this was a pretty cool effect to witness and sort of fun to get kills in between each shift, the actual layout of the map itself didn't seem to have any severely noticeable changes besides the switch from attacker to defender and vice versa. Many of the same areas of cover and other constructs found on one plane of battle often seemed to exist somewhere nearby on the other as well. This concept could certainly be exploited more beyond what we were shown. I would hope for maps that would shift the center of gravity to walls as well, with things like breakable windows that would jettison hapless players into space, or other novel ideas added to this concept of gravity shifting. By itself, the shift is a neat thing to witness but it is also not much more than a gimmick. While the gameplay in these sections was certainly fun and challenging, beyond the gravity shift between each flag capture and the player gravity manipulation there was absolutely nothing else that hasn't already been done to death a million times before. If Namco Bandai is able to inject some interesting added twists to the gravity shift idea, it could potentially be an awesome time. Finally, the last map we were shown involved a four-player cooperative campaign of sorts. The mode was called Survival and it resembled Gears of War's Horde mode in that your team was constantly fighting against an ever-stronger barrage of incoming enemies. The biggest difference was that your team started on one section of the map and continued to fight their way through different areas, gaining checkpoints along the way. The entire map was called Boulevard, and it started out in a building overlooking a street of some random metropolitan area as enemies came in from somewhere down the street. In this mode, the players can only wield gravity manipulation powers and weapons besides the default assault rifle by finding pickups within the map. The more kills that team members were able to get, the more time the whole team was allotted for getting through a given section of the entire map. This made for frantic gameplay as we blasted through the enemy assault and then ran to get to an elevator that would take us to the next section. Enemies ranged from grunts with basic armor to bigger grunts with heavy shields and dudes that drilled up from the ground to armored vehicles that took a lot of damage before being destroyed. After making our way through most of the map, we were finally faced with a boss battle of sorts inside of a parking garage against a mechanized killing machine called the Butcher. Though this enemy took a lot of firepower to take down, it seemed like there was still work to be done to make the battle a bit more interesting, as the best strategy seemed to be to either A) find a piece of cover that the Butcher just couldn't get to because of its size and then proceed to take potshots, or B) simply run at the mechanized monster and shoot at it until it died. Overall, I think that Inversion and its gravity-shifting mechanism shows some promise, as the multiplayer portion of the game had some novel concepts and fun and hectic gameplay. With a little tweaking of the frame rate and a few other missing elements added to the gravity concept, Inversion may be a fun, interesting multiplayer experience that stands on its own. Only time will tell before we'll know whether Namco Bandai has a single-player campaign that contributes to the experience as a whole. For now, the multiplayer portion of the game seems to be coming along with a few good ideas that simply need to be implemented well.
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Last month, Maurice Tan brought us a preview of the co-op campaign that can be found in Inversion. Generally speaking, he summed up the gameplay to be a sort of Gears of War clone with light gravity manipulation. One really c...

Preview: Inversion

Aug 26 // Maurice Tan
Inversion (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Developer: Saber InteractivePublisher: Namco BandaiRelease date: February 7, 2012 A race called the Lutadore have attacked the homeworld of Inversion's two protagonists, and after being captured, they inevitably escape with some of the enemy's technology: something called the Gravlink. Using this device, you can manipulate gravity in a couple of ways. Creating a high-G field makes enemies get stuck in their place. Creating a low-G field makes them float around (e.g., Mass Effect's singularity biotic power), after which you can use the Gravlink to grab them in mid-air, yank them towards you, and stomp them to the ground or simply shoot them full of lead (e.g., Bulletstorm, Mass Effect's pull biotic power). Alternatively you can use the Gravlink device to do area attack on the ground around you (e.g., a thousand other games). These abilities seemed to work fine for the most part, although they aren't exactly of the most inspiring or innovative kind you'll ever see in a game. The interesting thing about Inversion is that you can jump to wall or ceilings and continue combat there. However, it looked like these instances were mostly there to mess with your sense of balance as you hop to gravity-defying surfaces between combat encounters, or act as a way to get to the "ground level" with your foes rather than getting shot from above and dying. Everything else from the third-person perspective to the cover mechanic and the over-the-shoulder aim felt like a carbon copy of Gears of War. Not that it necessarily has to be a bad thing, if you can make it stand out from that game's third chapter when you launch a game a few months later, but Inversion looked so much like its obvious inspiration that it comes closer to being derivative. Basically, you enter an open area with your AI or co-op partner, enemies that look like Locust come swarming in -- sometimes from the walls or shooting from the ceiling -- and you take cover while you destroy them. If you want, you can grab an enemy and use him as a meat shield for as long as his limbs stay attached to his body. At one point, you even enter a cutscene where you take cover at a few barricades in front of a large open area, where you shout some manly words of war before assaulting the enemy. Now, it has been a while since I've played Gears of War 2 so I might be wrong about this, but I seem to remember an almost exact same cutscene with Marcus and Dom taking cover near a fountain, where they hold a similar kind of manly talk before returning control to the player so you can start blasting some Locust. There's still some cool touches to Inversion, like being able to grab flammable liquid from a barrel and using it to immolate a group of enemies, but I couldn't help feeling I had played the same game a dozen times before. The last game that tried to mimic Gears, Quantum Theory, wasn't exactly a runaway success either. On some level, the ideas behind Inversion are novel enough to allow for a great game to emerge, but what I played just felt too "safe" to me. A game like this begs for some great and mind-bending level design to fully capitalize on being able to jump to any surface and flank the enemy from walls or ceilings. But it looked like it would be mostly a linear affair, with predetermined blue glowing flows of particles indicating where you are supposed to scale a wall and where you can jump to the ceiling. There has to be more you can do with the potential of a gravity mechanic than just inserting these instances between one open field of enemies and cover, and the next one. Namco Bandai showed Inversion at gamescom last year, and since then it's been relatively quiet about the title. Thankfully, there was a Namco PR person at the demo to ask what happened, but the answer was that Namco wanted to take its time to properly promote the new IP. Of course, Namco's last two new IPs -- Enslaved and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom -- were imperfect critical darlings that were either improperly marketed or simply failed to sell. When asked if they had learned anything from those experiences that they would apply to Inversion, especially with The Darkness II being delayed to the same release date, the only response was carefully worded PR speak for "actually we don't really know what the hell we're doing." I actually liked Saber Interactive's TimeShift for trying to do something different, even if it didn't always work out for the better, so I do hope the level design in the full game will be better than what they showed at gamescom. But for now, Inversion is pretty much off my radar. Oh, and there's 16-person multiplayer to distract the developers from creating a focused single-player experience. I'm sure that will pay off in a big way.
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Take Gears of War, add gravity mechanics and a bit of a TimeShift vibe, and you have Inversion. We got to try out two-player co-op in a campaign level during gamescom, and yep, it was a cover-based shooter with bulky men who shoot bulky non-human-looking enemies.

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New Inversion trailer shows off gravity-defying co-op


Aug 10
// Harry Monogenis
Inversion has been a long time coming ever since it was announced way back in 2009 as a third person shooter like no other due to the fact that you're able to manipulate gravity. Since then, we've seen a live ...
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While the Namco Bandai PR team weren't looking, I kidnapped Inversion game director Ricky White so we could do our interview in the wonderful Dubai sun. While Ricky continued along the "I can't talk about that unti...


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