- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2012

A gravity-bending gimmick stars in a new third-person shooter mired in a bloody familiarity.

Set in the near future, Inversion (Namco Bandai Games, rated M for mature, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99) features a pair of cops turned road warriors: Davis Russel (a guy with an itchy trigger finger and a cropped, blond hairdo that would make a Chia Pet proud) and Leo Delgado (the more focused and calmer of the two).

The pair fight off an invasion of Earth by the Lutadore — a group of muscle-bound, Huttese-speaking, grimy fatheads (rejects from Judge Dredd’s Cursed Earth or minions of Batman’s enemy Bane come to mind) — out to enslave the human race.

Our heroes also are in search of Russel’s missing daughter, a subplot that offers just a hint of humanity (B-movie grandiosity at best) amid the overtly gory firefights.

A player controls Russel and immediately will recognize the obvious homage to Gears of War (shaky camera work, contextual and crumbling cover system, partner assists and automatic weapons with big blades). It keeps the action palatable, but ends up making gamers yearn for the legendary franchise.

Designs feature detailed, dreary and often destructible locations (a fun moment finds Russel taking down multiple stories of a building using a turret gun), character models that look like high-end plastic action figures and battles featuring enough scattered and usable firepower to turn the Lutadores into ground beef.

So, yes sir, we’ve got trouble right here in Vanguard City and once all the big weapons tricks are played out and every angle and somersault for taking cover used (it’s nice to have plenty of chunks of concrete and exploding cars to hide behind), we’re left with that quirky gravity stuff.

Quickly in possession of a Gravlink (batteries are all around to rearm the glowing backpack), Russel can target and shoot a burst of energy to shut down the laws of physics in areas.

That means objects and enemies (still alive and shooting) float in the air or a player can control a piece of hovering debris and blast it back at an enemy or even use low-G attacks to increase the object’s weight and pin down bad guys or other objects.

Let’s not forget our unforgiving invaders also can use the tactic on our warriors, putting Russell in quite the pickle as he hangs in mid-air while weapons blast away.

In the middle of an intense battle, it often made more sense to just use regular guns, such as a sniper rifle, to watch heads pop like red, gelatin-filled balloons, or a grenade to blow off body parts.

Except when near a Lutadore, that is. A Gravlink power slam here is very rewarding as it unleashes enough force to shatter a body into pieces.

The physics-bending shenanigans continue to the “Inception” level with combat in zero-gravity areas (there are pretty cool moments where characters float around, cling to suspended objects and fire away) and vector shifts.

These shifts turn floors into ceilings and the outside of buildings into walking paths, basically inducing a stomach-churning state of vertigo. During a mission, Russel can even stroll into a small blue cloud and completely shift the battle plane’s perspective.

An online cooperative mode is available for gaming pals who control each hero. It’s worth the team-up, especially in the difficult portions of the game, but does little to salvage the repetitious shootouts.

The more robust multiplayer mode fares better (up to six versus six teams) with deathmatch, king of the hill permutations, team gravity-based battles (kill streaks build up powers), a king of gravity challenge (one guy has the power and others must stop him) and a survival mode in which four players hold off waves of Lutadores.

It was difficult, however, to find a match, if not impossible. I’ll admit that when I found one for the survival mode, it was entertaining enough (we’ll get that grotesque Slave Driver and his puny minion yet) and I hung out with my new pals for multiple attacks.

Inversion won’t be spoken of in the same breath as Max Payne 3, Prototype 2 or Starhawk, but fills a serviceable, mid-season gap in the brutal third-person adventure genre before the big boys such as Dark Siders II, Assassins Creed 3 and Resident Evil 6 return in the fall.

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