Well everyone, Portal 2 was released early for everyone, after a lengthy and slightly unrewarding ARG campaign that all hardcore Valve fans would have had an ear on for a while. Portal 2 is of course the sequel to the Valve tech demo Portal, which ended up being massively successful, and rightly so, it was an ingenious blend of FPS (Except you never shoot a bullet or kill anyone) and puzzles topped off with an immersing story that keeps you on your toes until the very end.
I must say, if you are one of those ten or so people who didn’t like Portal then this isn’t the article for you because, ladies and gentlemen, Portal 2 is definitely worth the hype. I played on the PS3 and have completed the single player campaign that took me 8 or so hours, this article will not spoil any twists or important information that you will come across during the game.
I’ll start by telling you that if you are expecting a ‘jump in and understand’ approach like the first game that was mainly focused on puzzles and a reasonably simple to pick up but boldly portrayed storyline then you might be surprised by the different approach that the sequel takes. It’s very much a cinematic game, more so than I’ve ever played. Ask what I was looking forward to Portal 2 for was and I’d say to get to the bottom of Aperture Science and more tough puzzles – Valve has delivered both of those things, sacrificing very little in the process.
I worried for quite a while that Portal 2 might end up suffering from the same ‘syndrome’ as PixelJunk Shooter 2 or Little Big Planet 2, and just lose a lot of what made it fun to begin with. Let me explain, LBP was a great game for people of any ages, with simple and constant puzzle mechanics that was lots of fun and compelled you to play many times and work hard on getting trophies. LBP2 on the other hand was also fun but lacked the replayability, in my opinion, because it complicated puzzle mechanics beyond the what younger players could grasp. If you tried making games with the LBP2 creator mode, you’d understand what I mean. In LBP you could make levels no matter who you were, but in LPB2 you’d have to be a rocket scientist to work out what all the motherboards and microchips meant. Something that LBP2, PJS2 and Portal 2 shared was an increase in the number of puzzle mechanics which, in the first two games I mentioned, make gameplay very vague and don’t settle to recap what you had just learnt. Portal 2 does not make that mistake though, giving you the exact amount of time to learn about a new mechanic (like Gels that repel or propel or create portal surfaces). All new mechanics have a history that you may choose to learn if you so wish, and usually have three or four chambers or tests of increasing difficulty. Conversely, no mechanic lingers too long, everything is kept fresh and interesting. Also there’s a couple of real mind bending puzzles that you hardcore portalists will enjoy.
Aesthetically, Portal 2 looks brilliant. The opening sequence of the game is jaw-dropping, as the room around you falls apart (and none of the debris ‘fades out’ to compensate for MORE debris). The destruction all the way through the game that happens right before your eyes made me stop many times and have a ‘how did/could they do that?!’ moment. It was reminiscent of when I was younger and had triggered something to happen, I’d just sit back all slack-jawed and just watch hopelessly as the incredible events unfolded. The graphics draw you into the story, making it believable and cinematic. The use of shadows in some parts of the game is a fine drawcard for Portal 2 also. Later in the game the graphics began to look more and more like Portal, but I didn’t mind because the story picks you up and throws you a mile (in a good way).
The story is worthy of Valve’s Half-Life universe, everything is just the way it should be, Chell remains mute and can only be seen through portals and all new characters only add more wonderful layers to the game. I feel that I should reiterate though, the story is unlike Portal, there are a few plots throughout the game that are played separately, so dropping in as an outsider in a later level would be confusing. But that said, when played start to finish the story is possibly even better than the original, with plot twists left right and centre. First game in a few years to make me properly laugh and also properly cry (Not ashamed to admit, it did make me cry..at the end…for a little bit). One notable segment of the game is like a live-in history book where you learn everything you’ll ever need to know about Aperture Science, GLaDOS and the other characters of Portal 2 who shall remain nameless. If you are expecting to learn lots about other things like Black Mesa or Gordon Freeman or the Combine, squash those expectations because this game has the same amount of crossover as the first Portal game. Probably the best way to describe it without spoiling anything would be a good movie sequel of the original, it’s very cinematic. If you play Portal 2 and you aren’t a crazy fan like me and you feel a little dissapointed, trust me, at the end everything is all worth it. All I’ll say about the end is that it finishes one story and begins another that will leave you thinking, ‘thank you Valve for not doing like other games do and leave the ending open for another pocket-pinching trilogy’.
I would suggest playing the single player campaign first before the co-op if you are one to keep the story arc in tact (The multiplayer happens chronologically after the single player has finished), I haven’t played any coop yet so I’m not sure how much from the single player campaign will be revealed, if valve is sensible (which they usually are) then probably not much.
So save up your pennies/dollars/rupees and grab yourself a copy of Portal 2, this game will not disappoint. If you have a PS3 I suggest you get Portal 2 for it instead of the Xbox 360 (the old news that you can play using Steam on the PS3 against PC and Mac players and with the PS3 copy you get a code for a free PC and Mac copy). And make sure you play Portal before this because there’s a lot you wont understand if you play Portal 2 first. Watch out all-other-games-being-released-this-year, Portal 2 might just be the one that bowls you all over.
That’s all I’ll say for now, please feel free to comment on this article, let me and everyone at GamerHusbands Radio know what YOU think as well because, lets be honest, everyone has an opinion.
More of my reviews/ideas/thoughts/bizarre at twitter.com/warmanator