Portal 2 Review
Valve has done it again, perfected the perfect.
The first Portal was brilliant. It was a great idea executed with the precision Valve is famous for. Well-written, funny, challenging, unique, everything you’d want in a game; but it never felt like a full game. It felt more like a short story than a proper novel, I certainly didn’t think it would be the beginning of a series. Portal 2′s here though, and Valve had a job on their hand. To develop the sequel, while avoiding a regurgitation of the original.
The effects of our actions at the end of Portal become evident as Chell wakes up. The once immaculate Aperture Science Facility is now little more than obsolete equipment and overgrown plants. This is also where you come across Wheatley, a robot that teams up with you to escape the facility. Now he may seem like the cliched side-kick, but his role in the game is far far greater. He provides a continuous dose of witty comedy through some of the best written and voiced dialogues. Wheatley is the main source of entertainment at the beginning, when the action is slightly dull.
This underlines another point. Portal 2 places a much larger emphasis on character development than its predecessor. While the original did have the notorious GLaDOS with her lethal sense of humour; Portal 2 has many more characters, each’s past, present and personality plays a significant part in the game. This also applies to the plot which is now much more complex, in fact there are moments where it seems like the plot is slightly too intense.
I won’t spoil the game by going into details regarding the story. But what I will tell you is that GLaDOS, a little pissed off from your attempt to kill her, does play a large part in the game. She’s not the only thing that carries through from Portal though; the game mechanics are, unsurprisingly, pretty much the same. For those who haven’t played the original; you can create a maximum of 2 portals at once, jumping into one portal leads to falling out of the other. Pretty straightforward, and the game leads you through the basics anyways.
There are some new toys to play with though, including bouncy goo, light-bridges and tractor beams. All these add extra-dimensions to each puzzle, and you’ll have to quickly get the hold of using each one on its own as well as combining them; especially as the levels go from the familiar test chambers to massive areas that take a lot of time to wrap your mind around.
However, if you haven’t played Portal before, this is not your usual puzzle game that you can play with one hand while sipping a cup of tea. As much as it requires puzzle-solving skills, it also needs fast reactions to be able execute the solution; when you’re zipping through the air, a few milliseconds can be the difference between placing a portal correctly and placing it above certain death. And unlike many games, Portal 2 doesn’t cheat. The challenges have logical solutions and stem from ingenious design, rather than having you decipher the game’s poorly designed levels.
The single-player lasts around 7 hours, and then you can go onto the co-op. Now the co-op isn’t just a replay of the single-player. It’s actually a completely different set of levels, with a continuation of the plot and is arguably better than the single-player. You and your partner take control of two robots, each with a portal gun, each being able to shoot 2 portals. 2 + 2 = 4. Now I know you can count (I hope), but the possibility of 4 portals changes a lot.
Not only does it allow for an increased complexity in puzzles, but it forces you to work as a team. Now this may be easy when your friend is within punching distance, but it’s a lot harder online. Apart from the annoying possibility that the person on the other side is a 10-year old playing from his dad’s account, there is a problem with getting your ‘friend’ on the same wavelength as you. To help with this, you are able to place markers around the level or activate countdown timers. This comes in handy on the more difficult levels; and when your carefully devised plan works, it is very satisfying.
The online revolves a lot around Steam. It allows you to play PC players as well as PS3 ones, saves your games on its servers and gives you access to your Steam friends. While all this is a great addition to the game, it doesn’t make a game-changing difference.
Where a large difference has been made, however, is in the visuals. Even though the original was pretty good in terms of graphics, Portal 2 wastes no chance to show off its great visuals, capturing the quirky art-style of overgrown plants, cracks, falling machinery etc. in high detail. The soundtrack supplements all this well, while the voice acting is some of the best you’ll find in games.
I thought Valve would have a tough time making this something other than Portal with a bunch of different levels, but I was very wrong. Without having the player fire a single bullet, it has produced one of the best FPS’s to date.
|The new elements to play around with, add another dimension to an already unique game.||
|The art-style combined with the improved graphics make it a beautiful game.|
|The voice-acting, especially for Wheatley, make even the dull moments entertaining. Very good soundtrack too.||
|Apart from the solid 12 hours of gameplay, you get a free PC copy of the game too.|
|The nature of the co-op manages to make even failure very entertaining.||
|One of the few games that can be classified as art.|