Portal 2

Very occasionally a reviewer can find that their critical analysis of a game feels like a pointless exercise as was Laura’s experience when reviewing Call of Duty: Black Ops. If I were going to say something controversial about Portal 2 like that it was shite and that anyone who thought otherwise was a fud then maybe I would be adding something different to the avalanche of gushing praise out there for the game but I’m not going to so I’ll just add my voice to the chorus. My hair is filthy, that’s how good Portal 2 is. I haven’t washed my hair in days because that would take time, time that I’d rather spend playing Portal 2. The comedian David O’Doherty described the reaction of his friends to the American TV drama, The Wire, as loving it so much that there weren’t words to describe it. Instead they would just make guttural noises at him “Gaaaaaaaaaagh”, “Mnnnnnnnnhhhh”. Well Portal 2 is a bit like that. I’d love to leave it at “Gnuuuuuuuuugh” but convention says I must expand on this and so I will forthwith.

You could imagine that Valve might have a hard time winning gamers over who have incredibly high expectations after the brilliance that was the original Portal, however it’s worth remembering what a surprise Portal was. It came as part of a package with other, more popular, games that already had a strong reputation. Despite Portal being critically acclaimed the reality is that there are still millions of gamers who probably never bothered playing it. Many will come to Portal 2 with a vague expectation of it being good on reputation alone and will happily accept it for it’s strong gameplay, solid story and brilliant co-op. It’ll likely be a smaller group of players, like myself, who will find themselves reassessing the game on a minute to minute basis, checking mentally over and over if their experience is matching their very best memories of the first game. It does.

Having replayed levels with the developer commentary on, it’s amazing to hear what has gone into making every second of play work for every type of player. Each portal test level is designed with excruciatingly careful balance to help new players learn the physics of the game as they go while making veteran portal gun users feel a sense of achievement on even the simplest of puzzles. A great example of this is in your very first test, which mirrors one from the original game. In it a portal was used to move location automatically and you waited for it to be in the right place before passing though it. This automation has been replaced in the sequel with a button. That way the new player learns more about manipulating portals right from the off while the old hand doesn’t have to wait around for the right moment to move, instead racing through the level, bypassing the tutorial element and feeling like a clever clogs for completing it so fast. Every step you take is thought through to this extent by the development team.

The story takes the colourful background flavour, used so cleverly to mask the basic puzzle game behind it in the first title, and turns this into a fully-fledged saga. Again balance plays the biggest part in its success. There is still a very strong sense in the single player campaign of solitariness. The plot is still delivered to you through lifeless, absent remnants from the past, left running purely due to the requisite voltage still being available. Yet there is a real narrative with warmth, life and humanity behind it that feels more relatable and is in many ways more moving than some of the most traditional of story arcs in games where interaction directly with people is commonplace. So it’s the same as before but different. The character of Wheatley, played by British comedian and writer Stephen Merchant, is excellent. Many British gamers were nervous of his inclusion in the game because he’s not some disembodied stranger’s voice to us. He’s a big, gawky Bristolian bloke who we know well, which could have totally broken our suspension of disbelief. It’s credit to the script and his performance that it really, really doesn’t do that. He’ll now forever be Wheatley to me, so well done there.

While the single player is brilliant, once finished you’ll still have a strong desire to play on through more puzzles, using the new travel devices introduced in the game such as hard light bridges, tunnels and gels with different properties. This is where the two-player co-op game comes into play. The co-op extends and expands on the gameplay by giving each of you two coloured portals – blue and purple for one player and orange and red for the other. The puzzles are harder with a steeper learning curve but what’s so clever here is that no one person ever feels the burden of working out the whole answer. It really does take two to make the co-op game work in every single level. Again it’s just so well balanced. The robots you play, Atlas and P-body are funny and incredibly cute. Their animations are simply incredible and they could well become the new poster-bots of gaming.







4 responses to “Portal 2”

  1. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    I was looking forward to this so much and spent as much time playing before sleep or food intervened; other than that I was Portalling full time. Never could I have expected GLaDoS to be replaced for laughs but Wheatley had me laughing all the time.

    I can’t help think how much more I enjoyed the character of Isaac Clarke in Dead Space 2 with the inclusion of a voice for the character that I wonder if the same could work for Chell.

    Glad to see Portal when from an extra game in The Orange Box to a bigger, funnier, puzzlier (?) game – now when’s Portal 3 out!

  2. Ironredboyii avatar

    …..so it is good. Assuming that ready up scores don’t go up to Eleven?

  3. Mark P avatar

    Unfortunately not. We’re saving that for Guitar Hero: Spinal Tap.

  4. Okechukwu avatar

    Meine Gfcte, wie lange hast du ffcr so einen Schudf aufgespart, ich meine, wie oft snnakt du das? Na, das hier war die Ladung von knapp 2 Tagen, aber wenns ums einfache Ficken geht, da kann ich praktisch pausenlos und so alle 10-20 Minuten snnakt du mit mir rechnen, die ersten 3,4 Mal auch schneller, obwohl ich das alles natfcrlich auch dehnen kann, ich passe mich dem Tempo der Frau an. Irgendwann so nach dem 7. Mal, brauch ich dann aber erst mal eine Pause. Du mieser Potenzprotz, das tre4umst du.. So!, tue ich das?! , Ralf sprang auf und zog sie zum gle4ernen Coachtisch, schob sie rauf und drfcckt ihre Knie gegen ihren Widerstand auseinander; hinter ihren dichten, schwarzen Schamhaaren f6ffnete sich eine reine, fleischige Mf6se, hellrosa.

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