Guess what? That freedom you thought you’d earned at the end of Portal was a pipe dream. You’re back to square one with one hell of a pissed off female robot to contend with. You see, GLaDOS is still alive. There was a fail safe reboot option implemented into her operating system and she managed to reboot herself. Not only did she do that, but she also managed to knock you out and bring you back down into the Aperture Science Experimentation Centre.
Don’t be too upset though. After all, it’s all in the name of science. Everybody loves science. Now, get back out there and participate in some incredibly deadly tests to help further science, please GLaDOS and hopefully get a ticket out of that place. If not, who knows what will happen to you. You may be stuck in a constant cycle of scientific tests for the rest of your existence. That sure would make GLaDOS happy now, wouldn’t it?
In Portal 2, Valve’s sequel to their smash hit Portal, players wake up years in the future to a destroyed Aperture Science building. They’ve been in containment for all this time, studied and kept in a daze, only waking to do exercises and short tests before going back to rest. It’s not until an explosion rocks the building that a little maintenance and support robot named Wheatley discovers you and helps you escape your impending demise.
His attempt at steering you past a seemingly destroyed and diminished GLaDOS fails once she regains consciousness and notices you passing by, sending you into the familiar round of testing chambers in the name of all that is science. Not only does she remember what you did to her, but she thinks you’re a terrible person. That’s something she wants you to understand, as she tells you all about how terrible you are along your journey. After all, humans are only good for testing. Their feelings, emotions and disdain annoy the robot who is only interested in experiments.
For the uninitiated, Portal 2 is a mixture of a first-person shooter and a puzzle game. The game is essentially a set of cleverly designed puzzles that use varying type of elements, ranging from laser controlled door releases to light beam bridges. Not only that, but the core mechanics involve the use of a portal gun, which creates one entrance portal and its twin exit portal. The first two shoulder buttons control the portal gun, but the game otherwise controls like a traditional first person shooter – well, with the option to jump of course.
You can shoot one at a wall on the ground floor and then the other at the ceiling and you’ll be able to move through them to the upper level. If you manage to put a portal below your drop from the ceiling through a quick shot, your momentum could fling you out of a portal anywhere else. Gravity and momentum play a huge role in the experience and many puzzles require you to think outside the box with momentum factoring in a lot of the time. The puzzles cleverly get more difficult as you progress, though the learning curve is quite gradual. It starts you off with what feel like tutorial puzzles and then ramps up the difficulty from there. The puzzles evolve and blend together as you progress so it always keeps you on your toes. Make sure your thinking cap is snugly attached to your head because you’ll definitely need it.
This time around, the fun doesn’t stop at the end of the single player campaign. In fact, there’s an additional co-operative campaign to play through with a friend, which is just as long as the six to ten hour length of its solo companion. In the solo campaign, players must solve their way through many different test chambers, each with their own unique types of puzzles, which layer on top of each other as you progress. The co-operative campaign is pretty much the same thing, except you’re doing it with a friend. Having to account for four portals makes things a lot more challenging, but it also provides a sense of camaraderie as you and your fellow gamer plow think your way through a ton of complex mind-benders.
Not only can you solve things in tandem, but you can also plot against each other for hilarious deaths and perform gestures such as a simple hug or high five. Heck, you can even play a few games of rock, paper, scissors if you desire. Gesture stats aren’t kept but a wide variety of other statistics are kept in the co-op campaign’s hub, including the amount of steps you’ve each taken as well as meaningless science collaboration points that GLaDOS likes to give out and take away at will.
As previously mentioned, both of the game’s campaigns can be anywhere from about six hours to ten or more hours long. It all depends on your puzzle solving skills and how much you like to experiment. Needless to say, there’s a ton of content within the disc. Enough to keep you occupied for quite a while, especially considering some of the more challenging trophy requirements that will tempt completionists.
Each of the two campaigns is well fleshed out, with phenomenal dialogue, GLaDOS’ constant babble and some really well-designed puzzles. The two words that come to mind when thinking about this game are elegant and intelligent. The game is intelligent in its design, but it’s also elegant at the same time. It’s the game for smart people and those who like to spend a lot of time wracking their brain for the solution to a tough brain teaser. Though it’s also the puzzle game for the person who hasn’t liked the genre in the past since it’s easily accessible and has a decent amount of tutorials. Friends who are Portal veterans can come in handy as well.
The cool thing is that, with the PlayStation 3 version of the game, you can play through this second campaign with a friend who is using Steam on their PC. This is because, after not being fans of the console for years, Valve announced that they would be bringing their popular puzzle game to the PlayStation 3, with the added bonus of exclusive Steam content. What this means is that the PlayStation 3 version now supports Steam Cloud, a service that runs alongside the PlayStation Network and allows its users access to frequent updates, free downloadable content and best of all, the opportunity to play with a friend over Steam.
The co-operative portion of this review session was played just like that – with one user on PSN and the other using Steam for PC. It worked flawlessly. There was no lag or anything. It was just like playing with another person over XBOX Live or the PlayStation Network. The experience is optimized for those using a controller to work together with those using a mouse and a keyboard, without any issues, and it does just that. You can chat with a friend, check your trophies and read news articles about the game through the Steam Cloud portal. However, if you decide to select one of those articles, it will kick you out of the game and bring up the PlayStation 3’s internet browser. So keep that in mind when you’re perusing the day’s top headlines.
Unfortunately, Microsoft wouldn’t allow Valve to add Steam to thier version of the game, which is too bad for those who only own that console. They miss out on the frequent updates and extra content, as well as the code that comes with the PS3 version, granting users a free download of a Mac or PC version of the game on Steam. Such a great incentive.
Of course, a Portal game wouldn’t be as engaging as it is without the incredibly funny one-liners and its other forms of dialogue. It’s nice to be able to report that the dialogue is top notch in this sequel. Wheatley and GLaDOS are hilarious and say some of the most creative things in gaming history. They’re the type of lines that you’d never think of yourself, yet will never forget after hearing them once in the game. The writers did a phenomenal job once again, as did the talented voice cast.
Said talented voice cast includes such heavy hitters as Stephen Merchant (Wheatley) from BBC’s Extras and The Office, as well as J.K. Simmons from Spider-Man and Ellen McLain as GLaDOS. To be honest, this could be one of the best bouts of voice acting in any video game in a long time. It’s top notch. LittleBigPlanet top notch. Actually, it’s better. You definitely will not be disappointed and will enjoy listening to the game as much as you will enjoy playing it. The soundtrack isn’t a slouch either, boasting a brand new catchy song to complement the popular ‘Still Alive’ from its predecessor.
The game’s presentation is probably the star of the show. The puzzles are excellent, but the game’s character and presentation quality are what draw people in the most. In conjunction with the excellent sounding audio and phenomenal writing, the game also looks incredible. Phenomenal lighting effects show off the game engine’s muscles and its beautifully rendered environments will also blow you away.
Each testing chamber and its surrounding environment looks different, with location types ranging from sterile white laboratories to an outdoor marsh and a black-tiled experimentation room. Simulated sunlight is pumped into the chambers, making them look bright most of the time. White is the most prevalent colour in the game, but it’s accented well with hints of colour and darker tones. There aren’t many things to complain about when it comes to the game’s visuals. It’s very impressive.
However, it’s not all perfect. There are a couple issues that may grate on some gamers. It’s a bit of a nitpicking adventure to point out these flaws, but the game does get repetitive at times. Those who aren’t into games that don’t change frequently could be turned off by this. Though its puzzle design evolves, you’re doing a lot of the same things for hours on end. Additionally, load times are frequent and lengthy, so be prepared for that. Other than those issues, the game ran perfectly. Its frame rate was excellent and it didn’t have any noticeable glitches. Polished is the word for it.
Overall, Portal 2 is an excellent game. Though it suffers from repetitive gameplay that may turn some gamers off, it’s an accessible puzzle game in a genre that some people find hard to get into. Its elegant design and intelligent puzzles coupled with fantastic dialogue and visuals, make for a memorable gaming experience. Fans of the first game are sure to be impressed with this sequel, but newcomers will probably be impressed even more. It’s the type of game that is so accessible that it’ll make puzzle game cynics forget they’re playing a game from a genre they’ve never liked previously.
Don’t wait another second because Aperture Science is waiting for you. GLaDOS doesn’t like pesky humans and has no interest in waiting for them. If you’re at all interested in the above, Portal 2 is a must-buy. You really cannot go wrong. Especially with the inclusion of Steam Cloud and the fact that you essentially get two copies of the game for one admission price. After all – who doesn’t enjoy experimenting in the name of science? Good job, Valve.