The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
How do you follow up on a four-hour pack-in title that
blew up into a phenomenon that defined a year-plus of gaming culture?
Valve decided to flesh out the concepts pioneered in Portal, coloring in
some existing wireframes, adding details to older sketches, and
doodling new expansions to previous ideas in the margins. Without
turning the page, the team has painted a much richer picture that seizes
your attention in a steel grip even if it’s telling a similar
Like the original, so much of what makes Portal 2
special is in the execution and the originality of standing in Chell’s
shoes and experiencing her destiny. Any spoilers would seriously detract
from the game. Not because the plot relies on contrived twists – the
major beats are telegraphed in advance – but because Valve has leveraged
the interactive experience perfectly. Weathering the taunts of a
sadistic AI as you’re trying to survive its deadly challenges is unlike
passively watching HAL-9000 try to kill off meddling astronauts.
Gruesome depictions of abandoned experiments take on a new horror when
you’re desperately avoiding a similar fate yourself. The dialogue’s
pitch-perfect delivery is half of Portal 2’s genius, and it would be a
shame to ruin the brilliant comedic timing or any of the other many
nuances Valve so painstakingly crafted in this review.
to say that Portal 2 takes itself too seriously. On the contrary, the
sequel goes in a dramatically opposite direction than the Half-Life
tie-in that many predicted. Descriptions of violent, painful death are
played for a laugh more often than not. GLaDOS’ blithe disregard for
human suffering is again a recurring comedic theme. The touch of
gravitas here and there is just enough to ground the writing and serve
as a contrast to Portal 2’s goofy world. I would have preferred Valve to
play it slightly straighter and give a look into what catastrophic
events led to the current sorry state of Chell’s world, but that’s the
sci-fi nerd in me talking. We don’t need to know why the Enrichment Center is; that it is trying to kill us is enough.
was concerned that I would tire of Portal’s one-note shtick, however
amusing, over the course of a full-length game. Adding two major
speaking roles and a few different environments, along with carrying
over the masterful pacing of the original, keeps the single-player
adventure fresh through its entire eight-hour span. I never once thought
I’d place GLaDOS second on any list of Portal characters, but J.K.
Simmons’ character surpasses the malevolent AI even though she’s as
amusing as ever. I was never bored of the dialogue, settings, or
puzzles. The constant introduction of new elements ensured that I never
even came close.
The co-op campaign, on the other hand, is five
hours of relatively simplistic GLaDOS banter with occasional hijinks
from the cooperative testing robots. Co-op play is more
mechanics-driven, with occasional bits of hilarity injected by GLaDOS’
amusing attempts to sow enmity between the two of you. The puzzles are
ingenious, and the simple ability to put a marker in the game world
makes plotting strategies out smooth and easy. I wasn’t sure about co-op
puzzle-solving beforehand, but Portal 2 made me a rabid believer. Do
whatever it takes to find someone to tackle these challenges with.
They’re that good.
As for the puzzles themselves, they’re
wonderful. Portal 2 has fewer agility-driven obstacles, so less dextrous
gamers shouldn’t find themselves stuck on anything for lack of
stick-flicking ability. The new elements are each great in their own
rights, and they work together beautifully. Flying through the air after
setting up a mad combination of repulsion and propulsion gel is
amusing, but bending your mind around using an excursion funnel’s
tractor beam to levitate the goo into a set of turrets that you had
previously blocked with a hard light bridge from perforating you is
amazing. The better co-op puzzles, where for example your partner is
continually extending the funnel you’re both floating in via portals
while you have to extend bridges between your fragile shells and passing
turrets, show unbelievable creativity.
Portal 2’s high points
rival “the cake is a lie,” though they’re perhaps less quotable (which
is honestly fine – repeating GLaDOS lines stopped being funny a long
time ago). You’ll never forget the moments that accompany some of the
achievements/trophies. The game’s quality stays consistently outstanding
throughout; there isn’t a minute of filler content to be found anywhere
in single-player or co-op. I would have loved to see something unique
done with the story, which doesn’t end anywhere interesting despite a
reasonably satisfying ending. I would adore seeing Portal stretch its
wings beyond being a series of puzzles that almost always have one
correct solution waiting to be found. That said, the next game I want to
play is a second run through of Portal 2, because the existing formula
is excellent and brilliantly executed.
Valve caught us all a little off guard with the original Portal, but
the game’s clever gameplay and dark humor sent the franchise in the meme
stratosphere. While jumping through portals is no longer as novel as it
once was, Valve keeps the series fresh by introducing a mix of new
mechanics. Portal 2’s puzzles are more varied thanks to the fact that
you can send lasers, tractor beams, and energy walkways through your
portals, and I absolutely loved how the gels affected the world around
me. The game’s simple, portal-based mechanics are so addictive that
you’ll probably catch yourself placing imaginary portals all over your
house. Thankfully these mechanics never feel overdone and neither does
the game’s humor; I would often hang around completed puzzles just to
see how the game’s ambient dialogue would progress. Playing co-op
changes the game quite a bit, as having two sets of portals allows Valve
to craft a unique set of challenges that are often more mentally
stimulating that anything in single player. It doesn’t matter which
order you play them in, but make sure you experience both modes. Portal 2
isn’t just one of the best games of the year – it’s two of them.