Portal 2 Review

Portal 2 is a true epic. It picks up from where Portal had left us, at the edge of our seats and thirsting for more, and does the seemingly impossible by creating a sequel that may be even better.

From the first moments of waking up in the rusting Aperture Science facility to right before the credits roll, Portal 2 rarely falters. The world is  bigger, the story thicker, and the character development more surprising. The mania of GLaDOS, the facility’s operator, is molded into unexpected forms alongside a host of brutally funny personalities. The history of the Aperture Science facility is filled in, character origins discussed, and an abundance of cruel jokes and cheerfully sincere death threats prevent it from losing its sarcastic charm. When you’re not staring at your screen with a wrinkled, pained expression on your face trying to figure out a puzzle, expect to be laughing.

We continue as Chell from the original Portal, as we attempt to blunder our way through the massive Aperture Laboratories armed with only a Portal gun. It all starts when our character wakes up from deep sleep and finds a friendly, British-accented AI called Wheatley, who from the begining to the end keeps us entertained courtesy of his innate idiocy. It’s hard to imagine the game without him, given the hilarity and completely unintentional

Lasers web and weave.

humor he brings.  It’s easy to be just as concerned about missing lines of dialogue as about progressing through the puzzles, especially during Wheatley and GLaDOS’ verbal sparring matches. Also in the mix is actor JK Simmons, who lends his fittingly cantankerous voice to the founder of Aperture, Cave Johnson, whose comically sociopathic approach to science is second only to GLaDOS’.

The attention to detail is stunning throughout the game. The facility is in a state of disrepair at the beginning. Once GLaDOS whirs into action, so does the facility, becoming an extension of her body and personality. When the lights go out, expect to be in the pitch dark for some time. Gel hits the floor with a much more realistic randomness in its patterns.

As the player advances through the Labs of Aperture Science, they’re introduced to new items that the research facility has created to exercise their

grey matter and potentially kill them off. There are Hard Light Bridges, which can create walkways or block off the sensors of lasers and gun turrets. There are Aerial Faith Plates, which fling the player through the air. There’s Propulsion Gel, which allows them to zoom across the floor, building

“so sorry you can’t die for science”

momentum for jumps and portal leaps. Puddles of Repulsion Gel can create areas the player can bounce on– and the higher the ledge they drop

Cooperative mode is a riot.

from, the higher they’ll fly through the air. White Gel can be sprayed on to surfaces to make them Portal Gun-friendly. Excursion funnels are blue tubes of anti-gravity, which gently transport the player from one end of the map to the other, and they too can be redirected and repositioned with the Portal Gun. Each new item is introduced gently, to let the player become familiar with its capabilities, and then Valve starts ramping up the difficulty. No matter how complicated the puzzles get, the solutions are always sensible. Sometimes you’ll “get it” right away and adjust lasers with lens blocks to activate platforms to reach switches. Other times you’ll have no idea what to do, exhausting seemingly all possible options until, eventually, a solution so plainly obvious sparks in your brain and you curse yourself for being such a dolt.

There’s also a co-operative mode to play through. This mode is a standalone story starring two cute droids, Atlas and Peabody, who are sent testing by GLaDOS, and the series of puzzles they have to navigate depends on them working successfully as a team. While it may sound strange that a game offering such a successful solitary experience as Portal should include such a mode

Portal portal everywhere…

, it’s actually delightful fun. Once again, the puzzles are well-balanced and brilliantly constructed and, GLaDOS has a new collection of insults.

It’s a shame it has to end, but it does, and unlike most games it ends very well, with a dumbfounding punch line and delightfully absurd situations.

The scripting is superb through to the end. Filled with the homicidal AI GLaDOS’ dark wit to Cave Johnsons extreme ideas and to the blithering goof that is Wheatley, The characters really stand out. The twists and turns are well done, and often a complete surprise. As the puzzles become harder, the storyline is also developed side by side; we are no longer testing for the heck of it, or “for science” as Cave Johnson would say, but working towards fixing the idiot who’s controlling it all.

Valve’s animators should also take a bow. Without much warning, they have revealed themselves to be some of the best in the business, delivering

Peabody and Atlas duke it out the old fashioned way.

work of exquisite, movie-quality detail and timing.

It’s amazing how Portal 2 manages to tell a better story with disembodied voices and spherical robots than most games can with full-on humans.

Stunning visuals

Your return to Aperture Science is a joyful one in this immensely appealing, laugh-out-loud funny and thoroughly satisfying sequel.

Portal 2 is one of those rare games that allows and encourages the intuitive and curious nature of the gamer to reveal itself and achieve its full potential. The game is full of “I can’t believe I just did that!” moments that culminate into a rich and satisfying experience. At the same time, it does nothing to dilute or make the first game irrelevant in any way. Valve found a way to take everything that worked in the first game and create a new game that was a true sequel and not just a continuation of the old. This is an experience that no gamer will want to miss. A definite Game of the Year contender.

Pros:

  • Superb scripting and story line
  • Challenging; builds on the original
  • Co-op mode

Cons: 

  • Little Single player replay value
  • Too much explanation of the past story

Rating: 9.5/10

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Posted on June 12, 2011, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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