Portal 2 is one of those rare games that every kind of gamer should experience. It's not every day where you find yourself immensely entertained by just puzzles and funny dialogue. If you ask me, this type of hybrid puzzler is pretty much the hardest game to pull off in the framework of an FPS, but Valve took everything that made the first game great to the next level, making Portal 2 one of the most polished games you will ever play. Ready to test once again for science?
Portal 2 Developer: Valve Corporation Publisher: Valve Corporation Platform: PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360
The story is pretty simple and it revolves around our good friend Chell as she tries to escape Aperture's testing facility. Valve updated the first game's ending, adding on an extra scene to explain why Chell finds herself back in Aperture. It’s nothing big - it really just sets up the game.
The game starts with Chell placed in one of the testers’ quarters and sent into a deep sleep for an indeterminable number of years. She wakes up in the same room and notices that the place has all but worn out in the passing time. You get a knock from the door and you meet Wheatley, an AI core planning to help you escape Aperture once again. During your escape, Wheatley makes a huge mistake, which leads to Chell being stuck testing for GlaDOS in the chambers once again. The real escape starts here.
In the story, the real hero as to why the narrative works as well as it does is the game's witty dialogue. Weatley, GlaDOS and a few surprises in the rest of the facility are what bring this game to life. You'd think having a silent heroine would leave a giant hole in the narrative but it actually complements what they aimed to do with the rest of the characters in the large, lonely facility. People wondered and hoped that Chell would be given a voice, but that would have ruined just about everything else; the dialogue wouldn’t work nearly as effectively if Chell had to converse with the other characters. Some video game characters are simply better off without a voice, and giving them the ability to talk ruins the experience. In the end, When you have finished Portal 2 you'll feel a sense of amazement at the game’s simple yet charming story and memorable characters. I left very satisfied.
If you played the first game, then you know how the game works. You’re equipped with just the portal gun that creates a portal from one location to another, and that's all you get. Each puzzle in Portal 2 has you figuring out how to get yourself to the exit of each testing chamber, armed with nothing but your wits, and the ever-trusty portal gun.
The puzzles in each area seem impossible at first but are all completely doable; all you have to do is think outside the box. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. You don’t just think outside the box, you think outside the box with portals. With the ability to go wherever you want with simple clicks of your mouse or controller, valve challenges the way you think. Everything you need is right in front of you; your success depends on how you use what you currently have. The puzzles in Portal 2 are great. When you've succeeded in a stage that kept you thinking, you can't help but smile and appreciate how clever that one was.
The game is so polished that each subsequent puzzle has just the right amount of added difficulty. The first few stages give you an introduction, showing off some of the tricks and techniques made possible by the portal gun, but during these simple tutorials you’re still challenged to solve a puzzle, making the introductions of each feature effective. It may look difficult from afar, but the game is easy to grasp since they expose you enough to get the concept right away.
Game bugs during my play-through were almost non-existent, another example of how well Valve developed Portal 2. With a game like this that’s so complex and difficult to develop, a noticeable bug once in a while is understandable but there were none worth mentioning. As the credits rolled, I realized that the only thing that interrupted my experience was my initial failures at a couple of puzzles.
Each puzzle brings something new to the table. You won’t see a test chamber similar to the previous ones you’ve completed. The game actually gets better as you get closer to the end. With new features in the game like the different gels added or the beam-like bridge being thrown at the player for them to use and figure out, the game always stays interesting and continues to offer new surprises. What’s more, by having individual developers work on individual chambers they made sure that each chamber has their own identity for you to figure out and overcome.
The environment also stays fresh as you progress through the game. At the start of the game you’re placed to the usual test chambers but as you move closer to the end your introduced to a very different setting that organically gives the puzzles there a different feel. Portal 2 just keeps giving.
The only complaint I can think of is the replay value of the game. After all, it's a puzzle game and when you know each puzzle there's no point playing the game again, unless you’re one of those achievement junkies. The single player clocks around 8-12 hours. It may seem short for some, but you won’t regret owning Portal 2 when you start playing since the gameplay is just so solid. If you want more, the co-op mode is just as long as the single player and has a completely different story and scenario.
If you thought that using one portal gun to make it to the exit was hard enough, co-op is even harder. You really need cooperation and I advise you to force a buddy to buy this game and a mic along with it so you can communicate. Everything you’ve experienced in the Single Player will be there and the difficulty is much higher here since you have another player to worry about. It’s a completely different experience and each puzzle in co-op is designed specifically for the mode. You’ll have to work with four portals now and figure out how to bring both players to the exit, not always an easy task.
Each multiplayer puzzle is just as well crafted as the ones in single player; it can get crazy fast and is loads of fun. If by any chance you have no friends at all and can’t find a partner, you can search for another lonely player with the fast search option but I strongly suggest playing with a friend. You will often find someone that has already figured out some puzzles you have yet to experience and that will ruin it. There are also players that hold your hands and don’t even bother to teach you how to solve the puzzle. This is a great experience and must be played with another player at the same level as you.
Graphics and Sound
The game’s graphics show a small improvement in quality over the first game. Since you explore more of Aperture outside the test chambers, some places can amaze you, but compared to the triple-A titles coming out this year, there's no comparison.
The voice acting though in this game is amazing. From GlaDOS constantly complaining and insulting you because you killed her last time, to Wheatley's funny, sometimes bizarre complaints and observations as you try escape the facility. As you go through puzzle after puzzle, the small talk and side-comments gives players a good laugh during or after a puzzle. It's great and I definitely had those instances where I stopped what I was doing and just listened to what they have to say.
Portal 2 is one of the best games I’ve played so far this year. Unique gameplay, witty dialogue, a simple yet satisfying story, and a well polished game. There’s so much that this puzzle game got right. The flow of the game is perfect and the difficulty of each puzzle is just right. Most games out now are somewhat similar or familiar in certain ways and you hardly find a game that provides something new for us gamers to experience. Portal 2 is a perfect example of how game developers can still wow us with something completely out of our comfort zones. I recommend even non-gamers to experience this game if they can. This is one title you should not ignore.
- Amazing Single Player and Co-op modes
- Puzzles are challenging but not impossible
- Great dialogue and voice acting
- Well polished game
- Weak replay value
- Short game