Better late than never?
After writing my previous article regarding my review for Alice: the Madness Returns I got motivated to finally sit down and compose my little review for Portal 2.
The original portal game began as a small little filler game created by Valve and wasn’t meant to be this high budget franchise like so many other games out there. In spite of this, Portal developed a rabid cult following due to its original concept, brilliant writing and the ease and simplicity of the gameplay. It is no wonder that when Valve released the announcement of Portal 2 we die-hards peed in our proverbial pants at the mere sound of GladOs’s voice. I usually don’t make a habit of pre-ordering games for release date, but I had to make an exception for my beloved Portal.
Even with its rabid following I am surprised when I hear gamers (even those who have played Half Life) say they know nothing about it. The premise is simple for both the original and the sequel. You are Chell, a test subject stuck in an immense lab/testing facility being run by GladOs, a self aware ego maniacal AI whose sole purpose is to put you through these tests. The only weapon you are given (if you wish to call it that) is your trusty portal gun which gives you the ability to create entrance and exit portals throughout various parts of the maze levels. It is part first person shooter, part puzzle game, and all fun.
The first Portal ends (and since it has been out many many years I don’t feel the least bit bad about spoiling it) you fight GladOs and it looks all but certain you defeated her. It wasn’t until the Alternate ending came out that you got a glimpse of a possible sequel (well that and now famous and catchy end song “Still Alive” should have been a give away) but here we are. Chell wakes up after being in suspension for god knows how long only to find out she is still in the lab and is still getting tested.
There was a lot of speculation and skepticism from the fan base that regarding Portal 2 and its ability to impress and entertain the masses. I can honestly say it did not disappoint. There is still a beautiful simplicity to the game paired with amazing character voices and humor to go along with it. Because the first Portal was meant to be a filler game they didn’t include all of the nuances that they did in the second. There are more levels (3 stages each with its own, unique flavor and a buttload of test chambers) as well as other hazards and tools used to help you solve the puzzles.
Another point that adds to the success of this series isn’t simply the game; its the marketing behind the game. During the game itself there is very little story to go on. It is more about solving the test chambers than sullying it with plot (really they are doing what people wished porn producers did; skip the story and go straight on to the action). However, there are nuances, little Easter eggs strewn about to help you piece together the story behind Aperture Science, it’s founder, it’s Ties to Black Mesa in Half life, an much much more. It isn’t blatant, but it is there if you look for it. And it isn’t on the game… Valve has an Aperture Science website that was an Easter Egg filled paradise that can only be compared to the Dharma Experience in LOST. They give you the clues and it is up to you to put the story together. Even pre release date they had something called the potato sack pack which allowed Steam users to get the game sooner if they helped to “power up” GladOs. You throw in some brilliant TV spots that made me giggle each time I saw it and you get an amazing marketing strategy*.
Along with an amazing single player, Portal 2 gives you a whole second experience in the form of Cooperative Testing allowing you to co-op locally or online with a buddy (in the form of 2 Laurel and Hardy-esque robots Atlas and P-Body) to get through the test chambers. It ads another great layer of entertainment on top of an already brilliant game.
My only negative critique is that once the game has been played and beaten in both single player and co-op replaying it isn’t as brilliant. Yes you can go back, Hunt for Easter Eggs and get achievements but unlike other co-op first person shooters replay is very limited. If you have played with someone who hasn’t it is frustrating for both of you, because one of you knows how to solve the puzzle while the other one is confused as all hell (that is, of course you have a friend who you simply like to spend hours on end figuring out ways to blow each other up…that’s kind of fun..;) ) . However, Valve (being brilliant and awesome again) is going to be offering DLC (the first one will be dropping soon and it is FREE) as well as offering the map gen software to Steam users to create their own maps.
Overall I give Portal 2 a 9.5 out of 10. the half star being deducted for the original replayability. Everything else is amazing and it is going to be one tough game to dethrone in my book as far as best game.
*You should check out Chuck Wendigs post about the mythos of Portal. You can find it HERE.