Portal 2 Review
- Posted April 19th, 2011 at 16:54 EDT by Steven Williamson
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Creative, funny, and utterly absorbing, Portal 2 is the best puzzle-platformer game on the planet.
- Strong storyline and great characters
- Incredible level design and absorbing puzzles
- Smooth Steam integration and an immersive co-op mode for two players
- Guess work required in some of the more open environments can be frustrating
You always know where you stand with Valve — well, most of the time. Granted, Portal’s developer lied about rewarding us with cake for completing its puzzle-platformer, but with the likes of Left 4 Dead and the genre-defining Half-Life series already under its belt, you can guarantee that the studio will always try to inject something a little extra special into every project it undertakes. Portal 2 is no different. Despite the initial familiarity of some of the test chamber puzzles, the sequel to the 2007 bite-sized hit offers a master class in level design and script-writing. And, the further you venture into the Aperture Science facility, the more crazy and ingenious the level design gets as you face a wide range of immersive physics and momentum-based puzzles that never fail to challenge and entertain.
Portal was way ahead of its genre in 2007 when it introduced the portal gun. Blasting portals into walls, floors and ceilings - and scratching our heads rigorously trying to work out ways to teleport across the environment to escape from the test chambers - was both challenging and totally absorbing. These portals basically created a visual and physical connection between two different locations in a three-dimensional space and added a completely unique game mechanic. You could then move objects, such as blocks, through the portals and use momentum to generate speed and height. Though the concept of environment-based puzzles — where you simply have to try to work your way out of an enclosed location — is fairly uncomplicated, the execution was anything but.
Though Valve’s portal-popping formula hasn’t changed drastically in Portal 2, it’s still as compelling as ever and even more challenging. Valve has made its sequel into a fully-fledged game this time around (the original lasted only a few hours), complete with a ten chapter single player campaign that will take you ten hours or more to complete. This is in addition to a captivating co-op mode with tougher puzzles designed to be solved with a friend. There are also a number of new mechanics to compliment the laying of portals, as well as an increased the variety of ways in which you can escape a chamber. With new game mechanics and more elaborately designed chambers, Portal 2 can occasionally push your brain into overdrive and cause it to over-heat. When you do manage to escape a test chamber, however, you get a real feeling of achievement and satisfaction. It's the buzz you get from completing these tough challenges that fuels your passion for more. As such, once you get into the Portal mind-set, you’ll find it hard to leave.
The way that you smoothly move around the test chambers from the first-person perspective is identical to the first game. Once again, Valve has used its Source engine to power Portal 2, so graphically there's also little difference between the two games. Nonetheless, there’s a real sense of scale to some of the locations as you get to visit new parts of the facility. Furthermore, Valve uses impressive light and shadow effects to give the environments depth and life. On the whole, the Aperture Science facility, though in a state of disrepair — with nature now creeping through its brick-work — is a more pleasant place to explore with splashes of color brightening up the grey/blue chambers.
Each chapter in Portal 2 is usually made up of test chambers that get increasingly difficult to solve. You can pick up and drop objects, use your portal gun to teleport around the chamber, and use a variety of items to help you escape from a room — perhaps manipulating a block so that it redirects the path of a laser, which in turn could be used to destroy a turret. Just when you think you've seen it all, Portal 2 throws something new at you, which adds another layer to the challenge. You can manipulate air currents to blast away at turrets, or use repulsion gel that transforms surfaces into a trampoline. There's excursion funnels allowing you to pull objects through portals and a new weighted pivot cube that allows you to change the direction of lasers. There's a lot to think about, and a lot of fun to be had out of ... (continued on next page) ----