Portal 2 Review

It’s not every day I finish a game, grinning from ear to ear with geeky glee. That said, I don’t often laugh or even smile when i’m alone. It’s weird. Portal 2 is one of those games your’re unlikely to stumble onto, and thanks to the brilliant and charming original, the sequel has a huge fan base ready to LOL, or even L their respective AO, at all the ‘in’ jokes.

To be perfectly honest with you, i’m not entirely sure where to start. I don’t want to talk at any great length about story elements, great quotes, or other quips that’ll cause shit to rain down upon me. So here we go. There are two main modes. Single player and co-operative.

In the single player campaign, the player resumes control of Chell, the human test subject from the first game, who was forced to use a portal gun in order to solve a series of ever increasingly difficult puzzles “for science”. The antagonist from the first game, GLaDOS, makes a return and a new AI called Wheatley joins the fray. Later levels introduce recordings from Aperture science founder, Cave johnson. It’s these sections that provide answers to some of the plot holes in portals ever expanding lore.

Reassuringly, it plays very similarly to the first game, with your portal gun firing two portals, an entrance and an exit. Logically you can still only fire your portals onto certain materials, forcing that whole ‘puzzle’ element they were going for. New gameplay elements have been added this time round to keep things fresh. These include tractor beams, laser redirection, and special paint/ gels. The blue gel makes you bounce, the red speeds you up, and white allows you to fire a portal onto any surface the gel is covering.

Stephen Merchant (The office, Extras, Ricky Gervais’ chum) lends his voice to Wheatley, J.K Simmons (Spiderman- J. Jonah Jameson) provides the voice for aperture science founder Cave Johnson, and Ellen Mclain reprises her role as GLaDOS. Mclain shines again, Simmons, essentially plays the same blunt character he does in everything, which is pitch perfect for this role, but really making a huge impact is Merchant. With perfect delivery, and bumbling English charm, he really was an excellent choice.

Thats all I can really say about the single player without spoiling things. The puzzles are inventive, the script is excellent, there are one liners and nods to the original aplenty, It is quite simply, fantastic. For the single player alone, it’s well worth the retail price.

Additionally, you’re gifted with a  co-op experience, where you play through GLaDOS’ cooperative testing initiative as the robots, Atlas and P-body. Each of you is equipped with your own portal gun, and using your combined 4 portals, you must get to work solving those puzzles. With much less of a story driving this experience, it’s just more portal, but there’s nothing bad about that! And don’t get me wrong, GLaDOS is still around to quip at you with  excellent quotable dialogue.

Co-op can be enjoyed through split screen, PSN, and valve have decided to pioneer the ability to play online with people through steam. On top of this, all PS3 copies of portal 2 come with a free copy of the game for steam, so no excuses! I however have one. My review copy didn’t come with a code. Yeah. I was also unable to try out co-op over PSN, but i can assure you, local co-op works great.

If I soul search to find problems with this game, only two come to mind. One is that people new to the series will find the game far less amusing, and maybe even less tolerable. Perhaps bundling it with the first game may have made for a better plan. The original was nothing more than a bundle add on on consoles anyway. My second gripe was finding things. Now this may sound a bit odd, but theres a section of the game where you are time limited for something. I was instructed to pick up an item, but i spent a good 5 minutes trying to locate it, and subsequently failed. I may have been going a little blind, and i appreciate adding a compass would destroy a large part of what portal is, but some objectives, especially the ones you aren’t expected to ‘figure out’, could have been made more obvious.

There you have it. What a game. It’s genuinely a real shame that people will miss out if they hadn’t played the first game, because it never fails to inspire a ball aching desire to discuss every little detail with other “science fans”, so much so, that you want everyone to have played it. Two things to take away from this review; if you haven’t played the original and are considering buying the sequel, you’re an idiot, go get the orange box. Also, if you love Stephen Merchant as Wheatley, which you will, be sure to watch Ricky Gervais’ ‘Extras’. He pretty much plays the same character, although obviously, not an AI core. With razor sharp wit, clever puzzles, and a single player lasting a minimum of 10 hours (you will get stuck), there’s no reason you should ever wish to leave the Aperture Science testing labs.

 

This was a triumph. I’m writing a note here, huge success.

 

9.4

 

About Ben Potter