Portal 2 is the sequel to Valve’s 2007 hit title Portal. While portal was released 3 times: in the orange box, as a standalone title and on Xbox Live Arcade; Portal 2 has just seen its release on PC via Steam (as well as PS3), PS3 and Xbox 360 (published by EA for retail). You take control of Chell again for the solo campaign; while in Co-op you take control of one of two robots.
The single player starts with you waking up from suspended animation to calibrate settings with the standard look up and down by direction of a computers voice. You then go back to bed and sleep until you are woken up again to meet the same room aged and dirty; with a new greeting from the computer. A knock on the door leads to meeting Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant) a new AI whose task is to look after the human test subjects. He has decided that it’s time to escape the Aperture Science Facility and enlists Chell’s help with the break out. Wheatley starts to move your room upon which it starts to collapse. To then fall out of your broken room to find yourself in an old testing chamber; now overgrown with plants with panels broken and dirty from lack of maintenance. After making your way through the first few test chambers you enter GLaDOS’ chamber where she is lying on the floor broken.
Spoilers avoided the story carries on to take you to a few new locations including visiting older test labs for other experiments and some more test chambers as well as a few areas which explore the history of Aperture Science and its founder Cave Johnson (voiced by J. K. Simmons).
The graphics in the sequel stands above the first with its added polish to the source engine and more varied environments. Environments start with broken and dirty, nature reclaimed test labs before seeing labs and debris being repaired as you wonder through the environments. Later on the sterile test labs of the previous game make an appearance before another change of scenery brings you to an early Aperture Science testing facility deep in the bowels of the testing facility.
The gameplay uses the same portal concepts as well as bringing some exciting new elements to gameplay later in the story/ co-op. The portal gun is your staple throughout the game with it starting out as a blue portal gun before later getting the blue and orange full version. But later on new elements are given to you such as a light bridge which can be used as a walkway or a shield against turrets; while allowing you to fire portals and lasers through it. By using portals can position the bridge to all sorts of places in the rooms you find them in. Tractor beams are introduced as well with portals changing where is affected by the beams; these can occasionally be reversed by standing on buttons. Also lasers being redirected by redirection cubes let you burn and break things or power and depower machinery and doors. Lastly there are three types of gel: blue, orange and white. Blue gel takes a force and sends it in the opposite with equal force direction so dropping onto it will send you as high as you bounced onto it. Orange gel lets Chell (or an object) pick up speed to a higher degree allowing you to run up a ramp and fly across a room. White gel converts whatever it touches to a portal accepting surface. Water is used scarcely to wash away gel. All the gels use new fluid dynamics routines to simulate the sticky liquid nature. Gels are either dripping or spilling from pipes freely or they need to be active by buttons.
The co-op stands as the most exciting new element for most of the fans with it revolving around two robot test subjects; Blue AKA Atlas and Orange AKA P-Body. Each has their own two matching portal colours. Atlas owns blue and purple and P-Body owns orange and red each set can be used to compliment the other but blue and purple are linked and orange and red are linked as well. There is a loose story throughout with GLaDOS having made both of you as test subjects; as humans die and complain about deadly traps; which you as a robot have no fear of as you get reassembled each time you die. You start by taking part in a calibration test lab before moving on to the central hub. The hub gives access to five courses with only the first unlocked in the beginning and upon completion another unlocks and so on. Each course consists of some test labs and then a test outside of the labs where you perform a task for GLaDOS. GLaDOS taunts and tries to play the two robots against each other throughout the courses. The courses make more use of the new elements than the single player does with gels being used least until near the end.
The music you so often hear in other games is replaced with the background noise of the hum of machinery or the whistling of an enormous empty cavern. It feels like a living environment with it only being broken up by the sounds of puzzle solving; with portals being placed, liquids splatting, the rush of wind past your head as you fall from huge heights (or through a portal loop) or the haunting voices of turrets or GLaDOS, Wheatley, Cave Johnson or a few other voices. The voice acting is brilliantly executed with Ellen McLain reprising the role of GLaDOS; injecting that passive voice with hate and madness. Stephan Merchant puts on a surprisingly good show as Wheatley with a lot of unexpected emotion from a comedian voice actor, which will hopefully set a standard that some games who take famous names fall flat with. J.K.Simmons does an impressive job of the disembodied recordings of the Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson. Seasoned voice actor Nolan North brings a varied set of cameo voices throughout the game. All of the voice actors have brilliantly executed the dialogue and it really brings the title to life.
The story is beautifully told with witty dialogue throughout and hidden gems to find in the form of references to the previous portals and to the Half-life universe. It starts a little slowly but really picks up steam towards the late mid-game and keeps an exciting temp which is only slowed by the rate that you solve the puzzles.
The environments and characters are all beautifully represented with this being the best graphics in any Source game to date. With beautiful nature reclaimed environments, factory lines, sterile testing chambers and the old Aperture Science grounds look astounding and really give a huge sense of scale to the giant facility.
The music is scarce in this game with the only really notable song being “Want You Gone”, Jonathon Coulton’s sequel to “Still Alive” which is good but lacks the impact of the originals song. The background sounds take up much of the audio; really immersing you in the feel of the environments. The voice acting is astoundingly good with Ellen McLain, Stephen Merchant, J. K. Simmons and a few cameos from Nolan North.
The game starts off slow and then picks up fast mid game with little slowdown but the gameplay gets in the way of the story towards the end. The new gameplay elements are all worthwhile if maybe introduced a little too late in the game. Co-op takes those elements and gives more complex puzzles to solve. Co-op is just as rewarding as the single player campaign but avoid playing it with someone who has already completed it if you haven’t as the fun is all about working out the puzzles. The only flaw I could find was the source engine felt slightly sluggish in comparison to some other new titles; not in loading but the feel of the movement of you character.
The game lasts at least 10 hours across both single player and co-op with plenty of hidden Easter eggs and multiple puzzle solutions to address replayability. Even with a linear story line it is almost certainly worth at least a second playthrough even if it just to experience the story for a second time. If you’re lacking a co-op partner the single player is still a blast but will leave you wanting more. The PC version has been updated to include modding for player created content while the Xbox version will receive DLC only along with PC and PS3 gamers.
The original Portal didn’t need a sequel but rest easy Portal 2 delivers more of the same with enough new elements and a wonderfully written story to justify a sequel. Even though it starts slowly it soon picks up pace for an exciting story with some twists and turns that keep you engrossed from (more or less) start to finish. Co-op invigorates the by giving complex puzzles that are unachievable with one person but challenging for two and always feels rewarding.
At first I was sceptical about Portal 2 as the original Portal wasn’t in need of a sequel as it is an excellent game and stands well without needing a continued story. With the slow pace at the beginning and a re-treading of ground in the form of the early labs act as tutorials (much like the original) I felt disappointed. This didn’t last long, as soon enough the story progressed and I was flung deep into the heart of the game; which is brimming with polish to every aspect. The story really engrossed me and I will play through again to catch all the Easter eggs I missed. The co-op was defiantly worth playing as well but be ready to get frustrated if your partner is in the mood to get you killed. I wholly recommend buying the game even if it’s just for single player but with valve the best option is buy it on PC via steam or on PS3 if you own one and have a good pc as the PS3 version gives access to the PC version too. The Xbox version is still worth getting but PC will always be the dominant platform with Valve games. There is DLC planned as well with beta mod tools having just been release on PC so use this information to choose your platform.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.