Portal 2 whipped Half Life fans into a frenzy when it was revealed at E3 last Summer, with more mind blowing puzzle play and shock PS3 support. Now the stand alone sequel is here at last, promising to do for potatoes what the first did for cake. Read our full Portal 2 review to find out all about it.
If you didn’t play the original Portal, well, where have you been? It’s available on PC, Mac, Xbox 360 or PS3 in either Valve’s superb The Orange Box collection or as a standalone game – it was even free for a while. The premise was simple, even if the puzzles you had to complete weren’t: use a portal gun to place orange and blue holes through which you can jump, clearing huge distances or falling from the ceiling and using maximum velocity to catapult yourself huge distances. And starting Portal 2 for the first time, not much appears to have changed – you’ll still have a huge amount of fun, for one thing.
Although a vast amount of time (99999 ominously unspecified units) has gone by since the events of the first game, your character Chell’s portal gun fits like a er, glove gun, and a brief tutorial will have you running through walls in minutes. The Aperture Science “Enrichment Centre” has fallen into disrepair, but the same thinking-outside-the-box (or cube) gameplay applies: you have to scout out each level for areas on every surface where you can place portals, and figure out what objects can be placed where to activate the various lasers and switches required to open the door.
More of the same would be more than welcome in the case of Portal, a multiple Game of the Year award winner. As companies are wont to do with sequels however, Portal 2 is a whole lot more epic. While the original could be clocked in an evening, the singe player game takes a good eight or nine hours to play through this time. Almost every level is staged over a bottomless pit, with rows of cores stretching off into the distance. Throughout your travels you’re accompanied by a rogue, dimwitted AI known as Wheatley, and your journey through the abandoned centre’s vast caverns reveals more of the comi-tragic back story behind the abandoned complex – telling you any more would spoil the surprise.
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Yet everything you still know and love from Portal is here, from the inept sentry bots (“Are you still there?”) to your trusty Weighted Companion Cube and Valve’s macabre, bureaucratic setting – deadly lasers are “thermal discouragement beams”. Needless to say, four years on, graphically it looks as sharp as one of the centre’s mashy spike plates.
It’s possible, just possible, that you might become tired of the gameplay mechanics in Portal 2 – particularly if you’re a twitch fingered Xbro with a Call of Duty habit worse than crack. You still use the portal gun with no deviation, and it’s not until later in the game when you’re introduced to new obstacles and aids, such as a gravity ray and goo in various shades that serves to help you jump higher, run faster or place portals anywhere.
Us though, we prefer the lateral thinking gameplay to holding down fire and hoping for the best – and even if you don’t, the game’s script will surely win you over. While one-track mind robot villain GLaDOS still plays a central role, Stephen Merchant is the star as the voice of sidekick core Wheatley: his South-West lilt and timing mark him out as a Disney comedic sidekick character voice over actor for the future – move over Eddie Murphy.
One final word of note. If you have the luxury of choosing which platform to go for, be sure to grab Portal 2 on the PlayStation 3. While the much vaunted Steam integration doesn’t amount to much more than a match making service for co-op, you get the PC version free. No brainer, right? Shame you’ll still need your grey matter to clock this crafty game. An outright masterpiece.
Note: While we played the solo campaign to completion, we have not yet been able to test co-op mode due to the nature of pre-release testing. We will update the review with more thoughts on this in the coming days.