GLaDOS is back and she wants you gone. For good.
Speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out. That’s the line that stuck with me from the original Portal. Not the stupid ‘The cake is a lie!” line that was completely overused for the next four years, and certainly not the Companion Cube. The thing that stuck with me was the mechanic of the portals. Go in one, come out the other. It was so simple, but so ridiculous at the same time. You could breeze through the original in an hour or two so the game was considered an experiment of sorts. And it was a damned good one at that.
An experiment, the sequel is not. Portal 2 is a fully-fledged title that warranted its own retail release, and it’s been anticipated for a few years now. If you haven’t followed Portal go out and play it right now. Alternatively, let’s bring you up to speed. In the first game, you play as Chell, a female test subject at a facility known as the Apeture Science Enrichment Center. You’re introduced to an AI known as GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) and she helps you work through Test Chambers, almost like a lab rat. You eventually get your hands on what’s known as the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, or the Portal Gun for short. Using the Portal Gun and your wits, you discover the facility empty and GLaDOS hostile. You face off against the rampant AI, defeat GLaDOS and get blasted to the outside world.
And this is where Portal 2 picks up. By an unknown robot, Chell was dragged back into the Enrichment Center and placed in Cryo-sleep for a few hundred years. When you finally wake up, the facility is in shambles and GLaDOS is nowhere to be seen. With the help of a friendly British AI known as Wheatley, you accidently power up GLaDOS, you have a nice heartfelt reunion and the testing begins all over again. And it’s most welcome.
Of course there are more twists and turns throughout the game but you’ll have to experience them for yourselves. The first thing you will notice is that this is the Portal everyone has grown to love. The distinct Valve style is evident in every single panel of the Enrichment Center and the Source Engine still stands as an incredibly versatile game engine. You wont find groundbreaking visuals in Portal 2 but it does it’s job. The art direction is where everything stands out. Watching as test chambers re-create themselves is a joy to watch and the occasional glimpse of the true scope of the facility is jaw dropping. It’s a processed and false reality feel and it really adds to the atmosphere of isolation.
Gameplay, is as I said earlier, the Portal you all know and love (And if you don’t know it I don’t love you). You have a Portal Gun, that shoots two portals. An Orange portal, and a Blue portal. Shoot one on the roof and walk though one on the wall, you’ll fall through the roof. Shoot one the roof and one right below you, you’ll fall forever until you break out of the endless loop. I’ll admit, it’s fun and it’s the main mechanic of the game. Racking your brain for ways in which to make a jump, how to get from one side of a room to another is so satisfying. In the original you worked with simple weight switches and other things like this. Portal 2 changes the game and adds some new items into the mix.
Gel is a big new edition, and it comes in two forms; Repulsion and Propulsion. Repulsion Gel… well, repels you. It’s bouncy. Chuck it on a surface and you’ll bounce right off it. Propulsion Gel, you guessed it, propels you! Lather it over a surface and you’ll slip and slide your way to success and / or certain death. These new gels as well a few new machines (tractor beams, hard light bridges, lasers) makes for a seriously awesome puzzle game. The later puzzles in the game see you combining all these elements together providing some truly clever puzzles and a few controller-throwing moments.
Another stand-out aspect of Portal 2 is the sound design. While the original game only had GLaDOS speaking, Portal has three main speaking roles. As Ellen McLain reprises her role as GLaDOS, Steven Merchant and J.K. Simmons join the cast as Wheatley, a British AI and Cave Johnson, the owner of Aperture Science. The voice work is absolutely amazing and these three people add so much personality into the game. You’ll become incredibly attached to the whole cast and find yourself simply standing, listening to them talk. Something like that has never actually happened to me in a game before so it was incredibly refreshing.
Strangely enough, there is a lot of musical elements in Portal 2. Yeah, you heard me. Musical. Valve made a very smart decision and added audio triggers for certain actions and for being close to certain objects. Slide along some Propulsion Gel and make a jump, you’ll be treated to some very slick electronic tunes. Stand close to some lasers; you’ll hear some harsh sounding waveforms being emitted. Though, stand next to a few flipped laser switches and you’ll hear a beautiful chorus of electrical hums. It’s quite fun just going around a listening for every little noise they have thrown into the game. In the more hectic parts of the game, all these music elements combine into a massive booming and heart-racing electronic score that really pushes you to complete the puzzles and feel like a badass.
Portal 2 is more than a sequel. It’s confirmation that the Portal franchise is alive and kicking and with the second entry, it’ll forever be known as that one gaming great. I’ll say, I haven’t touched upon everything Portal 2 has to offer. I’ve left out the co-operative mode (mostly because I had no one to play it with and I want to experience it first hand) and how the Portal Universe is actually part of Half-Life Universe, Aperture Science vs Black Mesa, as the story tells. We hear rumblings that the two will eventually meet up and kick some serious ass, but for now I’m just admiring Portal 2.
Bottom line is; if you liked the original Portal, you will love Portal 2. It is worth the price and I did not feel disappointed as the oh-so-glorious credits rolled. If you haven’t experienced Portal before, do yourself a favor and pick it up on Steam or XBLA. You wont regret it, and I might just put our differences behind us. For science. You monster.
– Brilliant Twisting Story.
– Great new gameplay mechanics.
– Amazing voice work.
– A much longer play time.
– The song is awesome. (spoilers)
– Source Engine is pretty weak.
– Load times are ridiculous.
– You could be a person who hates fun.
– When you complete it you want to play more Portal.
– It isn’t Half Life: Episode 3.
– Still feels short.
Overall – 9/10