Four years ago Valve released a clever little title that was released in the Orange Box on both the X-Box 360 as well as the PlayStation 3, and the PC on Valve’s Steam engine. The game was rather unique as it didn’t necessarily require you to go around and beat people up or shoot down enemy soldiers. Instead it had you solve a series of tasks with what was called a “Portal Gun.” Soon the game took off on the internet and even spread the meme in which everyone would soon know as “The Cake is a Lie.” Of course even those who didn’t play the game became familiar with the meme and subsequently began to quote it whenever the word cake was mentioned. The developers would of course release Portal as a free game for a week on the Steam Community giving many (or not many) gamers who hadn’t played it before a chance to own it for free. I think this led to them announcing the sequel.
So let’s get this review started shall we? First off let’s discuss the plot. For most of us we know that the first Portal game was not plot driven. Basically you were Chell and you had to go through about 22 puzzles and then fight the computer GLaDOS. That is essentially the first game in a nut shell. The second game is more plot oriented, and that could explain some of my thoughts regarding this one as compared to the first one. Unlike the first game with only 2 characters this game doubles that. I know that doesn’t sound so thrilling but instead of having GLaDOS talking to you you get two more new characters talking and it just adds to the game’s exciting and entertaining script.
You wake up sometime after the events of the first game. A robot named Wheatley wakes you and plans on escaping. Obviously he’s making lots of bad choices like take you straight through the chambers of GLaDOS and of course he eventually wakes her up. You then go through a series of chambers in which GLaDOS insults and berates you constantly but you arrive at her chamber and eventually shut her down and replace her with Wheatley.
So Wheatley turns on you and throws you down the shaft and turns GLaDOS into a potato science project. Depressing. You then go to what seems like Aperture Science back in the original days for the company and progress on. As you go through you hear the voice recording of my favorite character in the series Mister Cave Johnson. Eventually after solving grueling puzzles using new gel you get the potato that is GLaDOS and eventually re-encounter Wheatley and go through more puzzles.
The ultimate conflict solution at the end is shockingly good, and nothing to spoil for the masses that will read this post. Let’s just say it’s semi happy. As for the notes on the plot while a game like this could be straight forward and still work the script writers really worked hard on it. From the simple fact that this is obviously a game play driven game they went to what seems like the end of the earth to make it entertaining for the players to sit there and invest time in.
When it comes to the scripting the lines are genius. I have decided that this week all my Facebook status updates are going to be quotes from Cave Johnson. While he didn’t have a huge role in the game the lines he gave were priceless and well read. Same thing goes for the other two voices in the game, GLaDOS and Wheatley. You go from one end of the spectrum to the other, the confident and cool Cave, to the psychotic and murderous GLaDOS to the incompetent and nervous Wheatley. All the lines are perfectly written and the voice actors nailed it.
Stephen Merchant of the Office (UK) fame did the voice acting for Wheatley. Merchant is British so the accent carries over into his character and the tone in his voice as he reads is flawless. I actually believe the character as compared to just siting there going yeah yeah okay I get it I get it. Same thing goes for J.K. Simmons who gave us the voice of the CEO of Aperture, Cave Johnson. He just essentially was himself, or what I would deem as himself on the few films I’ve seen with him in. GLaDOS also has a good voice acting job done but that just feels more like an edit job than an actual human doing it.
Visually the game does get a bit repetitive with the environments looking more and more like the previous, while the game does stray from the previous one’s appearance, they did a phenomenal job of adding aging to some of the levels that came back. Yes they had essentially three or four different areas but those areas felt repeated within themselves. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as much of a bother as one might think. It still held true to the gameplay being the most important thing in this game.
The game’s graphics weren’t perfect but they were superior compared to the first one. That in itself shows that if there were a third game in the series (the end doesn’t allow for it) that it might not be for four to five years on the next gen consoles and a superior computer model. Needless to say most of the environments that have more detail look nice and pretty.
The gameplay is the same as the last time but with very few tweaks. You think about it. In a game that is driven by the very notion of how it’s played why would you change anything from an already solid set up? You don’t. Instead you add some new features, like gel that allows you to put portals in the surface as long as the gel lands on it. Or how about gel that makes you go bouncy. Or even gel that makes you run super fast. The addition of other elements to the puzzles adds to the level of difficulty to the puzzles.
The big new addition to the game that makes you want to play more is the multiplayer, co-op levels. In this you and a friend play as two different robots who must solve puzzles together. This is a bit challenging because you may or may not have a douche bag friend who fucks you over essentially. This mode has lots of potential but at the same time could end up being a nightmare. You can choose between a local game (split screen) or online. This really begs the question here, obviously if you are playing this on the PC you can most likely find someone on your Steam friends list that has the game and will play, but with the X-Box and PS3 it becomes harder. The good news is PS3 owners with decent computers get a free PC copy if they connect PSN with Steam. Any achievement and save files on one platform will transfer to another, or so I think but that’s just because the PSN is down.
Ultimately Portal 2 feels like a whole new experience. I say it’s phenomenal but it’s not Game of the Year material. Well how can it not be when you are raving about it so hardcore? Because the replay value isn’t all there. There isn’t a lot to do when you finish. You can play through again to find the achievements or you can play with a friend. But once you beat it there is no point in bothering to go through again at least not right away. The game’s multiplayer may or may not be very short as well so that’s another hinderence. And with a run time of six or less hours the game may or may not be worth the full sixty or fifty dollar price tag.
The bottom line here is this. If you have the bucks to spare but Portal 2. That is if you played the first game and enjoyed it or you really like games like this. If you have never played the first game then you are in for a world of hurt and most likely will find yourself throwing the controller down in a fit of anger. But don’t fear internet guides are there to help you for a reason, and some of these puzzles may fry even the smartest of brains. I thus will hand down upon Portal 2 a high score of 9.5/10. So come back later in the week for some music reviews on new albums from Fleet Foxes as well as The Lonely Island. Also make sure you get prepared for the upcoming super hyped LA Noire hitting store shelves next week and my review section soon.