Portal 2 (2011 Video Game)
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First of all, it now has the proper length of a full game (6-8 hours for the single player campaign on your first run). Secondly, the creative puzzle solving from the first part is not only back, but improved with many new gadgets that make you wonder how they come up with that stuff. Find me more creative game play in the industry, I dare you.
The single player campaign is now filled with even more hilarious dialog and characters (the old ones are back of course), a better story line and what i thought to be a jaw dropping finale. That's the scale the concept is made for, well done! The game now features a co-op version where you go through a different set of levels which you can only solve through teamwork. Those will puzzle you even more than the single player campaign (in total the game is about 3 times as long as the original by the way). Before they send you out to places where you have to really rely on your partner to, say, not fall into the abyss, they send you through a course of team building exercises so you can get used to how things work now that you're not alone any more. Extremely well thought out. Solving those puzzles is even more gratifying when you do it as a team, or so i have found.
Last but not least a little shout out to the group of actors voicing the various characters in the game. Good voice acting is something we have come to expect from Valve games but those guys and gals really know how to deliver comedy. At point I had to stop playing for a minute to wait for the laughing to stop ;-) How often do sequels let you down. Not this one. It's longer, bigger, funnier. Now you will see why the people at Valve took so long to make it. Instead of rushing the game and get something half finished *cough* Dragon Age 2 *cough*, they took their time to get it right.
Hats off, Valve, hats off.
In fact it was only a matter of time until the huge testing facility of Aperture Science got revived for the next run - and story.
While Portal 1 was pretty much done within 3 hours its successor waits with 7-8 hours of fun. It appears a little short - that's where the co-op mode comes in, adding almost a new dimension to the game's paradigm. Solving puzzles, mazes and riddles with a partner not only opens up possibilities of creating problems to solve - it also enhances one's horizon of thinking. The co-op mode does not really develop a story, but just for the fact that after solving some puzzles ("tests") the player is left with an unique impression, this games deserves a huge credit.
The story picks up where its predecessor left off - but digs way deeper into the history and structures around Aperture Science. It's a delight to move through very different environments solving unique puzzles which are created with a particular love for details. After some rooms the player occasionally feels like a genius because the presentation of problems are extremely unusual. The voices you are accompanied by dramatically raise the level atmosphere as the voice actors do (typical for Valve) an exceptional job. The whole flow of the game grants a fluid game-play and hardly ever comes to halt.
To me personally the main point of praise is the fact that Valve manages to send you through approximately 8 hours of the same game-play without making it boring. The story is appealing, unique and weaves in seamlessly into the Half Life universe.
Two things that I thought were not quite state of the art: 1. The graphics engine is out of date, no doubt. For this game it isn't THAT important to have the latest graphics, still it's very apparent at some point and very untypical for Valve. 2. Many aspects are almost too familiar from part one. The showdown, the credits, some monologues and game-plays, etc...
BUT, some other aspects would receive more than just 10 points and that's why Portal 2 still deserves a solid score of 9 points.
Let's face it: Valve produces games which are far more than the average assembly-line-games pumped out every year. The love for detail, interaction, presentation of problems, dialogs, story and game-play clearly stands out in comparison to even major game developer studios. And Portal 2 continues this tradition seamlessly - yes, I may have expected "a little" more but in the end it's still another magnum opus which will be talked about for a long time. No doubt, this game is already one of 2011's highlights and even though other games have way better effects, graphics, models or realism - Valve draws a very clear line: While other studios produce games, they craft art!
Boy was I wrong.
This game took my definition of good, gave it steroids, and halfway through the game had permanently heightened the bar at which I considered a game "perfect." From the halfway mark, it continued to raise that bar, and in the end, still managed to jump miles above it. Portal 2 is easily my favorite game of all time.
When I started, I was just so amazed that I was freaking playing a sequel to my ex- favorite game of all time (the original Portal). But as I went on, I was just MAYBE starting to get ever-so-slightly bored of it, when BAM! The game took me, threw me against the wall, and yelled at me to never, ever, think those thoughts again.
The ending was just so awesome in how- I'm not going to give away anything- in how you just KNEW what you needed to do.
I laughed at the top-notch humor, I cried at the sheer beauty of the ending, a got goosebumps when *SPOILER REDACTED*, and for the first time ever, for the first time EVER in a video game, I felt like I was actually living through this as the character, and not just playing a game.
Buy this game. Play this game. LOVE THIS GAME.
You won't regret it.
The game begins the same as the first one did, with levels that introduce you to the world of portals gradually so that you get the basics before the puzzles start getting a bit harder. This is normal with sequels because the makers cannot assume players are familiar already but at the same time have to try not to bore old hands who have seen this all before. Here there is no such problem because while I was already familiar with the ideas I was being introduced to, I was not familiar with Wheatley. At first Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant) is your guide and he is hilarious and he makes the introductory levels a lot of fun to play with his comments and advice: this is a game that tells you which button is "jump" by getting you to push in to "speak" and then judging your character for jumping. It is hard to describe but fans of the first game will know the style of humour at play here and indeed fans of Stephen Merchant should also know, since he is doing his usual stuff here (most notably like he did in Extras the cheerful numpty).
The single player game takes you through the same sort of test rooms as before but plot developments see you exploring different areas in the facility as well. These areas tend to be more broken down and the differences in them does serve to rather break you out of autopilot to a point. At times it is too easy to solve puzzles by simply observing the room and recognising the process rather than solving the puzzle, the change in location made me have to pay attention more. Also in addition to the varied locations we also have substances added which have particular properties and play a role in solving puzzles these also serve to break up the "routine" of knowing where to put the portals and makes for some nice puzzles. There are also laser and other new things but rest assured that the trusty companion cubes remain. I still didn't find it particularly hard but I do think it was a little tougher at times than the first game the makers said the focus was to make the game bigger but not necessarily harder and they did do that.
Of course bigger does make it better and I think the single player game was about 10 hours which, considering it is very similar throughout, it is testament to how engaging it is that it never gets boring. The story helps as we have great characters in GlaDOS, Wheatley and Cave Johnson, all of whom are really well written and hilarious but yet also charm and engage they can be tragic, threatening, cruel or insane but the player always likes them and is entertained by them like the turrets, even when they are trying to kill you, you always feel bad about knocking them over! The dialogue is key in making this work and it is really well written. Johnson's dialogue is funny and also informative in terms of back-story, while GlaDOS is as evil as ever harbouring a massive grudge from the last game and constantly making lots of little digs at the player about their weight or about their parents not loving them. Again, it is hard to explain how funny it is but my girlfriend (a hater of video games) loved watching me play although was always impatient for me to solve the puzzle so she could get the next piece of dialogue from GlaDOS etc. It is hilarious and it is this way throughout the final song is not quite up to the standards of "Still Alive" but to be fair what is? The delivery of the lines is near-perfect. McLain returns as GlaDOS and various other voices, while JK Simmons (yes, Schillinger from Oz etc) is really great as Cave Johnson. Standout though is the cheerful little bumbler Wheatley as played by Merchant. A great character and Merchant totally fits, delivering by far the funniest performance I have seen him give.
The graphics are not amazingly stepped up from the original game but some of the areas outside of the testing rooms are impressive in their complexity and detail. However those looking to be wowed by technology will not be here but in fairness it isn't what I came for and it did still look good. The addition of the co-op may only add another 4 or 5 hours to the game but they are great addition. The use of four portals and two players means that the dynamics are really well changed and they worked my brain a little harder because I had settled into a rhythm with the main game. It also features a nice little plot and loads of the usual humour.
Overall Portal 2 is a brilliant game. The puzzles are good without being really difficult I still found it a bit too easy to solve but many did give me pause and made me think for a minute before sorting it out. The humour is key though and this game is hilarious and engaging at the same time. The characters are brilliant in the writing, the dialogue and the delivery and I have (and will) replay parts just to hear the lines again. A great game clever, engaging, funny, exciting and with twists and turns in the plot. Buy it now.
Chell has been kept in stasis for a long time since the first game ended and is awoken when a tiny personality core named Wheatley tries to break them out of the facility. Chell and Wheatley pass through a few test chambers before accidentally reawakening GLaDOS, who has many more tests for you. You have to get out of the facility and finally escape GLaDOS and Aperture Laboratories... at least at first.
Portal 2 is one of the most fun games I've played all year. The puzzles have the same basic formula of portal shooting as the last game but there's a lot other stuff thrown in as well. New gels that propel you and increase your speed and a lot harder puzzles that will keep you guessing.
Not only does Portal 2 increase the puzzles, it also goes deep into character development. When you go deeper into the facility you find out the truth about Aperture's origins and also the origins of GLaDOS.
Portal 2 is one of the best games of the year. If you haven't played it, I strongly suggest it. You'll laugh, you'll get frustrated, and you will be heavily engrossed in this amazing game.
A couple of new elements are introduced this time around, to keep the game refreshing and preventing the levels of getting too predictable. This is done in the form of different gels (liquid substances that either make you jump high, or run fast on contact). There's also a white gel that allows you to shoot portals on whatever surface it is spilled on. Regular water allows you to wash either one of the gels off. Besides that, there are also light-bridges that allows you to portal a walkable bridge to otherwise unreachable places, and some kind of anti-gravity beam that propels either you or objects like turrets and boxes into the direction it faces (which can sometimes be altered by pressing a button in the room).
Last thing I have to mention is the music. The music ingame, as well as the ending-music (which was particularly popular in the first game) called 'Want You Gone' by Jonathan Coulton are great. It all fits the game's robotic atmosphere perfectly as well as the ingame glitch-beats that you can hear mostly when the action intensifies.
As you can already make out, Portal 2 allows for some very diverse puzzle-elements, and this together with the already established portal-gun makes it a lot of fun and challenge to play. The story isn't too exciting, but the witty humour and overall superb voice-acting makes it worth while (kudos to Stephen Merchant for providing his voice-talent for such a funny villain). Its a bit early to say with such a long time ahead of us, but I wouldn't be surprised if Portal 2 would end up on many people's lists of best games of 2011. Go play it, you won't be disappointed!
Now, if Valve Software would only get some information out the door regarding Half-Life 3, I would be their number one fan!
Portal introduced us to our silent protagonist Chell and her fight to escape the deserted Aperture Science facility controlled by the insane AI GLaDOS armed only with her portal gun. Portal 2 picks up roughly 300 years after the first game where Chell has been recaptured and placed in cryo-storage and is woken up by Personality Core Wheatly so that they can escape the run-down facility before the reactor core melts down. Chell is once again forced to use her portal gun to navigate the ruins of the facility and deal with the resurrected GLaDOS. The story takes some very interesting twists and turns along the way and the terrific dark humor of the first game remains intact. The voice acting in the game remains top-notch. Ellen McLain returns as the voice of GLaDOS and as the voice of the polite and cheerful attack turrets. Joining the cast are Stephen Merchant who gives hilarious life to Wheatley and the always entertaining J. K. Simmons features as the voice of Cave Johnson, the eccentric founder of Aperture Science.
The game-play from the original game returns in all of its mind-bending glory. Players use the portal gun to shoot blue and orange colored portal holes onto walls to traverse over deadly pits, transport Weighted Storage Cubes to switches to open doors and lower elevators and redirect lasers (or Thermal Discouragement Beams if you prefer). Additions to the game-play include the propulsion and repulsion gels (in keeping with the Portal color motif they are orange and blue respectively) which do pretty much as they describe either sliding the player off at great speed or sending them bouncing high into the air. In addition, players must redirect light bridges and conveyor beams with portals as well. Perhaps one of the most exciting new features in Portal 2 however is the inclusion of co-op game-play. Co-op game-play gets its own storyline and characters, Aperture Science robots ATLAS and P-Body, each armed with their own portal gun and even more challenging puzzles for the gamers to solve. You can either play with a friend (split-screen or online) or team up with a random player. Good communication is vital to success however, and the co-op interface has several helpful tools to communicate with your partner including a small pop-up window to see their viewpoint though you may want to use a microphone as well. Portal 2 even features a commentary mode (a returning feature from the first game) where you can play through the game with speech bubbles placed throughout the levels which, when activated, trigger audio files of various production members discussing the creation of the game often relative to where the player happens to be at the time. This feature really shows off the amount of effort that went into creating this game.
In general the game-play is challenging, but never really frustrating. The game does a good enough job of teaching players the basic mechanics as new elements are introduced that even newcomers will be able to pick up the nuances of the game fairly quickly but has enough challenge to it that even veteran Portal players won't be able to just breeze through it. Some of the achievements/trophies are centered around players having to solver certain puzzles either in quick fashion or in different ways then they normally would. Exploration and experimentation is highly encouraged in game. In short, there is plenty of content to keep veteran Portal players on their heels and dazzle newcomers with all the possibilities.
Visually Portal 2 holds up pretty well considering it's running on Valve's somewhat dated Source engine. The environments are much more expansive and dynamic than in the first Portal and the visuals are much sharper. Some may lament the change from the cold and sterile look of the test chambers from the first game, the change in style suit's the story well. While it may not quite hold up to some contemporary major releases, it is by no stretch of the imagination ugly. The background score does a good job of reinforcing the tension and isolation of the game's story. All this really comes together to bring an enjoyable experience to the player. Portal 2 delivers in all aspects. Fun and challenging game-play, engaging characters, and the ability to play with friends make this a can't miss title, unless your only system is the Wii, in which case you're out of luck.