First Person Puzzle: Valve, Portal 2 game review

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portal_2_boxPlatforms:PS3, Xbox 360 & PC

Publisher: Valve

Developer: Nuclear Monkey Software & Valve

Rating: 12

Release date: Out Now

Review Author: David Holmes

 

 


 

Storyline

Portal 2 is the sequel to Valve's critically acclaimed 2007 hit Portal. As part of Valve's The Orange Box, Portal was originally included as "an experiment to see how gamers would respond to a different kind of gameplay and storytelling experience". However Portal's two hours of brilliance almost stole the show even with games such as Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 also included in The Orange Box.

As in the original game, you play Chell, a human test subject trapped inside the Aperture Science Enrichment Centre. Armed with only a Portal Gun you must escape the facility with help from Wheatley, your robot sidekick voiced by Stephen Merchant. In Portal 2, the evil artificial intelligence computer system, GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), returns and is looking to seek revenge by trapping Chell in various test chambers.

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Playability

 

Here is where the game really shines. Powered by Valves Source Engine, also used in Half Life 2, Portal 2's controls feel extremely natural and intuitive. The idea behind Portal 2 is actually pretty simple but difficult to explain so here goes. Using the "Portal Gun", to open portals, you must navigate your way around various test chambers. Only a maximum of two portals can be used at any one time: one is used as an entrance and the other as an exit. Each portal is placed on the wall, floor or ceiling by simply firing the Portal Gun using either the right or left triggers, but be warned, portals can only be placed on certain surfaces. Once each portal is placed, Chell is free to pass from one to the other.

The portals can also be used in a number of different ways. You can redirect laser beams to complete circuits which create an exit, they can be used to move heavy boxes around the chamber to weigh down floor switches or simply used to sneak up on gun turrets positioned around the facility. Physics also play an important part in how puzzles can be solved,  for example, if you were to jump from a high ledge into a portal placed on the floor, you will propelled out of the other portal at the same speed you entered the first. This allows you to jump huge gaps or reach heights otherwise impossible.

A new addition to Portal 2 is the use of various "Gels", these come in the form of Orange Propulsion Gel which allows you to run at increased speeds. Blue Repulsion Gel which acts much like a trampoline allowing you to bounce off various surfaces or White Conversion Gel, this gel can convert different areas of the facility into a surface that will allow portals to be used.  All of these additions ensure Portal 2 offers a lot more variety then its predecessor.

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Presentation

As mentioned earlier, Portal 2 runs on Valve's Source Engine. The Source Engine was first used way back in 2004 so understandably Portal 2 cannot quite compete with the graphical powerhouses of the current generation of games such as Killzone 3 or Crysis 2. Having said that despite the slightly dated engine, Valve have done a really good job at getting the most out of the Source Engine and have created a good looking game.

Valve have also put a lot of effort into the sounds in the game, with an impressive 10,000+ lines of dialogue from a great cast of voice actors. Inaddition, the script is genuinely brilliant making Portal 2 one of the funniest games I have ever played.

Best Points

The puzzles in Portal 2 can become pretty complex, but are never unreasonable. Sometimes I did find myself struggling to get my head around what to do next, and at other times I could see the solution staring me straight in the face. Either way the satisfaction you get when you figure it out is incredible, upon completing the more difficult conundrums I really did feel like a genius, well for a brief moment anyway. Another highlight has to be the script; each character comes out with some hilarious one liners with Stephen Merchant as Wheatley really stealing the show.  The addition of a co-op campaign is also a very welcome addition to the gameplay.

Worst Points

I am having to rack my brains to think of any low points to Portal 2. The solo campaign could be described as short, with about 6-7 hours of gameplay. This does seem to be the norm nowadays but I would have loved it to have lasted a few more hours, it really is that good.

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Overall Score

5/5 As a first person puzzle game, I do fear Portal 2 will be overlooked by the masses as it is different from anything else on the market. However, I urge all gamers to add this unique adventure to their collection, it truly is a gaming masterpiece. From the incredibly witty humour, to the insane puzzle design, Portal 2 is one of the best games of the current generation. Go get it!