Portal 2 (UK) Review
Portal 2 is the brand new first person puzzle game from Valve. Carrying on the Aperture Science tests from Portal, players wake to find they are once again stuck in the loop of never ending testing. Will you be able to take on the tests with just the portal gun and your puzzle solving skills and see Portal 2 teleport to being one of the best puzzle games ever?
Let’s find out and kick of the HOTs and NOTs
Not to give away any spoilers, I shall put it plainly, the story is phenomenal. With twists and turns as well as building plenty of background on Aperture Science throughout; the story provides a good link between puzzles. Unlike Co-op which is very much split into individual test chambers, the story means the single player flows from one room to another. While it is possible to complete the story rather quickly, the majority of players will find they get a good 8 to 10 hours of gameplay from just their first play through.
Of course this depends on the player. One puzzle might take someone just a couple of minutes, where as another person might only find the solution after about 10 minutes of raking their brain. Either way whether you fly thorough or painstakingly work your way through it, the story is compelling enough to keep you going.
Co-op is a brand-new feature to Portal 2 but from the way it turned out I wouldn’t put it past new players thinking it just improves on what Portal offered. Not only does it feel polished and refined but it adds a slightly new angle to puzzles. While single player does offer some of the same elements, Co-op is much more about timing and teamwork. While parts will still make players scratch your their head; with two players thinking it’s less how do I do it and more what does one player need to do, to allow the other to complete the puzzle.
All the test chambers have been well thought out, none can be completed with only two portals or one character. This means both players feel like they are contributing to beating the test chamber, rather than one doing all the work. Because teamwork is such a important element the ping feature is ingenious. It allows you to ping anything from a section of wall where you would like a portal to be placed to where the cube is that you need. This well thought out feature reduces possible annoyances which of course can only be a good thing.
From this you may be thinking the Co-op is easy, of course this isn’t the case unless you have very good teamwork. It’s this teamwork that really provides the fun aspect of Co-op something that the single player doesn’t have, which is why it’s such an amazing new feature.
Valve has really gone all out on the presentation front. Firstly the graphics have been noticeably improved since Portal; while they aren’t going to win any prizes they certainly are pleasing on the eye. The fact there is a variation in what the test chambers look like, but they all still managed to look graphically impressive, shows that Valve hasn’t just focused on making the main areas look good but the entire title.
The game sounds really helps backup the gameplay and the story. From little voice clips to full sections of dialogue randomly occur, helping further the storyline. Musical elements help make some areas faster paced and add an air of tenseness into the mix. This along with none of the sounds really being out of place, means it just helps to round off the overall epic experience.
Gameplay is of course where Portal 2 shines. Not only does it manage to keep the same unique formula that made the original so good but it adds new content to improve the already fantastic gameplay. The basis of any puzzle game’s gameplay should of course be the puzzles themselves and this is certainly true with Portal 2.
Before puzzles can start to get samey new elements are added from light barriers to the three colourful gels. While with Portal the test chambers didn’t change much when players were in them (past moving platforms), the gels mean entire rooms can change in seconds. The blue gel bounces players, the orange makes them travel faster and the white gel turns any surface into one where portals can be placed. As these change the elements of rooms so quickly, it means the challenge changes as the puzzle evolves. This helps keep the gameplay is fresh throughout with nothing feeling overused
When this feature works and PSN has been turned on by Sony it will really be a revolutionary part of Portal 2. It has been seen before, but never before has it seemed that multi platform gaming could be so close to becoming the normal. Hopefully in the future we will see Xbox 360 players being able to join in on this feature, as I honestly believe they are missing out and as a gamer would love the opportunity to play with players no matter what platform they are on.
There really isn’t much wrong with Portal 2, and a create-a-mode certainly isn’t needed but would have been a nice feature to have. Imagine once playing through the storyline and the Co-op being able to then go online and take on levels players, from around the world, have created. By no means is Portal 2 lacking in content but maybe it would be a nice feature for the future, Portal 3 maybe…
Portal 2 is the exact sequel everyone wanted and more. Fans of the original will love every minute of it from the witty banter in the storyline to the brand-new Co-op section. The way Portal 2 has been made also majorly opens up for anyone to play it, just be prepared to rack your brain to get through certain puzzles. Everything about the game from the presentation to the gameplay shouts out at being properly implemented and polished; Valve has made a game they can be proud of and it will definitely be a key contender for the game of the year.[Editor's Note: Portal 2 was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes. Co-op was played on split-screen due to the PSN being down]