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 Review: Portal 2

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UnknownKadath

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PostSubject: Review: Portal 2   Sat Apr 23, 2011 9:52 pm


Portal 2
Developed by VALVe Software
Published by VALVe Software (PC & Mac) and Electronic Arts (Xbox 360 & PS3)
ESRB: "E10+"
Available on: PC, Mac OSX, PS3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: PC
Buy it!

Believe it or not, when Portal 2 was announced - I was less than enthused. Not because I didn't like the original, I did; it's just that one of the positive design choices made in the first game was to keep it relatively short since its gameplay hook - no matter how innovative - would have run out of steam eventually and a feature length game would have felt spread way too thin in the end. I don't keep up with gaming magazines or anything, so I ignored Portal 2 for awhile; until a few trailers popped up that grabbed my attention which showed off new features which clearly proved VALVe was looking to push the premise forward. Then Co-op was announced, which also caught my interest. I wondered from the start if VALVe would be able to pull off Puzzle co-op right for once, since most cooperative puzzle games thus far usually only require one brain and one monkey to turn levers and shit. So - Portal 2 is finally here, and I am here to review it! This review is a bit longer than usual, and I'm dividing it between the Single Player portion and the co-op portion; so digest at your leisure.


Single Player review
Score(Out of Four):

Portal 2 begins right after the ending of Portal 1; if anyone missed it, VALVe updated the ending to Portal 1 and retconned it by having a robot come and drag Chell back to the facility so don't be confused; in which Chell has defeated GLaDOS but is taken back to the science facility before she can regain the strength to move of her own volition. She is placed in a rather posh cell where she is sent into a presumably cryogenic sleep for many, many years. Eventually a personality core named Wheatley wakes her up to help each other escape the facility, which is falling apart due to an apocalyptic catastrophe (Possibly a portal storm of the Seven Hours War? Just speculating about Portal's ties to Half-Life.) and on their way they come across the remains of GLaDOS, and while attempting to power up the escape elevator; Wheatley accidentally powers up GLaDOS instead. GLaDOS no longer has her morality core, and is none too happy to see you - convinced still that you murdered her in cold blood. She then reunites you with the dual portal device and out of pure function, sends you back to the labs to test as she rebuilds the place and creates new tests. There's much more than meets to eye though, as Wheatley is still intent on escaping but first - he wants to confront GLaDOS in order to complete his own "function."

Portal 2 obviously has a much more in depth story and campaign than its predecessor, and the writing is absolutely superb. It's also a surprisingly immersive game - you always feel like you are a tiny cog in the midst of some huge, damaged machine attempting to get its shit together. It's actually quite fascinating and impressive to not only see the facility attempting to get back on its feet, but later in the game you take a dive into the original Aperture facilities from the 50s, 60s, and 70s; where you not only hear recordings from Aperture's founder, Cave Johnson (Played by J.K. Simmons! Hell yeah!) and progressing through the history of aperture, seeing what they were up to, what changed, and even how GLaDOS was brought about gives the universe a lot more depth than I would have imagined would go into it all. The writing is top notch and just as funny as ever, there are just too many fantastic quotes; I'll list a couple of my favourites at the end of the review. Smile

Gameplay wise, on the basic level - Portal 2 starts off identical to its predecessor, but there are a few new elements added in to freshen it up. The first noticable ones are the use of "Discouragement beams," lasers that often need to be redirected VIA portals to kill tough to get to turrets, activate nodes, or power a door or platform. Otherwise the first tests are the simplest and closest to those of the original game, they are all good - but the game gets much better going on, mainly due to far more interesting gameplay additions. There are also several many more story related puzzles and tasks.

For me the most exciting of the gameplay additions are the additions of Gels. There are 3 kinds of gels, Repulsion, Propulsion, and Conversion. Replusion Gel is blue and allows you to bounce off of surfaces. Propulsion Gel is Orange (Nickelodeon Gack!) and makes you run really fast. Conversion Gel is white (And is apparently made out of Moon dust. Also, that little fact ties into the games final boss fight.) and allows you to paint non-portal surfaces so that they can support portals. There are lots of great moments with the gel, it's quite exhilarating to hit one of the puzzles where you have to use a floor painted with propulsion gel to run through a portal to another propulsion surface to gain massive momentum, then run off a ramp at high speed, fly 30 feet into the air, land on a surface covered in repulsion gel and bounce across a 3 mile wide chasm to land safely on the catwalk ahead.

Portal 2's single player campaign is absolutely astounding. There are a few annoying puzzles, mainly the ones with the lasers; but it's hard to complain, really. I enjoyed the single player campaign a lot - it was one of the most enjoyable games I've played in years. Yet as good as it is...

Co-Op Review
Score:(Out of four)

[left]...The co-op mode is even better. I am serious when I say the co-op of Portal 2 is THE single most entertaining game experience I have had in years. It's worth buying Portal 2 for the co-op alone, and as it is - the fact that it has a stellar campaign attached to it means you get plenty of bang for your buck. With a competent teammate, Co-op is about 6 hours long and single player is about 8 - I'd say that's a good ratio especially with how short most games are these days. Everything from the single player mode is here (With the exception of story based set pieces; save for the ending of the co-op mode.) and each section is based on a specific theme, starting off with the basics and "Trust building," then moving on to hard light bridges, lasers, funnels, etc. and of course - the humour and writing is there too. Despite never speaking, Atlas (The round one with a blue eye) and P-Body (The taller one with an orange eye) are memorable and likable characters, especially when the person controlling them is a friend or someone you like.

What makes the co-op work is the fact that you do indeed need BOTH brains in order to work the puzzles. I was worried that you would just need one brain to think and one idiot to work the tools like a lot of other co-op puzzlers. Thankfully, that is not the case. Communication is necessary (A Mic isn't required - though I do strongly recommend both players use one.) and you both need to be able to work in conjunction to move on. For example, an early puzzle requires retrieving a cube to weigh down the exit button. The cube is located inside a large glass maze with boxes. One player must go inside, and one player must wait outside. The player inside does not know where he or she is going, and can only be in one cube. The player outside has two buttons, one that moves the cubes up and another that moves them down. They must communicate and shift the maze in order to get to the cube and back out.

There are many other examples of great puzzles in co-op, and solving them is a blast. It is almost never rudimentary, you will have to play with your environments and figure out what does what before solving them; even if it means occasionally dropping each other off ledges or accidentally stepping into a crusher. These moments are often part of the fun though, because you can have a laugh about your mistakes and then learn from them and move on. I pulled an all nighter with a new friend I met online (I was amazed that the first random I ran into was a nice guy, I was afraid it would be a minefield of insane people like Left 4 Dead.) and it was just so much fucking fun. I played co-op again later, this time hacking it to play split screen and enjoying it with my wife. It was once again, so much fucking fun.

Conclusion

I really can't recommend Portal 2 enough. It is one of the finest experiences in years, and it is an absolute blast. It is fun, fun, fun fun fun. Is that not what we want our games to be? It is a great break from the gritty shooters that populate the market, not only does it stimulate your brain, it tickles your funny bone and it does it for almost every second the game is booted up. It's almost depressing when you reach the end.


Oh, and here are a couple of my favourite quotes as promised:

Whilst Chell is flying through the air using "Aerial Faith Plates" and GLaDOS is on a bent of making fat jokes:
GLaDOS wrote:
Look at you. Gliding majestically through the air. Like an Eagle. Piloting a Blimp.

Whilst fighting the final boss and trying to place corrupted Personality Cores on it:
Broken Facts core wrote:
The first commercial airplane went up in 1914. Everyone aboard screamed the whole way through.

Yet another from the Broken Facts Core:
Broken Facts Core wrote:
Dreams are our subconscious' way of reminding us that we need to go to school naked and have our teeth pulled.

You know what? Cave Johnson's quotes are so great, I'm going to give you a video of all of them! Just note, it has some spoilers.

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relauby

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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Sat Apr 23, 2011 10:53 pm

Couldn't agree more. My only real complaint about Portal 2 is the length. I got it release day, and I'm already almost done co-op, done single player and even have almost all the achievements and little extra things. Maybe I've spent more time playing this game than I realized...
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Tommy Wiseau

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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:59 pm

I agree about the length, it actually took me only about four hours to beat the single player campaign. Either way, it's incredibly fun and worth the 1+ year I've been waiting excitedly for it.
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relauby

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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Sun Apr 24, 2011 4:55 am

Tommy Wiseau wrote:
it actually took me only about four hours to beat the single player campaign.

Okay so it's not just me. But no matter how much or how little time I get out of it, I don't think I've ever had this much fun with a game before. Not that I'm a huge gamer, but this game was seriously incredible. I loved the story.
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UnknownKadath

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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Sun Apr 24, 2011 5:14 pm

relauby wrote:
Tommy Wiseau wrote:
it actually took me only about four hours to beat the single player campaign.

Okay so it's not just me. But no matter how much or how little time I get out of it, I don't think I've ever had this much fun with a game before. Not that I'm a huge gamer, but this game was seriously incredible. I loved the story.

It took me around 8 to complete the campaign, though I knew the figure would be closer around to 6 if you counted out a few things; but it seemed fairly long to me, or maybe I'm just used to games being over before they start. The last game I bought/reviewed was Bulletstorm, which I loved, but it ended in about 3 hours and yet a lot of people I know were saying it was long for a shooter these days.

I probably took longer in Portal 2 though because I was stuck on a few puzzles for awhile. In fact, when I pulled the co-op all nighter - I think it kind of was necessary to get my brain working right, I was really out of sync with my brain at first. It had been awhile since I played anything that actually required more thought than "Blow shit up." Probably cause I'm currently working on some levels for the next DooM community megawad.

Out of curiosity - are either of you playing on the PC or PS3? If so, I'd love to have another run in co-op with one of you guys. The PC/PS3 versions have interconnectivity from what I understand. My steam page is here: http://steamcommunity.com/id/croutons so you can add me. Just let me know when/around the time you'd do it, because I don't go into Online mode very often, and if the account is in online mode it's usually my wife.
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relauby

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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Sun Apr 24, 2011 6:18 pm

UnknownKadath wrote:
Out of curiosity - are either of you playing on the PC or PS3? If so, I'd love to have another run in co-op with one of you guys. The PC/PS3 versions have interconnectivity from what I understand. My steam page is here: http://steamcommunity.com/id/croutons so you can add me. Just let me know when/around the time you'd do it, because I don't go into Online mode very often, and if the account is in online mode it's usually my wife.

No, I'm playing on XBOX. Besides, I already beat co-op, so you can't really go back and do it again.
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Tommy Wiseau

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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Sun Apr 24, 2011 9:52 pm

I'm on PC. I'm in the middle of playing it with a friend of mine, but if you'd like I'll do it again after I'm finished with that.
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UnknownKadath

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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Mon Apr 25, 2011 1:05 am

Tommy Wiseau wrote:
I'm on PC. I'm in the middle of playing it with a friend of mine, but if you'd like I'll do it again after I'm finished with that.

Yeah, I want to do another run through sometime in the future. I'm also hoping some mods/additional tests are added in. VALVe is usually good on content but time will tell.
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TheCinemaCynic

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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:14 am

Anyone here have Portal on PS3? We can Co-Op once PSN get's back online, if it ever dose. lol
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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Thu Apr 28, 2011 2:47 am

Only 3.5, why so low? Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Review: Portal 2   Thu Apr 28, 2011 2:56 am

yakityyakblah wrote:
Only 3.5, why so low? Very Happy
An "out of four" score system doesn't allow for very many levels of expression.
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