At the moment of my writing this, I’m running on 2 hours of sleep and a whole lot of Portal. My mind is whirring with both excitement and exhaustion.
In 2007, Valve managed to perfectly combine innovation and comedy with Portal. Now in 2011, the game is much the same, only better. The first game was a cheap experiment. There were no cinematics, nor was there an overarching plot. It was simple and fresh and fans loved it that way.
The thing that I like most about Portal 2 is that nothing has changed. I, like many others, was scared that the quirky nature of the game would be discarded in exchange for a ridiculously scaled production. Then I remembered that this is Valve, one of the most stubborn and reliable companies out there. The humour is retained and it’s sharper and wittier than ever. I was satisfied when GlaDOS’ sarcastic auto tuned voice chimed in.
The gameplay is phenomenal as expected. In addition to the portal gun, there are various gels, prismatic cubes, beams of jelly-like light and much more. The core still remains in the portals but these new elements bring much needed complexity to an otherwise one-trick pony.
In comparison to the original, this second installment looks stunning. Remember, this is still the Source engine and although it’s plenty old, Valve manages to pull it off. You must keep in mind that this engine debuted in June of 2004, nearly 7 years ago. It has been constantly updated and with an excellent art direction, is able to compete with almost all others. It’s not the best looking game, you can only make a sterile grey wall different so many times. However, it has personality. The graffiti, the subtle hints of previous escapees, the ability to pick up nearly everything adds so much to the game. I could care less about how many polygons are present in the textures, Valve still maintains the best facial animation in the entire industry. This time, they’re working with robots and they have more personality than I do.
Portal 2’s is much lengthier than it’s predecessor but it still clocks in at under 8 hours. As compensation, there’s multiplayer. As a two man cell, you and your partner work through various puzzles that require two individual players. I found it strange to let someone into my mind. People tend to solve puzzles in very different ways. I’m the type that muses while my friend jumps around and attempts anything that pops into his mind. It’s great fun and although there is confusion as a result of shenanigans, you are never frustrated.
This brings me to another topic, the pacing. I believe this to be Valve’s strongest trait. There are times when I’m playing games that I simply give up due to sheer frustration. Demon Souls and Portal are two games where this never happens. Demon Souls because it was my fault, it was always my fault. In Portal, it’s because before I’m frustrated, I figure it out. Amazing.
Portal 2 is yet another stellar game produced by Valve. I could never predict what sort of crazy invention they would allow me to test next. The clever mechanics and well written stories brought a smile to my face. The grin never faded for an entire day. Such a well crafted game, I’d play it again and probably once more to be sure. There’s always GlaDOS’ dulcet towns and Stephen Merchants ceaseless prattling. Oh, the multiplayer as well. This game will have legs like none other.