Portal was a superb game. For me it turned the Orange Box from a bit of a con to a thing of beauty. Though in itself short, the challenge levels at the end provided many hours enjoyment as I tried to meet the near impossible tasks set. Indeed, I could only see some of the tricks needed to get top marks by watching youtube clips. I wasn't able to replicate them all myself.
Plus it had one of the best endings to any game in history. Cake or no cake.
So, could Valve pull it off again? For their sake I certainly hoped so. I am immensely happy to report that they have indeed produced a game of immense and fine splendour. Put simply, if you liked Portal, then this will knock your socks off.
At this point I will say that if you have seen video clips of two robots running about, then relax. That is the two-player coop game. The main game itself has the same character from the original Portal. Indeed, the game starts with her receiving a rude awakening. The first thing that struck me was "I recognise that voice. Its that annoying bloke off those Barclays ads." And indeed it is. One of the main characters who chatters away to you for a large part of the game is the same, well character basically, as the bloke on those ads. I don't mean that he will try and sell you insurance, but his voice and wordplay are the same. If you like that, you are in for a treat!
Anyway, you soon stumble across, and reawaken, an old friend. All she has been doing all these years is thinking about how you killed her. So she is not happy. Turns out, all she wants to do is test though. So you have to run tests...*
(see footnote at end of review if you have never played Portal).
New tests, with new problems. Oh the old favourites are still there. Turrets abound, cubes still flick switches, and fall through portals onto the aforementioned turrets. But now they are joined with a whole array of new tricks:
Light bridges. These can either be walked on or used as a barrier.
Light corridors. These act as one way tunnels, though the direction can be reversed using a switch.
Lens cubes. Used for redirecting lasers.
Blue paint. When applied, the area painted becomes very bouncy. IE if you jump and land on it you will bounce up high again.
Orange paint. When applied, the area accelerates you at an alarming rate. So if you cover a floor in orange paint, plonk a portal at the end and run up to it you will go hurling out the other end of the portal.
White paint. Coolest of the lot. Anything painted white, provided the surface area is big enough, can now have a portal fired at it.
Obviously, you can't just go running around painting anything. That would kind of defeat the object! Paint is only available at certain locations.
I think I've mentioned most new things. If you have played Portal you will soon get to grips with them.
So how big is Portal 2? Well, there are nine chapters. Within that are upwards of 40 puzzle chambers. I can't remember the exact figure. There is a definate and rock solid story though. And you get exposed to numerous test centres. Its difficult to say much without giving away spoilers. I will say that you get to learn the history of Aperture, right down to some earlier test environments. All this is interspersed with various free-roaming sections where you need to use your skills in a much more open arena.
The puzzles themselves are set at just the right level. I finished the game in about ten hours (its been available on Steam for a couple of days now). A couple of times I got really, really stuck, and swore blind that it was impossible. But a break can work wonders, and sure enough, fresh eyes would spot a panel I had previously missed, or another trick. The key is to think laterally and know that each puzzle does have an elegant solution. In one instance though, I could not believe the sheer inventive genius that had gone into assembling the puzzle. When I finally cracked it (I had to sleep on it!) I felt like applauding. It was that clever. Just pure, unadulterated quality.
Pure, unadulterated quality. Thats how I would sum up this whole game in three words. You would think I would have used it as the title of the review. But I went with the talking potato, because I rarely get the chance to mention talking potatoes in reviews, and the game does feature one.
If you aren't yet convinced that this is a good game, throw your computer away and go and buy some marbles or something. This is one of those rarest of gems, a game that has lived up to (and surpassed by a country mile) its pre-launch hype and fan expectations. It deserves a place on every gamer's metaphorical shelf.
And once you have finished the main game, go online and team up with a friend (or stranger). You then get to play completely new challenges cooperatively. And coop means coop. You have to work as a team to solve the puzzles, and its certainly not just padding. I played a coop for about an hour this morning and it was great fun. I have yet to play again, so don't know whether I will start at the beginning or whether it keeps tabs of where I got before. Who knows? If it starts at the beginning again, I will look clever to whoever my teammate turns out to be!
If you like throwing money away, you can buy new beanies etc for your coop robot. Apparantly, this DLC has annoyed some people, but to be honest, if you don't download anything you will not be missing anything. It is purely icing. No, icing is good. The DLC is just an extra layer of wrapping paper.
Graphics. Great. They look as fresh as the original Portal did when it was released. They are actually a lot better than the original Portal. However, four years ago I thought they looked great.
Sound. Gentle, though occasionally funky in places. Some of the background music reminded me of early Pink Floyd. That aforementioned voice can get annoying, but as the story unfolds, it makes sense.
System Requirements (according to Steam):
OS: Windows 7 / Vista / XP
Processor: 3.0 GHz P4, Dual Core 2.0 (or higher) or AMD64X2 (or higher)
Memory: 1GB XP / 2GB Vista
Hard Disk Space: At least 7.6 GB of Space
Video: Video card must be 128 MB or more and should be a DirectX 9-compatible with support for Pixel Shader 2.0b (ATI Radeon X800 or higher / NVIDIA GeForce 7600 or higher / Intel HD Graphics 2000 or higher).
Audio: DirectX 9.0c compatible
OS: MAC OS X 10.6.6 or higher
Processor: Intel Core Duo Processor (2GHz or better)
Hard Disk Space: At least 7.6 GB of Space
Video: ATI Radeon 2400 or higher / NVIDIA 8600M or higher
Downsides? Well, there are no challenge levels, thats about it. However, the coop more than makes up for that. Also, the game is short at ten hours. However, those ten hours are really intense. And when you solve some of the tougher puzzles, well there are few feelings like it!
You owe it to yourself to play this game. do so now, without any further delay.
* In the off chance that you have never played Portal, the tests consist of a series of rooms with an exit and an assortment of puzzles. You have a gun that fires two portals. If you fire the gun at one wall, and then at another wall, you can walk through one portal and come out the other side. Also the lasers, cubes etc also go through portals. So a simple puzzle might have you firing one portal in the roof above a gun turret. Then fire a portal at a wall you can reach. Then throwing a cube through the second portal. The cube appears above the turret, out of the first portal, and falls down, knocking the turret over.