Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Review: Portal 2

The original portal was a surprise hit released in 2007 to great critical acclaim; it benefitted from great gameplay mechanics, smart writing and its concise length. With Portal 2 Valve has succeeded in creating an experience greater than the original by including a cooperative mode, creating a greater cast of quirky characters and introducing new mind bending puzzles. In addition to the portals there are new mechanics to keep the puzzles interesting and the amount of ways these can all be used together offer a unique and interesting mix of puzzles throughout.  Portal 2 requires players to use two connected portals to solve a number of progressively harder puzzles.
The Aperture science complex looks beautiful in it's ruination.

The player reprises the role of Chell from the first game after an undefined number of years; at the beginning of the game the Aperture science centre is rebuilding itself around you as you prepare to once again confront GLaDOS the insane AI. This time you are not alone, throughout the game you are accompanied by a myriad of colourful characters; from Wheatley the lovably moronic robot to Cave Johnson the egotistical ex-CEO of Aperture. Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant, is one of the funniest characters to ever appear in a videogame, every word he says drips with wit. You will want to hear what every character has to say even if it means playing through the campaign slowly. The single player campaign is roughly six hours long. About half way through the game you will be able to predict how it all ends, however the pacing and writing are so spot on that it won’t matter and you will want to see how everything pans out.
New mechanics add variety to the puzzles in the game.

The cooperative mode extends the game by another six hours or so and is definitely best played with a friend. Solutions involving four portals increase the complexity and require a different mindset to defeat, however two brains do help to overcome the increased challenge. Whilst GLaDOS still accompanies you it’s a shame some of the other characters don’t make cameos, though for full enjoyment talking to your partner is strongly advised.    
Valve manages to give the non speaking characters in the game plenty of personality.

It’s not all perfect though, throughout the game there are a lot of load times that can be very disruptive; especially during extended action sequences. Whilst the visual style is striking, with its use of colour and light juxtaposing both dank and clinical environments, Valve’s Source engine definitely shows it’s age with disappointing visuals. In the larger environments it is easy to lose sight of where you are going and it may take a while for you to work out what to do which breaks up the flow of the game.
The game's style is very attractive but when you are up close you can see how drab some of the textures are.

Overall Portal 2 overcomes any problems it has to be one of the greatest games of the year so far. The characters will keep you invested throughout the game, solving puzzles is extremely satisfying and the ability to play with a friend was a great inclusion. The recently released DLC for the game increases the length of the co op part of the game further and is just as well produced as the rest of the game; it’s a wonderful addition and for free. 

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