Portal 2 (The Late Review)

This was a triumph! I’m making a note here: huge success!
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction…

Even with Valve’s enviable (if somewhat rare) output, you’d be hard pressed to think they would be able to come up with something that could outshine Portal. That game, which launched with The Orange Box compilation back in 2007, was a physics based first person puzzler that wrapped up some really clever technology, including the famous portal gun, with the most entertainingly unexpected story and dialogue you could ever imagine. The only negative to it was you’d want more once you completed it.

Though Portal 2 had some pretty high expectations to meet, you can tell right away that the developers at Valve went all in this time and built out a game that no longer needs to be part of a compilation but can stand entirely on its own merits. Playing through the game now I’m actually happy to say it succeeds all of my expectations and delivers yet another entertaining experience. I obviously need my own head examined considering it’s taken me this long to finally play it.

Even the signs are worth reading… and there are a lot of them.

Unlike the first game, you don’t immediately find yourself in a test chamber which can nicely throw off your expectations of what the game is going to be. It’s this kind of bookending of key sections of the single player game which I think is a real boost to the overall story. It’s still very much in the vein of Portal with much inferred through the environment or partial conversation but it’s far more fleshed out this time around with what seems like a real world outside of the game. There’s also some clever nods to Half-Life 2 thrown in as well for those with keen eyes and ears.

Gameplay begins with you once again becoming familiar with your environment and also use of the portal gun. But as you progress further you’ll also get access to additional tools and materials that help add fresh challenges for the player to face. The task is always to find out how to get from point A to B (usually an exit) but the trick is to understand how that applies to the environment you are in and what is at your disposal. Kudos has to be given to the designers and artists for building levels in a way that have enough visual clues to assist you in finding solutions. There were times when I was stuck I’d just spend a few minutes looking around and would soon enough find something I had missed that would lead me to the correct solution.

But there’s no sense crying over every mistake.
You just keep on trying ’til you run out of cake.

One thing I really like about the game is just how much the movement of your character in the environment feels both consistent and predictable. You could be jumping through portals or gaining enough momentum through to be flung across a gap and it’s all entirely in line with your character’s capabilities and the expectations you’ve built up whilst playing the game. You might find that a gap looks as wide as a hole is deep so dropping one portal here and another over there suddenly turns you into a human cannonball and you’re now on your way to the next level. Getting those challenges solved quickly is a reward in itself.

The production values are great throughout the game with the designers pushing the Source Engine with huge open levels and plenty of neat details (I love the safety signs) but it’s the audio the elevates the game to a whole new level. Ellen McLain returns as GLaDOS but is also accompanied this time by Stephen Merchant and JK Simmons whose new characters each have significant contributions to the whole story while adding further twists that thankfully avoid being a repeat of the first game. I’ve genuinely looked forward to every moment that I got to hear something new from ANY of them. It has nothing to do with the gameplay but adds significantly to the experience​.

They may just be test chambers but you get mighty curious about what else must have been going on there.

Beyond the single player campaign there is also a cooperative mode which has two players assuming the roles of robots Atlas and P-Body who are each armed with their own portal guns. The narrative even ties in with the campaign which is a nice touch that shows the extra care that Valve has put into the whole game. It’s a welcome bonus that lets players find out what it’d be like to have more than one person running around with “a neat gun”.

It’s been over six years now since Portal 2 first arrived and it still stands tall as being one of the best ever examples of what Valve did back when they were still interested in making games. For a company with such a high hit rate with great games it hard to think that they’ve walked away on making more but that’s what they did and that might be the one sole disappointment of this game… That there won’t be more of it in the future.

I’ve experiments to run. There is research to be done.
On the people who are still alive.

Portal 2 is out now for PC, Xbox 360 (backward compatible with Xbox One) and PlayStation 3. Reviewed on Xbox One.

8 replies »

  1. Portal 2 is just a great all around game. The beauty of it that I’ve seen (besides the fun of playing it myself) is that everyone I’ve seen exposed to it has been interested. This includes non-gaming family that still have fun with the simplicity of the game, yet challenging application of the puzzles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve been surprised with how many people have played the game. When I mentioned what I was playing at my work, suddenly everyone was talking about companion cubes. 😉

      I’d say the puzzles in Portal 2 are a massive improvement over the original game. The difficulty curve feels much gentler and there’s no rooms that require any first person gymnastics that may be beyond the average player. Still can’t believe it has taken me this long to play it! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. When this game came out i was 10 and i never herd of portal 1 before but when i saw portal 2 i really liked the color the graphics and the story line to it but the further i got into the game i got stuck a lot on it so what i would do is i would go on youtube and watch a person play the map i was on then i would repeat what i saw i finished the game i believe a few months later and speeding up to now i’m 16 and i still remember the game like it was yesterday but what i really wished what i saw in the game was that the player and Wheatley should of escaped the place not just wake up Glados he then taking her body then trying to kill you i kind of felt a bit let down on that part but the elevator scene did make me feel a bit better especially when she tells you “You know being Caroline taught me a valuable lesson i thought you were my biggest enemy when all along you were my best friend” but also here’s a theory i found quite a while ago some believe that Glados IS Caroline because cave made a comment in the old apature and said something along the lines of “If i die before you can pour me into a computer i want Caroline to run this place now she’ll argue she’ll say she can’t but you MAKE her. Hell Pour her into my computer I don’t care” Then that was the final message. And even before that Glados would constantly repeat everything Caroline would say in the recordings and then act confused as to wondering why she was saying that. Glados later mentioned that the scientists (In Portal 1) Put cores on her to regulate her behavior and then she says how she herd voices all her life. When Glados was first made she kept on trying to kill the scientists and they had to keep shutting her down but from what i believe the scientists took Caroline and by force was locked her into a machine and she couldn’t escape and soon later on she was “Put” into the machine which would explain why she has a murderous personality she was mad that she was murdered and then forced to live in a body that pretty much can’t die then when she mentioned the voices part it looks like those cores kept feeding their data into her head just to prevent her from hearing herself (If you know about the game portal prelude you would know about the morality core the first one and how that one was the most important piece of her) Glados over time in her potato form starts to show an almost human side and when she soon saves the player she lies and says Caroline lives in her brain when she is Caroline. There was something about Glados being Chell’s mother but that would be for something else all together.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your comments! 🙂 (spoilers incoming!) There’s definitely a lot of comments made by Cave Johnson and later GLADOS during the game to suggest Caroline had her mind put into a machine after Cave became too sick. Having that storyline develop over time really helps the game avoid trying to be too much like the previous one… even if you still end up being a guinea pig for a murderous AI!

    Liked by 1 person

    • But at the same time when Glados Realized She is Caroline she knew chell couldn’t stay in the facility anymore because Glados made a comment saying “Killing you is hard” which can be interpreted in many ways but from my point she was saying she can’t kill chell because chell is her daughter when Glados finishes she says not to come back then there’s a song the Turret’s was singing and that song is called “Cora mia Addio” and from the translation Glados is calling chell her girl and her baby and her child and why shouldn’t she walk far away. But thankfully our version of portal 3 is Portal stories mel

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