“Portal 2” – Game Review

First-person Puzzle-Based Platform Game.
Available for Mac, Windows, Xbox 360, PS3.

Portal 2 is the sequel to Game Developers Choice Awards’ 2008 game of the year, Portal; both developed by Valve. It was one of the most eagerly anticipated Video Games of 2011 and has been met with high praise. Put simply, this game follows a similar idea to its predecessor; using the “Portal Gun” the player creates entry and exit holes in space, and puzzles require the use of said gun. This idea and the game’s use of physics create a brilliantly fun environment and the many puzzles make for an addictive and usually challenging experience.

The plot of Portal 2 very much follows on from that of Portal; the “Aperture Science Enrichment Centre” has been inactive for years and your character is awoken from the stasis she was placed in at the end of Portal. Years have passed, and you are immediately greeted by a “Personality Core”; a small spherical robot called Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant. Wheatley proceeds to assist in your escape from the centre as things continue to get worse and worse for your character.

Stephen Merchant’s voice acting of “Wheatley” is nothing short of perfection, with a key pivotal role in the plot and some of the funniest quotes seen in a video game, such as “You might have a very minor case of serious brain damage” and “I’m going to have to hack the door so that we can get at it, technical…, you’ll need to turn around while I do this *smash* Done! Hacked!”. Other noteworthy voice actors are Ellen McLain and J.K.Simmons, voicing characters GLaDOS and CEO Cave Johnson, both of which bring a high level of dark, insulting and ridiculous humour.

Moving onto the visual aspects, the design of the game is of a very high standard, particularly on the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, but for similar results, a high-end graphics PC or Mac is essential. The only worry potential customers may have is “Isn’t it going to be just like the first Portal but with more puzzles?”, and although you will no doubt notice the similarity between the two, Portal 2 is a definite improvement in graphics and plot, not to mention game mechanics, with the introduction of movable Hard Light bridges/barriers, propulsion Gel allowing firm surfaces to become bouncy, excursion funnels which act as moveable tubes of anti-gravity, and more. And yes, you will be seeing a vast amount of puzzles, but their innovation makes for non-repetitive game play, not to mention some annoyingly difficult challenges, but all focused to an end by a captivating storyline and constant background humour.

As well as this impressive single player Campaign, the game also features a 2 player co-op story line in which two highly dispensable robots Atlas and Peabody are put through constant testing of the Portal Gun and its newer functions; solving complex puzzles requiring teamwork, communication, a good physical visualisation and, above all, patience! This 2 player co-op mode is a genius inclusion to the game and comes with a lot more insulting humour from GLaDOS.

Overall, I was even more impressed with this game than I expected to be. The first Portal was highly original, and the use of “portals” was by far the best aspect of the game, however in Portal 2 the use of portals and the new added physics and game mechanics aren’t the only aspects that have me loving this game; the graphics were impressive, the plot genuinely seems important, and it has probably some of the best comedy in a video game I have ever seen. The only aspects of this game I didn’t like were some of the puzzles, although often very challenging, required little thought – perhaps puzzles containing irrelevant equipment might have made for less predictable solutions – and the game lacks ‘replay-ability’, as now that the storylines are finished I have no reason to continue playing. However, PC and Mac versions offer “Mods”, user created content that can be patched into the game to create more playable content.



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