October 2007; Valve release The Orange Box. A compilation of games including Half-Life 2 along with Episodes One & Two, Team Fortress 2, and an unassuming game called Portal. Little did Valve know that this game would be one of the most popular games for a long long tim and spawning countless amounts of internet memes, thanks to GlaDOS, cake and lying.
Just under 3 years later, there was an update to the PC version of Portal via Steam with an update which “Changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations”. What did that mean? Buggered if I know, but millions of PC players around the globe were now immersed in the Portal ARG (Alternate Reality Game), which eventually revealed that Portal will have a sequel, and will now include a co-op mode. Sweet! I wonder if there will be more cake?
So onto Portal 2 we go! Having loved the original game, I (along with a crap-load of other gamers) was really, really looking forward to this sequel. Not only to you have portals to deal with, you now have to contend with Thermal Discouragement Beams, Arial Faith Plates and Mobility Gels, along with the usual suspects such as turrets, toxic pools and of course, our old friend GLaDOS. Who we killed in the last game. To say she’s pissed is a little understatement!
Before I go into how Portal 2 starts, you may want to see the following clip (this is assuming you have played the original game at some point). This is the update to the original Portal on the PC and will explain how, after destroying GLaDOS in the original game, you end up back at Aperture Science…
Depending on how much of a nerdist you are, there is also an online comic that you can read which explains a few happenings inbetween the two games, which you can read by clicking here. Now you know how you end up asleep in the Aperture Science Extended Relaxation Centre, I can explain how the game goes on!
You are woken up by a voice asking you to perform various tasks before going back to sleep again. This portion just gives you the opportunity to get to grips with the controls of the pad and something to do before the games starts proper, which comences with your new best friend, Wheatley, knocking on the door and giving you a quick update to what’s going on. After a few minutes of, “helping” you stay alive, you are now back in the familiar test chambers seen in the original game, albeit a little older, damaged and plant overgrowth throught the building. Suffice to say, you’ve been alseep for a long time!
I’m not going to go much further into the story and spoil it for you, but basically, you have top escape from a a complex which is literally falling in on itself, with Wheatly trying to help you along the way. Revisiting some test chambers which look remarkably like some of the ones from the original games, they have some new ways to get through them and onto the next chamber. I’m assuming you’ve seen the release videos that Valve have released, you’ll know that you’re going to come across your old buddy GLaDOS. You remember her right? The computer you had to destroy in the last game? Yeah, she’s back, a little angry, and wants to put you back in the test chambers that she’s had knocking around for the last 9,9,9,9,9….9 days!
These new chambers also come with new challenges, such as the previously mentioned Thermal Discouragement Beams and Arial Faith Plates. The beams will need to be re-directed with the use of new cubes which are now lovingly called Weighted Pivot Cubes, which you’ll use to re-direct the beams which in turn activate various actions around the test chambers, like opening doors or dropping more cubes etc etc…
This pretty much sets the tone for the remainder of the game, but it just doesn’t get boring at all. The challenges are as great as they were in Portal, and still makes you use them parts of the brain that you never know you had! Even more so with the introduction of the Mobility Gels. You’ll first get to use these in the forgotten lower levels of the Aperture Science complex, where you’ll also get to hear from the company’s founder; Cave Johnson (voiced by actor J. K. Simmons). As you progress through these lower levels in your quest to escape, you’ll become aquainted with these three different type of gels.
The first Gel is the blue Repulsion Gel, which give you the ability to bounce higher than you normally would. The higher you jump onto it, the higher it will send you. It can be used to bounce youself of walls too.
Next up is the Propulsion Gel. This should be quite self explanatory, but just in case it isn’t; it makes you run faster. And it’s orange!
The final gel is white, and it’s know as Conversion Gel. Once you’ve splatted this stuff everywhere you can, it gives you the ability to place portals anywhere you like on the newly gelled surfaces. It’s made from ground up Moon rocks dontcha know!
I’m trying very hard not to spoil this story for you, and I’m also resisting the temptation to nerd out on this game too. I’ll just get onto telling you what I think of the game now…
Graphically, it’s impressive. Even more so that the Source Engine that Valve used to make the game has been around since Half-Life Two (originally released in 2004), and has been updated on a regular basis ever since. In my view, it isn’t showing its age at all, despite the fact that most other developers would be throwing away their old engines and starting again from scratch.
Gameplay-wise, it’s brilliant. Spot on. Perfect. The challenges are hard enough for you to get a little frustrating, but then the realisation of the solution just comes to you in a flash. Then you sit there for a while berating yourself for about five minutes, wondering why you didn’t think of that solution 10 minutes earlier (there were times I had been stuck on a level for at least an hour). Many shouts of “you thick bastard” where heard in my household for a few days…
The storyline and atmosphere in this game are great! The actors used are absolutly perfect for the roles that they have been chosen for, and even GLaDOS (voiced by opera singer Ellen McLain in both games) can surprise you with some of her emotional outbursts during the single player campaign. Hearing Wheatley voiced by Stephen Merchant was just brilliant. A fantastic job. All the actors in this game make sure they pummel you will all kind of emotions throughout the game, and make you feel right at home. In most cases.
Now, the co-op compaign. I cant really tell you much about this just yet, as I haven’t had much chance to get to grips with it, having no bugger to play it with except my wife. Who, by here own admission, isn’t great at game playing! I will get around to playing the co-op proper and when I have done it, I will add to this review and let you know my thoughts!
Another thing, Sony & the PS3 gets it’s own version of Steam and cross-platform play with PC & Mac users. Why not bring this to the Xbox 360? I suspect this has something to do with Microsoft being…Microsoft. I am dissapoint.
Basically, get this game. Buy it. Play it. Love it. One of the best games I’ve played in a very long time!
And with DLC on it’s way soonish, I’ll one of the first in line to get it! Single player or co-op, I’ll be there!
Oh, and just because I can…