The day gamers have been waiting years for has finally arrived; Portal 2 is now available in stores. Picking up where the first title left off you will, once again, assume the role of Chell. After the conclusion of the first game, Chell was dragged back into Aperture Science and now you have to make your way through a destroyed facility. In the beginning you wake up in what is essentially your prison cell and, after following some quick instructions, you are introduced to one of the new characters in Portal 2, Wheatley. Wheatley is voiced by Stephen Merchant and he does a terrific job. The amount of dialogue in this game is pretty impressive. At the beginning of the game Wheatley is knocking at the door and I just hung back for a few minutes to see what he would say. He had a bunch of funny comments that I don’t want to ruin here, including trying to talk to me in Spanish. The voice acting is superb throughout this title and the level of enthusiasm that Mr. Merchant brought to this brand new character really works out well.
After the opening sequence you find yourself in some familiar surroundings. As you make your way through the test chambers Wheatley will help you out whenever he can. The writing in this game is brilliant and I laughed quite a few times at the comments throughout the game. Towards the beginning of the game there was an instance where you had to put Wheatley in a certain spot so that he could hack the Aperture Science computers. The funny part is that Wheatley won’t do anything if you are looking at him. He claims that he can’t do it with you watching him so you have to turn your back to him before he will hack the computer and open up the path to go forward. The humor throughout the game is fantastic. If you enjoyed all of the commentary that you heard in the original Portal then you will definitely enjoy all of the remarks and the personality that each character displays in Portal 2.
As everyone knows, the original Portal title was part of the Orange Box. I know there were some initial concerns about how Valve could turn Portal 2 into a title that could stand on its own and I am happy to say that it is a huge success. The game is also much bigger this time around and should take you a little while to get through. From the instant you start playing Portal 2 you immediately feel at home, while at the same time everything feels new with all of the toys that Valve has come up with. One of the first things that you are introduced to is the Thermal Discouragement Beam. These are beams that you need to manipulate in such a way that they will hit one specific spot that will open up the path going forward. The way that you control the beam is by using a new companion cube that lets you harness the beam and point it in whatever direction you want. This is also a very effective tactic in taking out pesky turrets as well as hitting switches that will open up locked doors. You also have new gels that take the puzzles in Portal to a whole new level. There is the Repulsion Gel which helps you jump higher and the Propulsion Gel which makes you move a lot faster. Then there is the Excursion Funnels which help you transport various items (including yourself) and the Faith Plates that will have you soaring through the air. These are all wonderful additions to the Portal franchise and they help keep everything feeling fresh so that you don’t get bored.
The puzzles in Portal 2 can be just as devious as the original, if not harder. Utilizing all of the gadgets that I outlined above, Valve has done a masterful job of developing some really challenging, mind bending puzzles while at the same time you always feel like you are just one move away from solving it. It should go without saying that the puzzles get harder as you go along and once you reach a certain part of the story, everything changes. As you progress, and in addition to Wheatley and Glados, you will hear pre-recorded messages from back in the day when Aperture Sciences was thriving. In a similar vein, there is developer commentary that you can turn on as well and you can hear various insights from the development team about what they were thinking when they created the puzzle you are currently trying to solve and various things of that nature. There is also a new zoom feature that will really come in handy for puzzles that are in huge spaces. Being able to zoom in a little bit gives you the ability to see if there is a tiny space on the far away wall where you can put a portal and will allow you to do it accurately.
Of course, the single player campaign is only one part of the game. You can play Portal 2 co-operatively either via split screen or across the internet via Xbox Live, PSN or Steam. The PlayStation 3 version features cross platform gameplay and chat, allowing PS3 owners to play alongside their PC counterparts. With the release of Portal 2 comes Steamworks to the PlayStation Network and every version of Portal 2 for the PlayStation 3 will come with the PC version of Portal 2 for free. In order to take advantage of this great deal you have to link your PlayStation Network account with your Steam account and then enter the Steam code you get with your PS3 version. I was impressed with how easily this was to do and how smoothly everything went. Is it possible for Sony to hire Valve to handle the duties as it relates to the PlayStation Network? Sony can’t even give us cross game chat on the PlayStation Network and then Valve comes along and gives everyone cross platform chat between the PlayStation 3 and the PC. Valve has really done a remarkable job in all aspects here.
The co op mode itself (regardless of platform) is an entirely new campaign that features two robots, P-body and Atlas. This is completely separate from the single player campaign and, as such, you have to think completely differently. Teamwork is essential to successfully solve the puzzles. Each player retains their ability to create two different portals, which means that there can be a total of four portals in co op mode. To help you and your partner work effectively, Valve put in a ping tool. By utilizing this tool you can demonstrate what you want your partner to do. If there is a specific spot on a wall that you want your partner to place a portal, then you can highlight the area to show them exactly where to put it. If you are at a part where you both need to flip a switch at the same time you have a countdown tool that counts down from three to help make sure you both press your respective switches at the same time. You will obviously encounter much more difficult puzzles then that as these are just a couple of examples. I really liked how much thought Valve put into this mode and how they made it simultaneously challenging and fun. In addition to those tools you also have some cooperative game gestures that you can utilize. These don’t affect the game in any way but they can be fun little distractions and you will get some achievements by doing them. There is even one achievement that you will get if you beat your co op partner three times in a row at the game “rock, paper, scissors”. You can also view whatever your partner is seeing at any time by holding down the “Y” button. This is another tool that can be used to show your partner where to go or a specific spot to put the companion cube.
Overall, Portal 2 is an absolutely amazing title. Everyone (including myself) was disappointed when Portal 2 was delayed earlier this year, however, it was more than worth the wait. Portal 2 is a masterpiece that I can see myself playing for years. The only downside for console gamers is that Valve seems to have put more into the PC version. The PC version allows you to customize your co-op bots by buying them different gear, gestures and things of that nature. It should be noted that the gestures PC players purchase will not be seen by PlayStation 3 gamers if a PS3 gamer is playing co op with a PC gamer. There are also some of the trailers that Valve has released leading up to Portal 2. Additionally, there is an interactive “trailer” for an upcoming game. These extra features are great for PC gamers, however, it would have been nice to see them on the console versions as well. Portal 2 is one of those titles that needs to be in every gamer’s library. You owe it to yourself to experience this masterpiece and revel in the joy that is brought about by playing it. I can’t wait to see what Valve comes up with next within the Portal universe.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network