Portal 2. Does it hold a candle (on a lying cake) to the original?
To all about to read the following review, I will be spoiling some plot points in reviewing this game.
Game -Portal 2
Platform -Windows PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Price – $49.95 (Steam price for PC copy, in US currency)
Portal was the game that caught every gamer off-guard and make them realize that games didn’t need millions of dollars or a epic forty hour story to be great. It proved that a simple gameplay concept, coupled with great characterization and a simple story could be combined to one of the best games ever made.
Portal was critically and commercially successful and still remains as the pinnacle of gaming to many but to be brutally honest, Portal 2 does not live up to it’s predecessor’s high standard.
This review has been preempted by many other reviewers heaping praise and high scores upon this title while the gamers have been critical of the lack of a real game, describing it as Portal 1 with a different story. This is being kind. Portal 2 is Valve’s attempt to remake Portal with an expanded story, more characters and bigger laughs while watering down the essential element which made the game fun. Gameplay before story.
Portal 2 starts in a rather disjointed fashion if you have not played Portal 1 in the last two months before launch. Events have changed to create the opening for Portal 2 and left me scratching my head until someone had explained to me why things had changed. From waking up in a single room apartment, you feel much like the character. Unsure of what’s going on and why you are there, the only hint being the statement over a loudspeaker stating you are in ‘Involuntary holding’ and left to move around, then sleep again. After waking to find that the room has decayed and aged by many years (at least a decade of degradation by my eye) A new character, Wheatley wakes you and tells you he plans to escape from Aperture labs and he needs your help. From there, you are dropped into the start of the first game with vines and vegetation overgrowing the same areas you encountered in the first game.
From here, shit hits the circular air agitator when GLADOS (the villain from the previous portal game) is woken up and you end up having to solve puzzles until you can break away from her. After a very big twist to the game, you end up exploring the former Aperture labs that were hidden underneath the factory you were in minutes before. This moment is the reason I played the game and finished it. As far as story goes, this is where it really became something excellent.
In the closed off basement, miles deep in the ground. You find the original Aperture Labs which were started in the late 50’s to early 60’s with the voice of the creator and owner Cave Johnson to talk you though the varied things you find. This is where the game really hits a stride. Cave Johnson is funnier than GLADOS in the original portal and as you move through the labs, going from the retro 60’s to the late 70’s in design of the offices to technology, you hear the aging of Cave become evident with many unasked questions being answered.
I won’t ruin the game for those who wish to play it but be prepared to slog out for a few hours in the game before it finds a definable element to make it worthwhile. A real shame that it took three hours for me to want to play the game.
The actual gameplay of the game is a carbon copy of the original. Slightly faded and with a few drawn in lines for you to see the original gameplay but still very much the same. New additions like the fluid systems do change up how you will approach the puzzles but tend to be very easy as they have only one function that slots into the solution so quickly, there are no moments like the original where you may find it a brain bender.
Voice acting in this game is of the solid gold, valve standard. With Steve Merchant playing Wheatley and JK Simmonds as Cave Johnson, there are some moments in the game where the voice acting really brings you into the game but some of the lines are let down by having it become obvious that the writers were attempting to live up to some high expectations with black comedy. GLADOS still peppers her comments with a throwaway stab at your character but become predictable until the aforementioned twist where she becomes relate able (to a small degree)
The engine for the game is still the Source engine, made and used for all valve titles but even with the amazing art direction and some really interesting architecture, the game does start to show the aging engine when particular effects seem lacking when compared to more recently released games.
With these things, Co-op was included as it’s own defined title. Not just walking through the original game with another character, this is it’s own game with new maps, puzzles and twists to be found. Unfortunately, due to lack of time and being unable to find someone to play with, I cannot bring to you a feeling for this part of the game. All mentions of this part of the game have been positive with it adding a extra five to six hours of gameplay but will allow you to see some of the concurrent events from the single player game reflected into this co-op story.
As a final impression, The game is worth playing if you enjoyed the original portal but if this is a new title that you are considering, purchase the original Portal for $20 on steam and give it a run first. If you want more of the same, then grab the title but this game is not worth the full price currently asked.
The Scarecrow is a writer and trivia buff from Brisbane. Stories retold about his life are 99% fiction and have less than 6 grams of fat.