Apologies for those have been waiting for a new review, I've been working with some people over at the PS3 Crowd on a bi-monthly podcast. I've got to a point where I feel it's time to get back to writing a review, and what better way to make a comeback than with a review of Portal 2?
It's difficult to discuss the story in any way without giving out any form of story spoiler, but i'll do my best.
For a start there are two stories in this game, one for single player and the other for the Co-operative game.
The single player carries on a long time after the original Portal (Available as part of the Orange Box). Players reprise the role of Chell the female test subject as she awakens from a long period of suspended animation. Chell gets woken up by a small computer core called Wheatley - Voiced by Stephen Merchant - he informs her that something has gone wrong within the facility and all of the other test subjects have died, he goes on to explain that the facility is being evacuated and states that he will help her to get out, but it will mean going through the building where GLaDOS was defeated, sure enough GLaDOS is brought back online and wishes to continue with her testing, this is where single player Portal 2 begins.
In the Co-op story, GLaDOS - Voiced by Ellen McLain - has created two test robots called Atlus and P-Body, they are designed to be a replacement for humans in the portal testing initiative and must work together to complete various tests while at the same time working towards the ulterior motive for the homicidal computer.
Throughout the story modes, the player(s) will encounter Aperture Science test chambers from multiple decades, going back to the initial tests being run by the founder of the company back in the seventies, the game gives the player enough information to piece together events in the past of the company and when added to the story of the first Portal really give a good insight as to how and why GLaDOS got to where she is today.
If you've never played the first Portal - shame on you - you may not understand what all the fuss is about.
Portal 2 is a first-person puzzle game, taking elements from the FPS genre, your character carries the "Aperture Science Hand-Held Portal Device" and uses it to create . . . yes you guessed it, Portals!
The main portal device can create two portals, one blue and one orange. Walking through one will instantly let you exit from the other one, this allows the player to get from one side of a room to another in an instant.
This portal device really shows where the game shines, the physics engine behind the portals works incredibly well, working to the premise of "Speedy thing goes in, Speedy thing comes out" the player is tasked with traversing various rooms using only the portal gun and the occasional helpful box, these boxes can be used to hold down buttons to open doors, move platforms or activate switches.
Portal 2 also includes a few new toys in the form of gels, these blob of orange, blue and white goo are able to aid the player in new ways, either by speeding up the player, allowing them to bounceor to just create a new surface to place portals on. There are lasers that may need bending with prisms to hit switches and also bridges made of solid beams of light to help the player get around.
There are some challenges that don't rely on portals however, these come in the form of sentry turrets, these soft-voiced little white tripods will kill anything that crosses their path, usually with little to no warning of their attack.
As anyone who has played the first Portal will know, this isn't a game with large open environments, various enemy models or varied landscapes. The entirety of Portal and it's sequel is all played in an underground facility, stark walls, muddy death pits and the occasional office building are all you will see here, and that's enough.
There has been an overhaul to the aesthetics of the game though, the iconic enemy turrets now look a lot smoother, the portal effect is sharper and overall you can see that Valve have put a lot of work into making the game look just right.
When you do see yourself or another player on screen, they are well animated and very detailed, this is especially apparent when you look at the Co-op characters.
All that being said, Portal has never really been about the graphics, it has and will always be the setting, gameplay and humour. Fluid animation helps but it's only a small part of the product.
As already mentioned, the sound in Portal is where it's at. The majority of the story is delivered via audio from either GLaDOS or from the founder of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson - voiced by J.K. Simmons.
Every line is delivered to perfection with the right mix of humour, sarcasm and in some cases fear as they all work together to deliver a well written, witty and dark story.
The sound design in Portal 2 is very good overall, the portal device sounds as futuristic as you would expect, the turrets speak softly, sounding polite and even remorseful when they open fire and the atmospheric music is exactly that.
As players of the first game would also expect, the music that plays during the end credits is witty and well worth the wait, at time of writing I'm not sure if it's better than "Still Alive" but it definitely grows on you.
If a flaw had to be found in Portal 2, it's that it still feels a bit short, especially for the full-title price-tag, aside from trophy hunting or searching out every last possible easter egg hidden within the game, there's very little replay value.
My other issue with the title is the pacing, the opening is fast and feels just right, the same can be said for the last few levels, but there's a section in the middle where the game seems to drag, this may be because you are not simply moving from chamber to chamber as you were for the majority of the first title, but you are in fact having to traverse a run down section of the building to get to the next test chamber. These moments, though rare can be infuriating as very little is said to the player during this time.
Much like the first title, Portal 2 is a game that should be played at least once, just for the experience of it if nothing else. Although the game is short at the moment, Valve have announced their first planned DLC which will be due in the summer. This DLC will be free for all players, and while nothing has been said yet, it's believed it will take the form of challenge rooms requiring the player to get through tests with the fastest time, fewest portal placements or fewest steps.
Another point to note is that the PS3 version of Portal 2 gives players the PC version for free, this also links your PS3 to a Steam account and then allows the PS3 player to play online Co-op with PC and Mac users (Including cross-platform voice chat).
In all honesty although the title is short, it's a must have game, there are so few games around that try something new and Valve's Portal series is definitely one of those titles.
A fantastic title that meets the high expectations created by the first game, while short, it's worth every penny.