Portal 2 has finally landed on the doorsteps of many avid fans of Aperture Science and the folks at Valve. The game is finally a standalone and not part of a collection like the previous Portal game with a much more fleshed out story and gameplay mechanics then the predecessor. Another offering that is given to players is Online and splitscreen offline co-op that extends the gameplay and provides two unique ways to play. The sound is great, not many games can top Portal 2’s wit and it does look good to boot.
The most important part of Portal 2 is the gameplay. The core mechanics involve firing two portals that are linked to each other in different locations on special surfaces to solve puzzles that are presented by either the environment or A.I. These puzzles start out fairly simple and work their way into complex, mind bending and seemingly impossible puzzles. To everyone that has played the original game, the first half of the game should be straightforward and easy to solve but it is definitely not boring. As the game progresses you enter an area that will be very unfamiliar to past Portal enthusiasts and the puzzles get more mind bending. You will come across repulsion gel which lets you bounce, attraction gel which lets you move quickly and at one point you will be able to make your own portal surfaces. Along with all these gels there are always deadly lasers, turrets, bridges made of light and light tunnels. Within all these puzzles there are many secret rooms that are a great fan service to those who played the original and have seen the rat man lairs before as well as a few new secrets to discover about GLaDOS.
The graphics in this game are not as good as some of the heavy hitters that have surfaced in the last few months but they are not horrible either. At first they seem very conservative like the first portal but a bit aged with a little mess. As the rooms open up the scale becomes apparent and the vast improvements can be seen from the first game. Apart from the scale and the enhanced lighting the environment moves sometimes as you walk into it and the attention to detail is astonishing, all the little things that happen in the background really do make the world come alive. The final scene on the other hand looks so realistic that I at first thought it was a real video until the camera was turned around.
The spotlight of Portal 2 is definitely the writing and the audio. The witty comments made by GLAdOS and the hilarious remarks by Wheatley really stand out. You will be laughing quite a bit between puzzles and most likely want to hear more and more. The sounds are all done by location, so if you move away from the source it will go quiet even though you are in a training facility. There is some music at particular scenes, especially intense chases but there are a lot of quiet moments. By far my favourite sound effect is when using the “airial faith plates” or jump pads because it is very unexpected when the room is silent. The sound design is really well done and Valve had done a great job at writing something that has many twists and great lines of dialogue that aren’t even found on some sitcoms on TV.
The multiplayer is an extension of the single player and doubles the available playtime. The puzzles are not just the same ones as the single player repackaged for two players, they are completely new and twisted. The first few puzzles may be solved alone or using two controllers but very soon the puzzles will require timing and precision that can only be achieved with two people. The available multiplayer options are splitscreen which is great if you have friends over and online friends only so people with no friends won’t be able to see these mind bending puzzles since there is no matchmaking. The fact that there is no match making is a bit of a blessing because you can do gestures to your co-op buddy that may be annoying to the other player and without proper communication Portal 2 on co-op could possibly be the most miserable multiplayer experience ever but also one of the best around if you are good at conveying what needs to be done to the other person. For all those playing online voice communication is a must, I tried without a mic and the results were less then acceptable to be playable.
Portal 2 is a great puzzle game that doesn’t feel like a puzzle game and appeals to many players. Fans of the original will definitely get lost in the world and want more but new players can get just as engrossed. With good visuals and some of the wittiest story written for a video game it is easy to see why this game shines. The polish of the game is unmatched by almost any game that has been released in the last few months, there are no bugs that I have encountered while playing and no patches have been released on the first day. When Valve makes a game they give it 110% and it shows with every product they release especially Portal 2. The only complaint anyone can find about this game is that it isn’t long enough but only because you will want to keep playing, between the single player and co-op there are many hours of gameplay to be enjoyed but will fly right by because it is so much fun. So if you like a good puzzle game or like witty comments then definitely pick this up, if you don’t like a good puzzle game and witty comments then you should still pick this up.