Portal 2 Review

Portal 2 Review

Portal, the original game from Valve, busted onto the scene and immediately became a fan favourite among PC gamers for its clever concept. The clever puzzles, fun gameplay, and amazingly entertaining story made it a huge hit. Not bad for a game that lasted the average player about 2-3 hours; Valve is back with the sequel, Portal 2, supposedly a fully realized game as compared to the indie gem that was included in The Orange Box. The question is simple: is this sequel as good as the first? Hopefully it's better, so why not sit down and let's find out together.

Let’s dive into the story first. GLaDOS is alive! That's not a spoiler, really, it's been mentioned as early as the first debut trailer. You take control of Chell, the test subject from the first game who had been locked away for a long time in the Aperture Science research facility. With the help of an accident prone robot named Wheatley, the two set off to escape the facility and avoid GLaDOS at all costs. However, their plan backfires and she is inadvertently woken from her dormant state. Suffice it to say, after you killed her in the first game, she has quite the chip on her shoulder. The game takes you through the normal trials and tests that the first one did, but shortly after, you’re thrown into in the bowels of the facility where you learn all about the history of Aperture and its CEO, Cave Johnson. From there on, the story just gets crazier and revealing much more would give too much away. To put it simply, the experience is pretty darn fantastic.

With that said, what's fantastic isn't so much the story as that has remained exactly the same as the first, if not quite non-existent, but the script and the writing is what makes this adventure so entertaining. The first Portal did a great job with the characterization and the writing. Portal 2 is no exception to this. In fact, for those concerned that the sequel was simply going to use old references the entire time, rest assured, it doesn't. Portal 2 has a fresh approach with its characters, both old and new. Wheatley is quite possibly the most entertaining little robot you'll ever encounter apart from GLaDOS, who is back and will undoubtedly troll players every step of the way. Throw in Aperture Science CEO Cave Johnson and you have a pretty comical dynamic as dialogues flip between hilarious prompts, witty insults and corporate jargon. It's safe to say that you will be extremely hard pressed to find a script that is more entertaining than this.

Let’s face it, as great as the script and story may be, that’s not the only reason we picked this game up, so let’s talk gameplay. For newcomers, the concept is relatively simple. You have one weapon, the portal gun. It fires two different portals: an entrance and an exit. The entire game rests entirely on this mechanic. The gun basically creates wormholes, letting you get to places normally out of reach by traditional means. The controls are simple: run, jump, and shoot the portal gun. Sounds simple, but throw in moving panels, lasers, physics-modifying gels, pathways of light that can set your hair on fire, and you have a formula for some interesting puzzle elements. The difficulty curve was nice and gentle all the way through. Puzzles can be challenging, but not impossible.

What's new to Portal 2 is the inclusion of elements like gels and light pathways. You can use these to your advantage to speed your way through a chamber, warp a path to a high-reaching button or even use it to block a jump that might just be too high. The usual platforming and laser tripping returns as well, where players are usually charged with triggering a switch with a laser or by placing an object on a button to open up a door, all of which can be solved just by using portals. In addition, players will inevitably come face to face with the good old sentry turrets. Getting around them is as interesting and entertaining as before, although there aren't as many instances.

It's no doubt that Portal 2 resembles the art style from the Half-Life series, and the original Portal had a big dose of it in there as well. Portal 2, however, maintains a distinguishable atmosphere, one that feels like you are in this super clean research facility, even though it's gone down the gutter. Automated panels that remove debris, white walls, simplistic architecture, it all screams cleanliness. It's a solid improvement over the first game and treats the setting with good respect.


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