Portal 2 Official Review
by Gauss


Basic Information:
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
North American Release Date: 4/19/2011
European Release Date: 4/21/2011
Trophies: Yes, 1 3 5 42


Overview
Portal 2 picks up right were Portal left off with Chell being taken away after destroying Glados in the first Portal game. Chell is then put in stasis for several years as the facility around her decays with the absence of Glados. Chell awakes with the help of Wheatley, a former personality sphere, with the desire to use her so they can both escape. The ensuing story has many twists, turns, humor and ends with a great song. Portal 2 also introduces a Co-op campaign with 2 robots who must embark on a mission for Glados.

Gameplay
The gameplay for Portal 2 is by in large the same as it was for Portal with multiple new mechanics added. At its heart Portal 2 is a FPS puzzle game, so all of the mechanics relate to new obstacles and tools to overcome those obstacles.


Some of the new gameplay elements are just cool

To the uninitiated, Chell, Atlas, and P-body all have access to a device which can create a pair of portals on certain surfaces. If the player walks into one portal, they will appear at the location of the other portal. The portals all obey the laws of physics in regard to conservation of momentum/energy/mass, and Glados provides a series of tests the player must undertake to progress in the story. The tests require the use of portals and physics to press buttons/unlock doors/destroy obstacles.

Portal 2 expands on this by adding additional obstacles and ways around them. Many of these are incredibly clever and can really create some great puzzles that are rewarding to solve. Things such as the hard-light bridge which is light packed down so tightly the player can walk on it, tunnels that re-align gravity, and gels that allow the player to run fast, jump high, or place portals on other surfaces.

These are all combined throughout both campaigns to result in gameplay that is rewarding and provides avenues for repeated play as some players will find better ways to solve the puzzles. Its simple and well-executed at its best.

Singleplayer
The singleplayer for Portal 2 takes place immediately after the events of Portal, atleast from the players perspective as several years were spent in stasis. After the opening cutscene and "calibration" section, Wheatley enters the picture in an attempt to get Chell out and escape. What follows is the eventual waking up of Glados and Chell being subjected through a round of tests same as in Portal.

The campaign will take Chell through several sections of the Aperture Science facility, including the original facility deep underground run by the voice recordings of Cave Johnson. The story isn't ground-breaking in terms of the ideas it presents or questions, and it isn't without flaw, but ultimately this singleplayer campaign is a great example of the type of potential the Portal universe has.


This game is full of humor and wit

Valve managed to take a game with Portal that had no real characters or narrative and turn it into a true story with fully developed characters like Glados and Wheatley that is full of humor from top to bottom without resorting to tired jokes (read: "Cake" jokes), while Chell follows in the footsteps of Freeman by having no speaking lines and strictly non-dialogue interaction. Its a great formula and Valve have proven their mastery of it because you, as a player, can really get lost in the events and feel immersed completely. The story is structured around you rather than through you, but is still driven by your actions.

Not to mention any ending that involves a corrupted personality core that utters the lines: "Better buy a telescope. Wanna see me. Buy a telescope. Gonna be in space." and "Space. Trial. Puttin' the system on trial. In space. Space system. On trial. Guilty. Of being in space! Going to space jail!" Has to be awesome. There are several other corrupted cores that are fun as well, but the Space Core steals the show.

Multiplayer
The multiplayer is much more like the original Portal. The two robotics, Atlas and P-body, aren't characters in the traditional sense and there is no real narrative, just a series of objectives with humor provided by Glados's comments throughout the tests. The co-op campaign's series of tests are spread out through 5 courses, with each course having a theme (ex: Mass and Velocity or Excursion Funnels) spread through all tests. At the end of each course there is a test outside the testing areas that involves the players retrieving an object for Glados.


The co-op robots: Atlas and P-Body

The co-op campaign is well worth playing too. These aren't just re-hashed puzzles from the single player campaign, the puzzles are unique and the co-op factor brings in a whole new level of problem solving and strategy. Valve also did something that is to truly be admired in this age of CoD's noob-tubes and massive unlocks, and that is make the multi-player strictly about skill and the long-term life of this multi-player will be found in player developed maps.

Sure there are some fun unlocks to be had on Steam, but this co-op campaign is not about getting that next level so you can put a silencer on your Portal gun. While that unlock and tiering system isn't inherently bad and does have its place, its refreshing when a game comes along like this where the multiplayer is just about multiplayer and the future is promised by the player community's ability to expand itself. While its unfortunate PS3 owners can't create levels without a PC, thanks to Steamworks PS3 owners will still benefit from the PC community's hard work.

That is something else worth noting here as well, cross-platform play exists in Portal 2, so you can play with all your Steam friends regardless of platform. Another brilliant idea by Valve since Sony is the one company without cross-platform restrictions.

Technical


The environment is very well designed, the dilapidated portions of the facility are particularly eye-catching

There really isn't much to say here negative. Valve always does a stellar job on the technical front, the game is rock solid and the environment design is spot-on. It feels like a science facility lost to years of environmental decay that is slowly being rebuilt after the revival of Glados.

Portal 2 also introduces something new to the PS3: Steamworks content. In Portal 2 you can play with any of the PSN or Steam friends and in the future additional content for Portal 2, such as user created levels or Valve-created add-ons, will come for free through Steamworks.

Trophies
Portal 2's platinum isn't incredibly difficult. There are a few trophies that will likely hang up players due to simple mistakes, such as Still Alive, and a few that players likely won't find without some aid from guides, such as Ship Overboard, but by in large this game is easily plat-able in a weekend with a few friends for the Co-op trophies.

Closing Thoughts
Portal 2 is a game that should be in your collection. Games of this quality and appeal are few and far between, and while this game is not perfect, it is a masterpiece and any complaints levied against it just feel like petty nit-picking. The story is simple, but full of humor and intrigue. The gameplay is simple, concise, and fun. The multiplayer is well-thoughtout, and for once the game will make you think.

Gameplay: 10/10
- For the type of game Portal 2 is, there are no flaws. The gameplay embraces simplicity and execution. The new elements are alot of fun and bring about a whole new dynamic to the puzzle solving.

Singleplayer: 10/10
- While the story isn't ground-breaking, it is endlessly entertaining and packed with humor. The single player campaign is a perfectly fun 8-10 hours. There are plenty of easter-eggs to find that will demand additional playthroughs.

Multiplayer: 10/10
- The co-op campaign is just brilliant. Its a completely unique experience that will take several hours on its own, and promises many more to come thanks to player created levels.

Technical: 10/10
- Valve always brings about great technical games, and in this case it is to be admired because of just how many places you can actually place portals.

Overall: 10/10 Epic