Saturday, April 23, 2011

Portal 2

Here we are, nearly 4 years later, and Portal 2 has hit the shelves for our consumption. In 2007, Valve wowed the gaming world with Portal - a short, first-person shooter/ platformer/ puzzle-solver hybrid game. The player took on the role of Chell, a test subject working for Aperture Science Laboratories. Under the close watch and guidance of a omniscient supercomputer called GLaDOS, Chell was made to move through logical obstacle courses with the aid of a portable portal generator device. Along the way she used weighted storage cubes to open doors via large buttons, and the two-way portal gun to zip around the testing arena. As the game progressed, the tests became more difficult, and Chell began to realize that GLaDOS was not completely sane. At one point, the supercomputer lured Chell into a certain death-trap; however, by now the player was quite adept at making quick portal placing decisions and escaped into the service areas of the lab. GLaDOS continued in her attempts to kill the player; but ultimately, Chell reached GLaDOS' chamber and dismantled her. In the ensuing explosion, Chell was knocked out and dragged away by some unknown figure without ever getting the cake that was promised her.

Fast forward to 2011. Portal 2 is released after a clever and highly successful promotional campaign including free play of the original and YouTube videos showing the new game play elements. The story in Portal 2 picks up an undetermined amount of time after the end of the original. Once again, the player takes up the role of Chell, who has been in a prolonged state of stasis since her defeat of GLaDOS. It is never explained in-game how she wound up in her room; however there is an online comic that bridges the gap between the games called Lab Rat. I suggest checking it out. Chell is awakened by the whole facility rumbling, she is introduced to a morality core named Wheatley, a bumbling incompetent fool. Right from the start, players are introduced to the major tone of the game: humor. Much of the dialogue is humorous, just like in the original Portal; however there are more voices besides GLaDOS this time around. Among the characters appearing in voice are Wheatley, Cave Johnson - Aperture's CEO, and GLaDOS. While avoiding spoilers I will attempt to explain the awesomesauce of the game.

While trying to escape the facility, Wheatly and Chell inadvertently awaken GLaDOS who was in a deep slumber - a sleep mode if you will. The vindictive computer then sends Chell back into the testing grounds, where she must go through tests even more difficult than before. Through her journey she will discover the origins of Aperture and abandoned sections of the lab. She will move through antiquated structures as well as the sleek futuristic ones familiar to players of the original. The plot is much more expansive; and just when the player thinks it's over, it's just beginning. On the whole, Portal 2's story is almost 2.5 times longer than that of the original. Delving the player deep into the world of Aperture science and why GLaDOS is the way she is.

Among the many new gameplay elements are hard light beams which can be used a bridges or walls, excursion tunnels which are like tractor beams, thermal discouragement beams - your standard deadly laser, and aerial faith plates which catapult the player and objects high into the air. These in combination with the cubes and portal gun add a whole new dimension to the puzzle-solving game. Of course the polite turrets make a return as well, and have a much bigger part than before as Chell moves through the bowels of Aperture Science Laboratories in her attempt to escape.

Along with the standard single-player story, Portal 2 also features an extensive multiplayer campaign. Players can connect either through their respective online networks (X-Box Live, PSN, etc) or through Steam on either PC or Mac to play with each other, or two players can play on the same system with split-screen co-op. The co-op storyline is separate from the single-player campaign (completing one is not required to play the other) While they are not directly linked, each mode is referenced during the other which does add to some form of cohesiveness to the overall game. In co-op, players will take control of two robots, Atlas and P-Body, who like Chell, are forced to test endlessly; however, unlike Chell, they cannot die. Oh, they can be destroyed, but players are not forced to restart from a checkpoint each time they are. The robots are instantly respawned close by, but their portals vanish. Vocal communication is not required to play co-op as the players can communicate with bot gestures such as waves, high fives, etc. or by using a marker they can place which is visible to the other player. Each bot also has a 2-way portal device, which enables the use of 4 total portals open at one time. Many of the tests require as many to successfully complete. In other words, 2 players are required. You cannot simply delve in by yourself. (actually I've been playing by myself using 2 controllers - some of the test are quite difficult like this, because timing needs to be perfect between the two bots to attain victory. Along the way, GLaDOS will taunt you, but admit that the two of you are forming an excellent partnership. This co-op campaign is also 2.5 times longer than the original Portal, making Portal 2 around 5 times longer than its predecessor.

Humor and logic fill the screen as Chell, or Atlas and P-Body run the gauntlet under the thumb of GLaDOS. Of course, there's a lot more to the game that I'm not telling. It is truly a sequel that surpasses the original in scope, plot, action, humor, and challenge. A must-play game. I love games that make you think. I've played through quite a few times already, and I'm still finding it challenging. That marks a good game.

Just like before, this game has many hidden secrets (Easter eggs if you will -apropos, I think) I will not discuss them, but just try something out of the ordinary and you may get a trophy/ achievement for it. If you get a feeling something is odd, out of place, or a coincidence; you're probably right and should grab it immediately. You never know what will happen. I know I'm going to be playing this game for a long time. This game is Random Ninja approved! Go out an buy if if you haven't already. It's fun for all ages; it's just good old fashioned fun.

Also, if you bought yours for the PS3, you can also play it on your Mac or PC over Steam for free, without needing the disc. The better deal in my opinion. Look for me over PSN as B-NiE, maybe we can play together.

1 comment:

  1. I like the robots pictured. It looks pretty cool. I have actually never heard of this game.