Throw in a few impromptu chase sequences, split-second decision-making and the freedom to solve problems at your own speed, and it’s hard to see Portal 2 as anything but a completely new exploration of the foundations of its predecessor.
From a technical standpoint, having each section of the game environments separated by a loading screen – albeit a shorter one – may irritate players who prefer their experiences unhindered by hiccups or delays. As the game progresses, the screens become much more tolerable, considering the shockingly expansive and visually varied environments.
As the game progresses, the puzzles, the risks, and the narrative implications only get larger and more polished. While the sheer length of the singleplayer campaign may lead to some feelings of dragging in the middle, those who have always hungered for more story and complexity along with puzzles will likely find the experience a perfect one.
Portal 2 has already received a beating from user reviews on Metacritic, with some claiming that the main campaign is not nearly long enough, clocking in at roughly four hours. Speedruns aside, the average player can easily expect a six to seven hour experience out of the singleplayer mode. In addition, Portal players’ couch companions can now pick up a controller of their own for the brand new coop campaign.
The preview of coop gameplay may have implied that the campaign would be just as dosed with story and character as that of the singleplayer, but those expecting a fully-realized game may be disappointed. The challenges offered are as inspired as those of the original Portal, and will likely provide just as much fun as solving the singleplayer puzzles by sharing brain power.
The coop element forgoes mission progression in favor of various challenges selected from a central hub environment. Not to say that the online and local coop isn’t an absolute blast with friends, but having your partner in the room with you is definitely our recommendation.
Thanks to the PS3’s Steam integration, picking up a copy of Portal 2 for the console will not only win you a free PC copy, but the ability to play alongside partners on either platform. While the developers may promise that both console versions are identical, Sony and Valve are making a compelling case for Portal fans to go the PS3 route. The visuals won’t be pushing any PC hardware to its breaking point, but that was never the strength of the series.
The stark white styling of the Aperture facility has been given some seriously new life throughout the various chapters of the game, so there’s no need to worry that Portal 2‘s environments won’t be beautiful, with some stages conjuring images of BioShock before those of its predecessor.
With an atmosphere as well-designed as the challenges posed to players, Portal 2 has finally received the time and attention that the original title proved it deserved. The first game was almost as hard to define as it was to convince skeptics to give it a shot, but when all was said and done, Portal stood alone as a truly one-of-a-kind experience that was more committed to realizing an artistic vision than selling copies.
The sequel makes that differentiation even clearer by fully realizing the propositions made by the game’s story and technology, and shows its pedigree by giving an emotionally jarring, shockingly suspenseful, and genuinely funny experience completely devoid of guns, mature content, or current trends in other popular titles.
With an ending that takes the heart, story and humor of the series to brand new levels, Portal 2 is an absolute must-play for fans of new and interesting games.
For those of you who felt that Portal was a sign of just how much potential gaming possessed, Portal 2 is more than worth the wait, and sure to be remembered when discussions of Game of The Year begin.
Portal 2 is available now for the Xbox 360, PS3, Mac and PC.