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Portal 2 Review

Portal 2 pack shot
Developer:Valve
Publisher:Valve / EA
Genre:First Person Puzzle
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.thinkwithportals.com/
Release Date:April 21st, 2010 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: huge success. It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

Ok, enough of quoting Portal, this is all about Portal 2 - the brilliant follow-up to 2007's sleeper hit, and a worthy successor to its crown.

Picking up an unspecified period of time (but clearly a long one) after the events of Portal, the player, once again clad in the long-fall boots of 'Chell', awakes in what appears to be a hotel room. After a series of training exercises she's put back to sleep, only to awake after another long period to a knock at the door.

It's Wheatley (voiced by the hilarious Stephen Merchant), a personality sphere put in charge of the surviving test subjects - and who is becoming concerned at the deteriorating state of the Aperture Science Enrichment Facility, so, he decides to escape - and you're going with him.

With that, Portal 2 plunges into a six or seven-hour adventure throughout the huge underground site, dozens of challenging puzzles and a plunge into the dark past of Aperture Science and it's crazed founder, Cave Johnson (former award-winning shower curtain salesman.)

Portal 2 screenshot 1 Portal 2 screenshot 2 Portal 2 screenshot 3 Portal 2 screenshot 4

Filled with dark humour and constant challenges, the main campaign is a joy to play through and just as addictive as its predecessor. It's also a lot harder. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at lateral thinking, but some of the Portal 2 puzzles had me stumped, especially when some of the new physics and objects are added to the mix.

Chief among these are the various gels - one which allows you to put a portal anywhere, one which increases your speed, and my favourite - repulsion gel. This funky blue gunk makes things bouncy, and some of the later puzzles can become a riot as turrets (pleading in their cute voices) bounce around with crates and other items - it's great fun.

The environment itself is also a pleasure to explore. Unlike the previous game, Portal 2 offers much more than a constant stream of test chambers.

After so long without a central computer, the facility itself is in a terrible state - broken walls and leaking pipes flooding the chambers and hallways. Added to this is the industrial factory complex, the older testing areas and a whole host of weird and wonderful sights -its way more than just testing.

At least, that is until you accidentally restore GlaDOS to working order- the facility's homicidal computer. Before long, it's back to business: "Well done. Here come the test results: 'You are a horrible person.' That's what it says. We weren't even testing for that." She quips. But that's another story.

Aside from the single player mode, the game also offers a robust and fun co-op multiplayer mode - and another six hours of fiendish puzzles. Putting you in the metal bodies of robots Atlas and Peabody, the multiplayer tasks you and a friend with solving some pretty difficult puzzles with teamwork, timing and communication.

Portal 2 screenshot 5 Portal 2 screenshot 6 Portal 2 screenshot 7 Portal 2 screenshot 8

Both robots have a portal gun, and using the four portals in each chamber makes for some great fun - working together to move light bridges around, or throw 'weighted cubes' to each other.

They also have a suite of expressions they can use, such as high-fives or rock-paper-scissors - which often draw scorn from GlaDOS who - despite being nicer to the robots than her human test subjects - is just as darkly humorous as ever. The multiplayer is a true innovation, despite being similar to the single player campaign, and is brilliant fun to work through, often making you feel genuinely proud to solve the test chambers as a team.

Of course, it also offers ample chance to slag your partner - but as a robot you simply reappear in a new body. It's endless fun.

Graphically the game has had a much-needed overhaul, the new environments crusted with filth and overhanging plant life. Thanks to this, the other areas look amazing, with a cracking draw distance demonstrating just how big the Aperture Science facility really is.

The physics engine similarily continues to impress, handling the mind-bending antics of Chell and co with surprising ease. Particular mention should be made of the 'science goo' which flats around the facility - when placed in a gravity beam, the goo forms undulating spheres, which burst when they drop - it's brilliantly done.

Sound effects and musical score are pretty low-key in this title, however, taking a backseat to the gameplay. That said, the voice casting is perfect and the writing brilliantly done.

There is, however, absolutely no mention of cake. Not once. Disappointing. Perhaps the cake really was a lie.

Summary

Portal 2 is a fantastic game, far longer, harder and more cognitive than before, and well worth your time and money. The co-op multi-player addition is truly great fun, giving the format a second life, and the voice acting brings the whole shebang together. A fantastic title.

The bottom line
9.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Single and multiplayer games are addictive
  • Great setting and physics engine
  • Excellent script and voice acting

Not so good stuff

  • Could be longer
  • Too many loading screens spoil immersion
  • No cake


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