The original Portal got a lot of attention for its unique gameplay and witty writing. Placed in the Orange Box, a bundle of several Half Life games and Team Fortress 2, it was a small side adventure that left most players hungry for more. Innovative and fun as it was, Portal didn’t last much longer than 4 hours. After almost 4 years and tons of co-op zombie killing, Valve has brought Portal back. Not as another new tech demo, but as a full game with an awesome story, writing that’s funnier than ever before, and new types of puzzles and characters that have fully realized the original game’s potential. This is Portal 2, and it is absolutely NOT a lie.
- Press Start:
Portal 2’s menu is similar to past Valve titles, especially Half Life 2. The menu is backed by very dynamic images that change depending on where the most recent game save was in the story, and constantly move. The menu is animated to move like the Aperture’s wall panels, and it works great as an introduction to the diabolical laboratory’s technology.
- Story: 5/5
As previously stated, the main draw of Portal 2’s story is the writing. From the hilariously witty banter with your new slightly moronic robot friend Wheatly to bone chilling threats from GlaDOS, there is not a single line of dialogue in the game that isn’t fantastically done. Few games can make me laugh until I cry and still make me take the game seriously like Portal 2 did. You don’t necessarily need to have played the original Portal to understand anything, but it definitely makes the story much better and concise if you have. The new story is pretty good, and takes some seriously interesting turns. Without spoiling anything, I will say that a certain bloodthirsty A.I. makes an appearance, and she has had a long time to stew in her pure hatred extract.
The game is very cinematic, and the events in the very beginning and end are totally awesome. The setpieces are phenomenally done, and the transformation of the facilities throughout the game is extremely cool. The story never feels forced, and always kept me on my toes. For one reason or another, there is never a dull moment in Portal 2. Even when you are finished with the main story, you can play the co-op campaign, which is decent in length and actually fits into the story of the main game. Just be sure to play the main story first.
- Gameplay: 5/5
Portal 2 is a blast to play. As great as the writing is, the puzzles and gameplay elements is where the game really shines. Whether you are using the portal gun to launch yourself towards your goal, redirecting lasers, or shooting yourself into the air with super-speed gel, Valve made sure there was enough new types of obstacles and tools in Portal 2 to keep you constantly satisfied and never bored with a single type of puzzle. The puzzles are so perfectly paced and fun, that even gamers who don’t enjoy puzzle games should still be able to have fun with Portal 2.
The co-op elements in Portal 2 are also fantastic. You play as two robots GLaDOS uses for testing, and the puzzles utilize coordination and teamwork in ways that few games do. A surprising amount of polish was put on the co-op, and it makes it a great place to go once you finish the main story.
- Graphics: 4/5
The style and attention to detail in Portal 2 is really cool, and the Aperture Science handheld Portal Device looks amazing. The testing labs are pretty, the back walkways and machinery is grungy and creepy, and the robots look awesome. However, save for a few choice character models and items, Portal 2’s graphics will never really impress you. You won’t ever think they look bad, but their appeal is more in the style than the quality.
- Music: 5/5
The soundtrack for Portal 2 was composed by Mike Morasky, a Valve veteran that did additional music for the original Portal. He wrote all of the music with the exceptions of “Want you Gone”, composed by Jonathan Coultin, “Exile Vilify”, composed by The National, and “Offering”, an arrangement of Little Prelude in C Minor, BWV 934 by Johann Sebastian Bach composed by Larry Stephens.
Portal 2’s music is much more upbeat than the original Portal, and is mostly unmixed synthetic. The new ending credits song, “Want you Gone”, is almost as good as the original Portal’s “Still Alive”, which is a hard act to follow. Overall, it is a great soundtrack, placing mystery, dread and tension in all the right places. Combine that with the best voice acting since a Bioware RPG, and you have a game that knows just how to sound.
- Replayability: 4/5
Portal 2’s main story is only around 12 hours long, placing it at an average play time for games in it’s class. However, there are no higher difficulties or any real reasons to play the story more than once, save for Achievements/Trophies or simply because you just have to play it again. The game’s saving grace is its co-op campaign, adding more hours on to its total worth and the ability to have tons of fun with a friend over and over. The story will bring you to the party, but co-op will keep you playing for just a while longer.
- Final Grade: 5/5
Portal 2 is a fantastic game, and one that every gamer should experience. Its size is slightly disappointing, but the amount of quality pushed into the story and co-op is not often seen. The writing is phenomenal, the characters are well created, the story is expertly told, the puzzles were insanely fun, and overall the game was just awesome. Even gamers who don’t necessarily enjoy puzzle games will still love this game just for what it is. Portal 2 surpassed all my expectations, and has become one of my favorite games of all time. I give it 5/5 electrical potatoes, and my highest recommendation for anyone who wants to play a game they will never forget.