Portal 2

A review I wrote of Portal 2 on the PS3 for www.square-go.com

Portal came out of nowhere in 2007 and became one of those games beloved by all. With no guns, no combat and a reliance on respecting the players intelligence, it pretty much stands alone as a bastion of innovation in the First Person Shooter genre. So how do you follow that? How do you catch lightning in a bottle for a second time?

Quite easily, apparently.

Portal 2 casts you as Chell, looking to escape the Aperture Science testing facility using a portal gun. This device enables you to create an orange portal and a blue portal on most surfaces; walk into the orange portal and you come out of the blue portal and vice versa. In each testing chamber you have to get to the exit using this principle. It’s a simple mechanic that leads to great complexity: for example your momentum is retained when you go through a portal so you can use that to fling yourself across large gaps. Factor in lasers, robot gun turrets and gels that can speed you up or bounce you around and you have a recipe for a satisfyingly complicated game.

The key thing with Portal 2 is the difficulty curve. You never get the feeling that a solution isn’t possible, because the game has been tested to within an inch of it’s life it’s very rarely the game’s fault that you have failed, it’s down to you. You can be stuck on a chamber for some time but as soon as it clicks it’s a satisfying feeling that you just don’t get from most videogames.

The Aperture Science facility is pretty much abandoned, which means as you play through it you are accompanied by recorded voices and AI robots to guide you, including a familiar voice from the first game. The dialogue is superb and none more so than when you get to travel through the history of the facility, going right back to the 1950s. This is coupled is with some great voice acting, including Stephen Merchant and JK Simmons, who steals the game, just like he did with the Spider-Man films.

So the single player game is pretty much one of the best experiences you can get on a PC or a games console but this year Portal 2 also has a co-op multiplayer mode. In this mode you and your partner play as two robots both with a portal gun each. That means you can have four portals at any one time; if you thought the main game was complex then you just wait…

Usually, when a single player game adds a multiplayer mode it can feel tacked on but Portal’s co-op mode feels just as crafted as the single player game. And it’s even more fun as it really rewards teamwork.

Portal 2 will easily be one of the games of the year. It’s also a game that is surprisingly replayable, especially for the Half-Life fans who can go off the beaten track and find all kinds of Easter eggs and references to previous games. This is before we get to the Developer’s Commentary which is a treasure trove of information.

It really is that good: a pretty much an unmissable game and, let’s just say, probably the best video game sequel out there.

Five stars out of five

Originally published May 16th 2011

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