Portal 2
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 10

Portal 2 proves that sequels doesn’t have to be lazy cash-ins on the original games success. Everything in this game has been expanded and made better in some way and playing it is a blast. The humor and dialogue are spot on and the puzzles, while not too complicated for veteran players, still have a few head scratching moments.

Gameplay: More story, more puzzles, more of everything.

Graphics: A vast improvement over the original.

Sound: Outstanding voice acting all round

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Portal 2

Developer: Valve | Publisher: Valve | Release Date: 2011 | Genre: Action / Adventure | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

The original Portal was an undeniable triumph and not only launched hundreds of internet memes related to cakes and cubes but also introduced one of the most memorable antagonists of recent years. The style and humour was perfect, the gameplay was a breath of fresh air and its success was well deserved. It also made a sequel inevitable and that’s some pretty big boots to fill.

Portal 2 opens with Chell, the mute lead from the original game, being woken for some mandatory cognitive tests before being put back to sleep. Her next awakening is a bit more abrupt and reveals that she’s been under for quite a few years! Luckily help is on hand in the form of Wheatley, a bumbling personality core which due to his ineptitude may have been responsible for the death of thousands of other tests subjects. Wheately guides Chell through the ruins of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center in a desperate attempt to get on an escape pod. Along the way Chell gets her hands on the handheld portal device that aided in her survival and escape the last time round. Unfortunately her old nemesis GLaDOS might still be alive.

One of the best parts of the game is the brilliant storyline and while most people can guess what happens next it would be criminal to reveal any more details. The game contains much more story elements than its predecessor and fans of the series will love every bit of it. Instead of just adding more of the same Valve has gone the extra mile and added a lot of new features and elements without sacrificing anything in the process. Portal is an undisputed classic but its short length kept things from becoming stale and left players drooling for more. With the expanded size that easily doubles that of the original game Portal 2 faces a much bigger challenge.

The portal mechanic where players can travel between two portals no matter how far apart they are was as stroke of genius when it was first revealed but has since been imitated. Valve has found a way to keep it integral to the gameplay but supplemented it with a host of brand new mechanics. “Light Bridges” allow you to create bridges or defensive barriers depending on how you use them while redirection cubes allow you to play around with laser beams.

“Aerial Faith Plates” are basically just springboards but can be combined in brilliant ways with other elements. Last but certainly not the least are the gels. These gooey substances flow from pipes and splatter over surfaces making them looking like brightly coloured paint. Orange propulsion gel can give you a big speed boost while blue repulsion gel will give you a bounce. Then there’s white conversion gel that can turn almost any surface into a portal enabled one. The last one is especially handy as there is now a lot less surfaces that you can use the portal gun on directly which means players have to use what they have so much more creatively. Environments, especially in the middle part of the game is also much larger which can make the puzzles seem a lot more daunting. I can honestly say that each of the puzzles had me grinning in delight when all the elements finally clicked into place and not once did I curse the game because things were too obscure. Yes, there’s a lot more to keep track of but each element is gradually introduced and you are given plenty of time to get to grips with them before something new comes along. The portal gun still works like it always does but you can now see exactly where the portals you created are, even through walls which makes it easier to keep track of things.

One of the reasons Portal is so legendary is GLaDOS the homicidal A.I brilliantly voiced by Ellen McClain. While she is back and better than ever it is a testament to Valves creative genius that she faces some stiff competition from two brand new characters. Wheatley comes out of nowhere and steals the show when it comes to personality which is no mean feat considering he’s just a metal sphere with a Brittish accent. Practically everything he uttered made me laugh out loud and the conversations between him and GLaDOS is side splittingly funny. The second new character is “Cave Johnson” is the slightly unhinged founder of Aperture Labs and while long gone his darkly humorous recordings still echo in the condemned remains of the original facility deep in the bowls of the large complex. Overall the voice acting is of an incredibly high standard and I wish more developers would learn from Valve when it comes to creating believable characters with voices that fit them. The lead character Chell still refuses to utter a word but with all the madness that surround her who can blame her?

The original Portal was pretty undemanding when it came to visuals but the clinically clean test environments fit the game perfectly. Portal 2 still runs on the Source engine which might not be as cutting edge as the Unreal Engine but looks like it still has some life left in int. There’s some impressive environmental destruction in places and plenty of eye candy in the form of water and light reflections. The new gels also provide an interesting visual spectacle. The stark contrast between the test chambers and dilapidated “back stage” areas are cool to witness as is the actual “building” of said chambers. The perfect pacing between solving puzzles and “exploring” new environments as the story unravels is a definite highlight.

If the expanded single player mode wasn’t enough the game also has a nice co-op multiplayer mode now. Taking control of two new test robots players can tackle brand new puzzles together. PS3 and Steam users can even link up and play multi-player but Xbox owners are stuck with other players on Live only. I’m glad about the inclusion of the multi-player but even happier that it wasn’t at the detriment of the single player campaign. The box cover had me worried for a while.

With Portal 2 Valve has pulled off the seemingly impossible. The game is an improvement over the original in almost every conceivable way. Some of the challenges may feel easier now for players that played the original to death but the learning curve is spot on. The only question is how on earth Valve is ever going to top this. If you have never played the original game before you should (a) not have read this review and (b) rush out and buy it immediately. After playing it Portal 2 should be your next purchase. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

*Review originally published 2011.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 / Vista / XP
  • Processor: 3.0 GHz P4, Dual Core 2.0 (or higher) or AMD64X2 (or higher)
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Video card must be 128 MB or more and with support for Pixel Shader 2.0b (ATI Radeon X800 or higher / NVIDIA GeForce 7600 or higher / Intel HD Graphics 2000 or higher).
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 8 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • OS: MAC OS X 10.6.7 or higher
  • Processor: Intel Core Duo Processor (2GHz or better)
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon 2400 or higher / NVIDIA 8600M or higher / Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Storage: 8 GB available space
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04
  • Processor: Dual core from Intel or AMD at 2.8 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GeForce 8600/9600GT, ATI/AMD Radeon HD2600/3600 (Graphic Drivers: nVidia 310, AMD 12.11), OpenGL 2.1
  • Storage: 8 GB available space
  • Sound Card: OpenAL Compatible Sound Card

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