Friday 10, February 2012
Game Review: Portal 2
PORTAL 2 is a sci-fi first-person puzzle shooter developed
and published by American video game developer Valve Corporation - the company
that brought us such classics as the Half-Life series and the highly successful
digital distribution and communication platform Steam.
The sequel to the critically acclaimed 2007 debut game, Portal 2 picks up where the first Portal left off. Taking place in the underground Aperture Science Laboratories facility in a isolated corner of the Half-Life Universe, presumably some time after the original game, the titular character from the original game, Chell, is awakened from cryogenic stasis by affable personality core robot Wheatley (voiced by The Office writer and Extra’s star Steven Merchant).
With Wheatley in tow the player is tasked with escaping from Aperture with their lives, without awakening a familiar artificial evil with a score to settle which lurks in the dark recesses of the Aperture facility.
To escape Aperture the player must navigate a series of puzzle rooms within the facility, many of them outlandish and impossible looking to complete. Along with the bizarre formation of the rooms players also have to avoid obstacles such as Sentry Turrets - who will shoot the player on sight - lasers, contaminated water and bottomless pits.
To aid Chell in achieving the goal of escaping Aperture the player retrieves the Portal Gun (or to use its proper name: The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device) from the previous game from the depths of the decrepit and overgrown facility.
With this gun the player is able to create two-way portals on any flat plane surface that retain the momentum that the player was travelling at when they entered the Portal. The player also receives Long Fall Boots, which replace the Advanced Knee Replacements from the original Portal and allow the player to fall from immense heights without injuring themselves.
The graphics for this game live up to the impressive standard that Valve set with games such as Half-Life and the previous Portal installment. The story is predominantly told through in-game cut-scenes, but the scenes that are video rendered blend so seamlessly with the game play that this reviewer could barely tell the difference.
The physics of the game are also quite true to life and sometimes it is just worth having a look around a puzzle room just to appreciate the amount of effort that must have gone into this game to bring such incredible details, such as the way various interactive gels spill and move exactly like real liquids to life.
The game is full of the extremely funny and often absurd humour that Valve is famous for. For example, one noteworthy gag involves Combustible Lemons and their use in burning someone’s house down. This is added to by the inclusion of Stephen Merchant whose quick paced comedy fits the tone of the game to a tee.
Other noteworthy voice talents include Ellen McLain (SPOILERS) who returns to voice series villain GLaDOS whose computer altered monotone insults and passive aggressiveness is hilarious as often as it is creepy. Actor J.K Simmons, most famous for his role as J. Jonah Jameson in the Sam Raimi Spiderman films, also makes an appearance voicing eccentric former Aperture CEO Cave Johnson, who makes the aforementioned noteworthy Combustible Lemons gag.
The players’ character Chell, whose name is not actually mentioned in-game, is mute throughout the game. This was done in an effort to make the player feel as if they were actually the character whilst playing the game - another element that adds to this is the game’s FPS point of view which stops the player from getting a full view of the character. In fact, the only way the player can get an actual look at the character is to look at her through a Portal and even then the player can only see the back of the character.
One criticism of the game, it could be argued, is that sometimes it relies too heavily in some parts on the player having either played or having some kind of knowledge of the previous Portal. This leads to many lines of dialogue being under-appreciated by players new to the Portal series due to their lack of knowledge. But that does not mean that players who have not played the previous Portal game should be put off from purchasing the game as the story is structured so that enough of its lore is explained within the first levels of play to make the game understandable and enjoyable.
Portal 2 also comes with a multi-player campaign mode in which players take on the roles of Aperture robots, Atlas and P-body, who are created to be used solely for testing by (SPOILERS) series Villain GLaDOS.
Atlas and P-body, who are both given portal guns, go on throughout the Co-op campaign to participate in completing a number of new test chambers many of which require the use of more than one portal gun to function as opposed to the test chambers in the main game which only require the use of one portal gun.
Like most games released for the Xbox, PC/Mac or PS3 these days Portal 2 also comes with both free and purchasable downloadable content. Such content includes a free-add on to the campaign entitled ‘Peer Review’.
The ‘Peer Review’ DLC extends the Co-op adventures of Atlas and P-body and also adds a new challenge mode for both Single and Co-op players (scores from the challenge mode are uploaded to leader boards on the Portal 2 website which can be viewed by other players, which explains the title of the DLC ‘Peer Review’)
It could be argued that gamers looking for a full on futuristic action filled FPS may find themselves disappointed by this game, but fans of puzzle heavy game such as Tomb Raider will enjoy this game immensely. This reviewer personally recommends that every gamer should pick up a copy of this game and try it out. Many gamers who have previously dismissed puzzle heavy games may find themselves pleasantly surprised.
By Adam Cooper
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