Review: Portal 2

Posted: July 7, 2011 by E-mann in REVIEWS

Portal is back and this time it has a shiny PS3 version that was actually coded by Valve and not some other company. Is it worth your time or should it be tossed in to an emancipation grid ? Read on to find out.

After destroying GLaDOS (a rouge AI) and escaping the Aperture Science testing center we find that our heroine Chell has been recaptured and put into stasis. Chell awakens to find herself in what appears to be a motel room many years later and the Aperture Science facility is in a shambles. Wheatley an AI who is in charge of taking care of the test subjects of Aperture tries to help Chell escape the decaying facility. However in the process of escaping he witlessly awakens GLaDOS who is none too happy about being destroyed all those years ago.

The single player story of Portal 2 is self contained. You don’t really need to have played the first Portal to understand what is happening in this game. The story is told through short bits of audio and delves deeper in to the origins of Aperture Science and GLaDOS. The choice in storytelling works well and doesn’t impede the forward momentum of the game.

The gameplay is pretty simple. In some ways it kind of harkens back to games of old. You are given a relatively simple set of actions and you progress through the game using these actions in different ways. It’s just you, your portal gun and your wits. These simple controls make getting through the more difficult areas really satisfying because you can do so much with such a limited set of tools to work with.

Portal 2 is not unfairly difficult. It follows a general progression and eases you into the more challenging situations. You apply the knowledge you have learned from previous levels to progress further. In a way it’s kind of like when you learn simple math and move on to multiplication and division etc. The problems get harder but it uses the same formulas.  Portal 2 doesn’t have a set route to their puzzles which allows you a bit of freedom. No person’s journey to a solution will be exactly the same as another person’s.

It has been a long time since I have played a game that is in  first person perspective. In general I steer clear of them because I am not good at them and I find them more frustrating than fun specifically the ones that ask you to kill everything that moves. Portal 2 is not one of these games and is a breath of fresh air.

The graphics of Portal 2 are very impressive. There is no shortage of wow moments. Textures are crisp and the environments are beautiful and atmospheric. What’s even more amazing is when you think about how old the Source game engine is.

The sound design really adds to the atmosphere of the game and it dynamically changes depending on the location you are in. I played the game with a pair of Sony surround sound headphones and it really added to the experience. I really felt like I was in the environment. I suggest if you are playing this game to turn on your surround sound system or get a good pair of headphones. The voice acting and script are excellent. You get just the right amount of information to keep the story going and it’s also hilarious. You will love Cave Jonson.

The multiplayer in Portal 2 unlike most games is a cooperative campaign that has its own story and could be considered its own game. Think Portal 3 or Portal 2.5. You can play multiplayer online or split screen with a friend. The goal is to work together to get past the puzzles and progress the story. Personally I liked the multiplayer cooperative aspects and enjoyed it immensely. I suggest you get a headset if you don’t have one because communication is key.

Portal 2 is one of those rare occasions were I had played two versions of the same game. I played both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions from beginning to end. I have to say the experience is almost exactly the same. Graphically the games are identical with some differences in texture detail and lighting but nothing really noticeable.

Most of the differences lie under the hood and is the stuff you don’t see right off the bat. For instance the biggest one is the fact that the PS3 version can directly connect with Steam. You can save your progress on Steam and continue your game on the PC version of Portal 2. You can also play multiplayer with PC players as well.

Unfortunately unlike the Xbox version you can not communicate on voice chat during loading screens on PS3.  So you will find yourself abruptly cut off during a load sequence which is a shame. I wish there was a warning about this.

Another difference between the two games is the commentary in certain sections. Specifically in one area where you use Conversion gel. The 360 version  goes on a little longer than the PS3 version. In it the developers talk about the technical challenges of recreating the gel geyser effects on the PS3. The comment isn’t horrible and and is far from a slap in the face of  Sony. It’s possible that Valve  may have been been trying to not burn any more bridges with PS3 owners and took this bit of commentary out. Too bad they didn’t use that new found sense of tact when Gabe Newell was running his mouth all those years ago. A word to the wise; keep things professional because you never know what will happen in the future.

To be perfectly honest, as a PlayStation 3 owner I found Mr. Newell’s comments unprofessional an unwarranted. Until I played my friend’s copy of Portal 2 on the 360, I almost didn’t pick up this title due to Newell’s remarks about the PS3. Thankfully I did pick up the game because Portal 2 is a genuinely great gaming experience and you should definitely get yourself a copy.

Liked:

  • Smooth and precise controls
  • Graphics and art design
  • Great voice actors and script. Richard Mitchell as Cave Johnson is a highlight.

Disliked:

  • Interruptions in voice chat during load screen on the PS3
  • Lack of DLC
  • Gabe Newell

Portal 2  was developed and published by Valve. It was released on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC and is available now for $59.99. The copy played for this review was a new retail copy.

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