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Review: Portal 2 single player campaign

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  • Developer: Valve
  • Publisher: Valve (Steam), EA (Boxed versions)
  • Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (reviewed), Windows, Mac OS X

Note: Due to the PSN outages I have been unable to play the co-operative mode that comes with the game. As a result this is a review of the single player portion of the game only.

The original Portal started off as a small addition to The Orange Box in 2007 – released along side Valves much bigger titles like Half-Life and Team Fortress 2. Perhaps as a surprise to Valve the game proved to be immensely popular. The Internet became ablaze with comments about Cake and appreciation for the dark humour in the game.

In that respect Portal 2 offers more of the same – more puzzles, humour, and gags that are sure to become popular Internet memes. There’s still a small cast of characters – with GLaDOS and Chell from the first instalment making a return, as well as a new character called Wheatley, who wakes the player up at the start of the game to try and escape the ruined Aperture Science facility.

Of course Chell remains as silent as ever – and it’s mostly GLaDOS or Wheatley who do the talking. GLaDOS retains her trademark passive agressive attitude and witty and sinister personality. Wheatley on the other hand could be considered the polar opposite of GLaDOS – coming across as much more friendly, but also somewhat clumsy.

It’s surprising how much of a bond you get with the two characters – especially considering that the two of them are basically just robots. Valve has done an excellent job at humanising the two and you can feel a real connection to them – it’s difficult to dislike either of them, including GLaDOS – who seems to be perfectly willing to put your life on the line in the name of science.

Beyond this the gameplay is much the same – you’ve got a Portal gun that can fire two Portals at once that you can walk through to complete test chambers and puzzles – but this time around there are more resources to take advantage of like bridges, lasers, and “aerial faith plates” that fling you in to the air.

Portal 2 took me about 9 hours to complete – with the later test chambers really testing my ability to think with portals. It’s just a shame that as soon as the game got challenging that the game was over – I would have really liked to have seen some more test chambers that make more use out of the new obstacles that are present in the game. Though luckily there’s some free DLC coming out to fix this later in the year.

About midway through the game you’ll find yourself mostly wandering the more forgotten parts of the facility and it provides a nice change of scenery – but often you’ll find that you’re not really trying to solve a puzzle – you’re just searching for a wall that you can put a Portal on. It can ruin the flow of the game when it isn’t immediately obvious where you’ve got to go.

Now where do you put the Portal to?

Overall though Portal 2 provides a satisfying and fulfilling experience. Fans of the original Portal will no doubt enjoy what’s on offer here and Portal 2 certainly introduces its own unique challenges that you won’t find elsewhere.

The only real problem is the lack of replay value – once you’ve solved all of the puzzles there’s little that you can do with it since you already know how to solve everything. Of course I have no doubt that Valve will continue to support the game – but for how long remains to be seen.

On the topic of replay value I would have liked to have seen an in game level editor – something similar to Forge in Halo: Reach could have worked really well in a Portal game – instead it seems that only PC players with access to modding tools will be able to create their own levels – a shame since console players have always shown an interest in creating and sharing their own custom content.

Right about now Portal 2 makes for a solid rental – at least until some more content becomes available – but keep in mind that this is a verdict that I’m making without having played the co-operative mode (thanks to the PSN outages).

What the game looks like

Portal 2 in action

Note: This video may spoil the enjoyment of the game, since this gameplay video demonstrates how to complete a test chamber.

The verdict

Good: Challenging puzzles, decent length, notable improvements over its predecessor, PS3 and PC players can play together

Bad: Feels like there should be more, no map editor for console gamers, fantastic voice acting

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