We at GGD are a little surprised that Valve/Gabe Newell decided to put the majority of their resources and energies into the new Portal instead of the extremely coveted Half Life III, but no offense to Portal or Portal fans, the game transportation based puzzler is about as innovative as a gaming idea can be, and deserved major respect on that premise alone. Many gamers are familiar with the original Portal via “The Orange Box”, a value packed compilation of 5 games in one package that single handedly did a serious favor to all gamers by pushing the envelope on what level of material the budget conscious gamer should expect from a “greatest hits” type bundle. No other disc based title available today equals the generous amount of gaming goodness contained inside The Orange Box and to some, Portal was overlooked as nothing more than an intriguing bonus/add-on, but that simply isn’t the case. Portal’s transport style puzzling hadn’t been seen before it’s introduction, won several gaming awards for it’s innovative originality, and definitely deserved to be revisited and expanded upon, but does it warrant it’s own singular release in sequel form at today’s new release prices? Will the gaming market sales even support a blockbuster puzzler? Being the perfectionist gaming maverick that ex-Microsoft programming wonder and Valve CEO that Gabe Newell is, the smart money wouldn’t bet against the appeal, quality, and quantity for that matter, of Portal 2.
Click here for Portal 2 Walkthrough
The original Portal was released on Oct 9th, 2007 as part of The Orange Box, and being regarded by many as the best of the bunch, was re-released as a stand alone for PC about 6 months later on Valve’s content delivery system “Steam”. It’s available for all consoles except poor Wii, and among other accolades is well known for the game’s diabolical, ice-cold antagonist, GLaDOS. GLaDOS has won awards for best game villain in her own right, so of course she’s back with her own brand of icy vengeance in Portal 2. Even Portal’s music was of notably high quality, and won an award for best final credits song. Portal was so popular in fact that plush Companion Cubes were made and sold, and the game had no shortage of gamer created mods. The only knock against the original Portal was that it was too short, a flaw that could slip by a part of a compilation, but certainly an issue that would need to be addressed in the creation of the stand alone sequel, Portal 2.
Valve knew that critics and gamers alike would be on guard about the original Portal’s short campaign, and has gone to serious lengths to make Portal 2 a justified stand alone title. Main protagonist Chelle, GLaDOS, the portal gun, companion cubes are all back, but the added innovations to Portal 2 make it an absolute juggernaut title in comparison to the original. The truth is Valve was quite unsure of the original Portal’s appeal, and that’s the main reason the campaign was so short, but this time Valve is banking on gamers loving Portal 2 in a big way, and have pulled out all the stops in the creation of this sequel. What innovations? Where do we begin, buckle up…
Valve has cleverly written the plot for Portal 2 to plausibly explain GLaDOS’ resurrection back from A.I. death, and Chelle’s return to being put through her lab rat paces by her notorious robotic tormentor. Great care has been taken to put the right voice actor to the right part; signed on are Stephen Merchant of “The Office”, J.K. Simmons of “OZ & the Spiderman trilogy”, and perhaps most importantly Ellen McLain has returned to reprise her role as the icy GLaDOS. In Portal 2 the player gets to learn considerably more about what nefarious doings have been going on behind the scenes at the sterile yet still slightly evil Aperature Science facility. Chelle’s unseen hint-helper “Rat Man” is also back leaving his artistic mark on Aperature Science to again aid Chelle in solving her way out of the puzzle before her. Writer Jonathan Coulton of the acclaimed “Still Alive” track from the original Portal is back and has provided new music for Portal 2, as well as another song from indie band, “The National”, but what’s possibly most intriguing about about Coulton’s contribution this time, is the music is procedurally generated, which means that music is created in real time, to alter and compliment the movement of the gamer.
Now of course the gameplay itself in Portal 2 has seen some serious additions and tweaks, and one of the most notable innovations is the introduction of a new “gel mechanic”, which alters the physics of the surface coated with the gel. There are two of these new gel mechanics introduced in Portal 2, there was going to be three for awhile, but Valve mercifully removed the particular gel mechanic that seemed to be inducing considerable motion sickness in many of the game testers. Drum roll please, yes there’s co-op multiplayer in Portal 2. The names of these robotic incarnations of the multiplayer are P-body and Altas, respectively, and GLaDOS does her icy best with her commentary to create bad blood between the metal tandem. This new robotic duo has been compared to being a metallic “Laurel and Hardy” team, and the animations of these two meeting their various demises from level failure are successfully designed to be quite amusing, as early trailers for Portal 2 have demonstrated. They don’t actually speak, the designers instead opting for robotic squeaks and chirps that still aptly convey the right sentiment, a la Star Wars’ “R2D2”.
Valve seemingly has no particular alliance to any console or platform, and the upside of this is that Portal 2 will be available for both PS3 and Xbox 360, and even both major PC platforms, Windows and Mac OS X. Players will be able to play Portal 2 in the same venue via split screen, or co-op online completely cross platform. Imagine that, PC and console gamers enjoying co-op play of the same game at the same time, what a concept! A special nod has gone to the PS3 version which Gabe Newell has referred to as the best console version, because it will include some Steamworks material only found on the PC and Mac versions, although it has been clarified that gamers are getting essentially the same core game on either Xbox 360 or the PS3. The bonus for PS3 purchasers of Portal 2 is that gamer will be able to combine their PC Steamworks, and PS3 PSN accounts, enabling them to unlock the computer version for free as well.
To come full circle on the opening query on Portal 2, referring to the concern that the original Portal’s campaign was too short, Valve has assured gamers that both Portal 2’s single player and co-op campaigns, are about 2 1/2 times bigger than the original Portal, combining for a 5 times longer game, with each separate campaign taking approximately 6 hours, for a combined total of 12 hours of portal puzzling goodness. With the return of everything that made the original great, with addition of new characters, improved plot and voice acting star power, more new innovations to the gameplay and music, much longer campaigns and the addition of cross platform co-op, Portal 2 will be one the most highly anticipated titles of 2011 no doubt, and justifiably so. We can’t wait.