"Portal 2" Review: The Cake is a Lie, But NOT THIS TIME!

Juxtapoz // Thursday, 21 Apr 2011
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When waiting/expecting a sequel, time and time again I have been disappointed. From lack of heart, to degraded graphics, sequels have been plagued with more bugs and falsehoods then I could shake a stick at. But, the time of redemption is upon us, with not only one of the greatest sequel release I have ever experienced, but one of the most polished and well thought out games I have ever played. Portal 2 came out not more then 24 hours ago, and I have spent at least 1/4 of those 24 hours (6 hours) playing it, without a moment of, "Really, they pulled that gimmick?" or "They recycled that shotty puzzle?" or even the ubiquitous, "How is adding a grunge texture making this game better?". When it is a rarity for a game to have both replay value and good storytelling, this title has it in spades!

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The storytelling is up to the challenge of not only explaining the back story from the original Portal, but doing so in a manner that introduces new players to the Portal franchise and characters. They also recreated a sense of nostalgia that long-time gamers crave, and require from a sequel. They guide you through levels with subtle lighting cues, and audio scores that guide you through a robotics factory in complete disarray with little to now fuddling around of "Am I even going in the right direction?"

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GLaDOS(Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating system) is back in the second installment of the game, and is your primary adversary. The charactors immediatly are welcomed into your hearts with their derogatory jokes at your expense, and belittlement of every achievement you obtain. In a world where you are constantly being "Poked", "Liked", and generally placed on a pedastool by every game, app, and social "experience" on the market, this is a welcomed change. The sense of frustration you get from be berated like a child at every wrong turn (as well as the promise of Cake and Surprises) drives you to accomplish each task, and makes you utter those dasterdly words "Just 1 more try" on a minute-by-minute basis.

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And these aren't just emaculatily built cut scenes (aka short films to showcase the games CGI), these are interactive scenes where the AI tracks you while telling the story in a way that almost gets creepy. A computer with a sense of humor is an abstract idea in today's modern day entertainment, but movies ("I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that) have paved the way to the kind of LLOL (Literally Laughing out Loud) moments for me such as, "I'm going to make a manual override on this wall," and then ploughing through it, much in a way that I would have if I had been tasked of choosing a path through it. But an interactive movie this is not, with enough "Test's" as they are lovingly referred to by your robotic overlord, to provide 18+ hours of gameplay including a new co-op mode you can play with your friends.

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For those you unfamaliar with the Portal title, here is a breakdown of the gameplay: You are tasked with moving through a robotics/human stasis facility and completing "Tests" tasked to you by various automated chambers. Your main tool of choice....The Portal Gun! Create two portals on various surfaces, and use gravity/momentum/lasers/fluids/springboards, etc... to activate the door that lets you complete that Test. Sounds easy, but when you are forced to wrap your brain around not only what you need to accomplish, the perspective changes that will occur, and the shifts of gravity that affect you as you enter a wall and leave through the ceiling, you start to lose yourself in this game.

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Needless to say, this game is a hard one to explain, but one that will catch you the moment you play it. However a word of caution, although the co-op mode provides a new challenge to play with your friends, DO NOT PLAY WITH ANYONE YOU CARE ABOUT! Because in due time you will despise this person and be screaming at them to just "Give Me The Damn CUBE" several times at a level your neighbors will not appreciate.

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What is easy to explain is my personal opinion of this game: Buy it! With replay value that will have you coming up with new and creative ways to solve the same puzzle over and over, the co-op mode that isn't just kill everyone but now you have 2 people to do it, and moments that had me in suspension of disbelief more often then any 3D movie I have seen, this really is a packed game. Oh, and add this to the whip-cream drizzled sundae that has already been offered to you, if you buy the PS3 or XBOX Version, you get the PC version via Valves Distribution Platform FREE! That's right a company finally acknowledge that I may have multiple systems in my house, and may like not having to purchase multiple copies of the game. So with that, I tip my hat to the guys over at Valve for releasing another stellar title, and prepare my house for another 6+hour session with me, my coach, and GLaDOS.

—Nick Lattner / Juxtapoz Video Game Editor

images via PC Gamer.


 

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