Review: Portal 2

The original Portal release on the PC was one that deservedly received high praise from gamers and journalists alike. It was different to many other Valve titles in that you no longer had any weapons in your hands, just a simple two-way portal weapon, along with a jump and crouch button.

Although the original was maybe a little short in length for some gamers, its selection of mind-bending portal based puzzles kept gamers coming back for more. The excellent dialogue was also a major plus in what was essentially a puzzle game at heart. Well here we are, almost 4 years down the line with the release of Portal 2, the premise stays the same, but the length of the game has almost doubled. This is also the first time that we see Valve's Steam service make its way to consoles, well, on the PlayStation 3 at least!

Story:

Once again the game is set in the mysterious Aperture Science Laboratories, though this time there are a number of new characters and a range of new puzzle elements for gamers to get to grips with. You still have your trusty Portal gun and use it in the same way as you did in the first game, but there are improved physics on offer to open up even more ways to complete test chambers and some of the more open areas that are now in the game.

We don't want to spoil things for anyone who will be picking up the game, as we felt the story and dialogue was once again excellent, so we will only outline the basics here. The idea behind the game is that you are woken up from an induced sleep many years after the original title. Then just as it looks like Aperture Science Labs have been destroyed and damaged beyond repair, you and your Robot companion Wheatley (Voiced by U.K. actor Stephen Merchant) accidentally reboot GLaDOS, the murderous and sarcastic computer that guided you throughout the first game.

Gameplay

Gameplay is once again superb throughout the game; we managed to clock up around 7 or 8 hours during the single player side of the game with the puzzles getting gradually harder as you made your way through the decaying remains of Aperture Science Laboratories.

Additional puzzle elements appear later in the game, such as paint gel that can cause you to bounce high or run faster depending on the color that gets used. These add even more to the game and help to confuse your brain even more while trying to figure out how to reach a level exit.

While many people would be happy with just the single player game that the company has created, Valve have added an excellent co-op campaign to Portal 2 and we can see this being the side of the game that brings players the most joy, especially when you team up with a friend that you know. The puzzles can get even more complicated here at times, which isn't a bad thing when you consider that there are two of you working together to solve them.

All of the puzzles and story in Portal 2's co-op mode are new and separate from the single player game and once again there is around 7-8 hours worth of gameplay here, though it varies depending on how brainy your pairing is!

More great news is that the humor from the first game has continued on over to Portal 2 and in our view it manages to be laugh out loud funny at times. The new addition of Stephen Merchant voicing Wheatley is an excellent one and almost makes us forgive him for his dire Barclays adverts that are showing on UK TV right now.

Merchant is also an excellent writer and it is clear that he has been allowed to ad-lib during sessions on occasions and it works perfectly here in Portal 2. You also have the return of GLaDOS and the addition of Cave Johnson, CEO and Founder of Aperture Science, voiced by the equally excellent J.K. Simmons.

The controls haven't changed at all, with no additional features added, but we have to say that Valve have done a sterling job on their first proper PlayStation 3 version of their source engine, especially considering the disaster of a conversion that was “The Orange Box” a few years ago, which was dealt with by EA themselves, rather than Valve.

Steam on the PlayStation 3:

So lets talk a little about Steam on the PlayStation 3. Firstly you don't have to sign up to Steam to play the PlayStation 3 version of the game, if you do choose to, you'll get your Steam friends show up, news about games and features as well as Steam Achievements, if you don't you'll just get your PlayStation 3 trophies, but you will still be able to play the game just fine.

The look of Steam is very similar to the PC/Mac version, though it just allows you access to friends, achievements, chat and news, it also lets you add friends and read profiles if you wish. How Portal 2 will update itself when patches come out we don't know yet, it could still be via the normal PlayStation 3 method, or it could be via the built in version of Steam. It does leave the option open for future downloadable content however.

You access Steam by simply pressing select on your gamepad, this then brings up the menu for accessing said features. From here you can chat via text to Steam friends or just quickly close the menu by pressing select once more, it all works fast and seems like it could well get better in the future and could hopefully mean we will see older Valve titles appear on the PlayStation 3 soon.

In your Portal 2 PlayStation 3 box you will have a Steam code to enter on your PC/Mac, this allows you to download Portal 2 for the PC and Mac, and play it from your computer with no extra cost, yet another excellent Steam crossover feature.

Steam also allows you to upload your save games to the Steam cloud, automatically though this feature doesn't let you pick up and play from where you left off if you went to play on your PC or Mac as the PlayStation 3 saves are not compatible with those versions of the game, this is the only downside of the service that I could find.

Finally we have cross-platform co-op play support that is once again only available on the PlayStation 3. We have managed to play a couple of games via this method without any issue what so ever and no additional lag or problems have reared their head.

Graphics and Sound:

Graphically Portal 2 on the PlayStation 3 is superb, not only does it look great thanks to some superb texturing, it is also as smooth as butter and a long step ahead of “The Orange Box” conversion seen from EA years ago. Valve have done a superb job here, some of the shadowing is the best we have seen on any console so far and just goes to show that when you put in the work, you get great results. Portal 2 also seems to offer some excellent anti-aliasing techniques, as there are hardly any jagged edges on show here.

We couldn't find any fault with the sound; the voice work is some of the best we have heard in a long time, not just for delivery but also for the well-written dialogue and ad-libbing. Music is once again excellent and maintains the same feel from the first game.

If there is one tiny let down anywhere within Portal 2, it is with the high amount of level loading we see during the game, though this could be more to do with keeping the levels small while keeping performance high on the consoles. It doesn't break up the fun of the game however, which can only be a good thing.

Overall 5/5

It is very hard to find any fault with Portal 2, the gameplay is superb and gets better the more you play, while the co-op campaign is one of the stand out features, the sound and dialogue is some of the best we have heard in a game for a long time. Graphically it also looks great and performs wonderfully on the PlayStation 3; it also has the addition of Steam cross-platform co-op support for you to play against your PC and Mac friends, something missing from the Xbox 360 version.

All of this and the fact that you get Steam built in and a code to play on the PC or Mac versions of the game you can't really go wrong with the PlayStation 3 version of Portal 3. We can only say that Valve have once again excelled themselves.

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