Review

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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28 Comments

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I've found co-op to be the very best but the sp was great too with epic end play. Sad thing is once you've finished the game, replay value drops to near 0. You already know all of the solutions so it just makes it mute. This though in turn where the community made maps of Portal 2 should come in play. Though there are very few atm, I am hoping more will show up and for co-op as well. Playing with a friend to solve puzzles is just plain darn fun.

Not going to have it until Friday, instead of pints this weekend Im going to be shooting blue and orange portals!

I saw that this was released first thing this morning. I wish I had stayed away because I can't play it until late tonight :C

To me it's nothing more than a supped up graphical version of Sonic the Hedge Hog... wasn't impressed with the last one and I'm not impressed with this one. I'm enjoying Crysis2 in DX9 than I am this game.

I'll probably pick this up on Friday. I'm a little disappointed that they didn't keep the same price point as the first one.

Why would they? Apart from it being mechanically and visually far more elaborate than the first, the single player is much longer than the first and the multiplayer is totally different from the single player and about as long.

Shadrack said,
I'll probably pick this up on Friday. I'm a little disappointed that they didn't keep the same price point as the first one.
So even though Valve have hired more voice actors, added more dialogue, more puzzles, co-op play and more, costing the company loads, you want them to keep the price point the same as the first?? Lol...

sava700 said,
To me it's nothing more than a supped up graphical version of Sonic the Hedge Hog....
Sonice the Hedgehog?? What are you on?? Guessing the more generic shooters are your thing than intellect puzzle "shooters", each to his own...

Looks great. Now do tomorrows real review....for Mortal Kombat!

Sucks that they came out at the same time. But I have to do with Mortal Kombat, nostalgia, Portal 2 I can pick up later, I'm too excited for MK right now. Let me off work!

zappa859 said,
Looks great. Now do tomorrows real review....for Mortal Kombat!

Sucks that they came out at the same time. But I have to do with Mortal Kombat, nostalgia, Portal 2 I can pick up later, I'm too excited for MK right now. Let me off work!


No review copy of that I'm afraid!

Examinus said,
Can't wait to get my hands on it. Maybe Valve can concentrate on HLE3 now?

Have a feeling they may have just been doing Half Life 3 instead now anyway with the lack if info.

s3n4te said,
The game has only been out for a few hours, how can you play enough to write a review?

Just like those "reputable" reviews sites that have reviews just hours of a long RPG game being released.

s3n4te said,
The game has only been out for a few hours, how can you play enough to write a review?

We have had it for over a week. Embargo ended at 9am today.

Byron_Hinson said,

We have had it for over a week. Embargo ended at 9am today.

Good job with the review, for a moment i thought you just copied from somewhere else!
I enjoyed the 1st version, i played lot of times from beginning to end, i think i will not be disappointed.

Also i'm Waiting for Half-Life 2 ep.3

"we managed to clock up around 7 or 8 hours during the single player side of the game"

I don't give a **** about the multiplayer... So... I'll probably get the game once it is around 10 EUR.

7-8 hours of gameplay is not worth 35 EUR. I really don't know how you would give a game 5/5 for a 7-8 hours of single player campaign (which I think it will get down to like 5 hours, depending on the player)... but never mind, people tend to masturbate these days on expensive, short campaign games.

Luckily for us who want to play a game the next day too, and not finish it in one sitting, The Witcher 2 is coming out soon.

KavazovAngel said,

7-8 hours of gameplay is not worth 35 EUR.

Yeah but it's not that many current games last longer.
Homefront, CoD Black Ops, Medal of Honor, all about 50 EUR, all about 4 hours of gameplay.

KavazovAngel said,
"we managed to clock up around 7 or 8 hours during the single player side of the game"

I don't give a **** about the multiplayer... So... I'll probably get the game once it is around 10 EUR.

7-8 hours of gameplay is not worth 35 EUR. I really don't know how you would give a game 5/5 for a 7-8 hours of single player campaign (which I think it will get down to like 5 hours, depending on the player)... but never mind, people tend to masturbate these days on expensive, short campaign games.

Luckily for us who want to play a game the next day too, and not finish it in one sitting, The Witcher 2 is coming out soon.

One of the main selling points was the co-op, if you don't like that then tough luck. Why can't they give it 5/5 for an excellent singleplayer and multiplayer experience? Combined that is 16 hours which is respectable for games now it seems. Also, I assume there are challenge modes like time trial, which adds a lot more time to the game.

Minimoose said,

One of the main selling points was the co-op, if you don't like that then tough luck. Why can't they give it 5/5 for an excellent singleplayer and multiplayer experience? Combined that is 16 hours which is respectable for games now it seems. Also, I assume there are challenge modes like time trial, which adds a lot more time to the game.


Yeah considering the single player mode is excellent and the co-op even better. It deserves 5/5. Also the 7/8 hours is based on a good player. Most take longer to complete it. In the end, whenever you pick it up you'll be treated to a great game and that's really all that matters

KavazovAngel said,
7-8 hours of gameplay is not worth 35 EUR.
New DVD releases still cost $20 (US) for a 1.5 to 2 hour movie. Don't get me started on concerts, theme parks, seeing a movie in the theater, etc. It's hard to get 7-8 hours of entertainment for only $50 nowadays.

I'm not spending $50 for Portal 2 either. I'm going to wait for it to go on sale. That said, you can always rent the game if it can be finished in a day and doesn't have replay value for you.

However, I don't think $50 for 7-8 hours of entertainment is that out of line compared to other entertainment options. Sure, compared to other video games, it might be somewhat short, but then again it probably has more replay value than other games.

And really, it has 16 hours of gameplay. If you chose not to use the co-op mode, then yeah, perhaps it's not a great value for you personally. Doesn't mean the game is overpriced though.

Valve are truely an excellent company and have become this decades and perhaps the next, id games (as they were during the 90's).

The only criticisim i would say of Valve is with their engine technology. Personally i don't think the source engine is up to much and would prefer that Valve picked up someone else's tech and simply worked on assets, story and gameplay. The source engine i find to have problems with larger maps, causing a lot more load screens. Simply switching noclip on and you can see how clever the map and asset makers are when trying to get around the limitations of the source engine.

However the games they produce are of very high quaility and one of the few developers you can simply purchase without worrying about poor ports or poor QA.

I suppose slightly lying about only having one criticisim i suppose my only other is that i wish they would wrap up the Half Life story line as it is. I am getting tired of a story which isn't bad, but has been stretched over the course of a decade. It would be good to see an ending, find out who the G-Man is, perhaps find out what happened to Sheppard and Callhoune from the first series, even tie in portal for a big finale, but basically wrapping it up, i would like to see some closure to the series. Portal has proven that Valve have the ability to create some excellent new IP, as does TF2 to some extent, i think the HL universe has kind of flipped from being something that has propelled Valve to greatness to something which is starting to be restrictive. Take id games, yes Doom perhaps will get a remake, however thats exactly what it is a remake, quake1 is a different IP from Quake2&4 and Rage is their latest IP. I want Valve to broaden their horizons and start creating something new, free from the shackles of the HL universe. This is not to say if they wrap things up in Episode 3 say, that after 5/10 years they couldn't extend the story, but the story arc at the moment i think has been stretched enough and needs to end with some answers.

REM2000 said,
Valve are truely an excellent company and have become this decades and perhaps the next, id games (as they were during the 90's).

The only criticisim i would say of Valve is with their engine technology. Personally i don't think the source engine is up to much and would prefer that Valve picked up someone else's tech and simply worked on assets, story and gameplay. The source engine i find to have problems with larger maps, causing a lot more load screens. Simply switching noclip on and you can see how clever the map and asset makers are when trying to get around the limitations of the source engine.

However the games they produce are of very high quaility and one of the few developers you can simply purchase without worrying about poor ports or poor QA.

I suppose slightly lying about only having one criticisim i suppose my only other is that i wish they would wrap up the Half Life story line as it is. I am getting tired of a story which isn't bad, but has been stretched over the course of a decade. It would be good to see an ending, find out who the G-Man is, perhaps find out what happened to Sheppard and Callhoune from the first series, even tie in portal for a big finale, but basically wrapping it up, i would like to see some closure to the series. Portal has proven that Valve have the ability to create some excellent new IP, as does TF2 to some extent, i think the HL universe has kind of flipped from being something that has propelled Valve to greatness to something which is starting to be restrictive. Take id games, yes Doom perhaps will get a remake, however thats exactly what it is a remake, quake1 is a different IP from Quake2&4 and Rage is their latest IP. I want Valve to broaden their horizons and start creating something new, free from the shackles of the HL universe. This is not to say if they wrap things up in Episode 3 say, that after 5/10 years they couldn't extend the story, but the story arc at the moment i think has been stretched enough and needs to end with some answers.


Best comment I've seen for along time