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Saturday
Apr302011

Portal 2 Review - Spoiler-Free

Aperture Science is pretty run down during the events of Portal 2Valve had a pretty big task ahead of them in making Portal 2. The original was short, completely original and a MASSIVE surprise to almost anyone who played it. How do you make a satisfactory sequel to one of the greatest games of all time? And better yet, how do you make it a product worthy of somebody's hard-earned £35, when the original came as 1 fifth of the best gaming bargain there's ever been?

To most companies, that sounds like a pretty much impossible task, but Valve aren't most companies. Valve eat challenges like this for breakfast. I'll admit that even with Valve at the helm I had huge doubts as to whether Portal 2 would deliver, but after playing the game for about 10 minutes, any worries I had were swiftly extinguished.

The opening of Portal 2 is attention-grabbing. You're introduced to a fantastic new character Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant) who serves as your companion for  a lot of the game. Your immediate reaction is that too many character-cooks are going to spoil the game-broth, but the addition of a new character right from the start thrusts you into the new-yet-old world of Portal 2 flawlessly, doesn't hurt that Wheatley is one of the best things in the game either.

The gameplay is the same: Solve complex puzzles using justThe game's puzzles are as mind-bending as you'd have come to expect by now your wits and your trusty portal gun. One portal leads to the other, and not every surface can hold a portal on it. It's a mind-bending concept if you're not used to it, but once you start thinking with portals, there really aren't many more satisfying feelings in gaming.

The difficulty of the puzzles is perfectly weighted. Any times I was stuck, I simply walked away from the game for a while and my brain would do the rest sub-consciously. It meant I never got frustrated or had to resort to reading a FAQ, it gave me a great sense of accomplishment after almost every challenge as the game went on. Obviously play Portal before you play Portal 2, but if you absolutely must play Portal 2 before the original, you wont have trouble adapting to the unorthodox game play style.

Wheatley may not look like much but he delivers fantastically

The story to the original Portal is one of the most beloved in gaming, and it's a thrill to see the adventures of Chell (the player's character) continue to play out amidst Aperture Science's fiendish maze-like complex. The story follows on directly from the first game, and answers a lot of questions about the mysterious Aperture Science. Most games would hit you over the head with back story, but the way Portal 2 gives you these answers is both inventive and much more satisfying.

Portal's strongest asset is it's writing. It's characters, though few in number, are memorable, believable and intensely quotable, with strong performances throughout. Stephen Merchant, for a first credit in a video game, gives an outstanding performance filled with improvisation, British charm and British wit. He's a peculiar choice of voice actor for a character in an American video game but he really knocks it out of the park.

I suppose the main question I should be answering in all thisThe co-op campaign should take you and your friend about 6 hours is, does Portal 2 justify it's full-game price tag? The answer is unequivocally yes. The game sheds the 4 hour length of the original and trades it in for a meaty 12(ish) hours and brings with it a full co-op campaign complete with online and some free downloadable content on the way that will add challenge rooms and leaderboards. It's a pretty robust package for a game with such humble origins.

Portal 2 is a rarity in games, in that it does absolutely nothing wrong. I literally can't find fault with any part of it (and I can do that for almost anything!). If you loved the original you'll love this, and if you never played the original then go buy Orange Box RIGHT NOW! (it's £15!!!)

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