Review by nwowwe723

"Portal is Still Alive!"

Portal 2 is the much anticipated follow-up to 2007's Portal which Valve released as an extra game on their Orange Box compilation. Although short, Portal's innovative gameplay and memorable cast captivated players and made it a runaway hit. Calling Portal 2 a sequel would only be partially correct since the first game was more of an appetizer with Portal 2 being the main course. Does Portal 2 live up to the expectations? Let's take a closer look and find out.

Portal introduced us to our silent protagonist Chell and her fight to escape the deserted Aperture Science facility controlled by the insane AI GLaDOS armed only with her portal gun. Portal 2 picks up roughly 300 years after the first game where Chell has been recaptured and placed in cryo-storage and is woken up by Personality Core Wheatly so that they can escape the run-down facility before the reactor core melts down. Chell is once again forced to use her portal gun to navigate the ruins of the facility and deal with the resurrected GLaDOS. The story takes some very interesting twists and turns along the way and the terrific dark humor of the first game remains intact. The voice acting in the game remains top-notch. Ellen McLain returns as the voice of GLaDOS and as the voice of the polite and cheerful attack turrets. Joining the cast are Stephen Merchant who gives hilarious life to Wheatley and the always entertaining J. K. Simmons features as the voice of Cave Johnson, the eccentric founder of Aperture Science.

The gameplay from the original game returns in all of its mind-bending glory. Players use the portal gun to shoot blue and orange colored portal holes onto walls to traverse over deadly pits, transport Weighted Storage Cubes to switches to open doors and lower elevators and redirect lasers (or Thermal Discouragement Beams if you prefer). Additions to the gameplay include the propulsion and repulsion gels (in keeping with the Portal color motif they are orange and blue respectively) which do pretty much as they describe either sliding the player off at great speed or sending them bouncing high into the air. In addition, players must redirect light bridges and conveyer beams with portals as well. Perhaps one of the most exciting new features in Portal 2 however is the inclusion of co-op gameplay. Co-op gameplay gets its own storyline and characters, Aperture Science robots ATLAS and P-Body, each armed with their own portal gun and even more challenging puzzles for the gamers to solve. You can either play with a friend (split-screen or online) or team up with a random player. Good communication is vital to success however, and the co-op interface has several helpful tools to communicate with your partner including a small pop-up window to see their viewpoint though you may want to use a microphone as well. Portal 2 even features a commentary mode (a returning feature from the first game) where you can play through the game with speech bubbles placed throughout the levels which, when activated, trigger audio files of various production members discussing the creation of the game often relative to where the player happens to be at the time. This feature really shows off the amount of effort that went into creating this game.

In general the gameplay is challenging, but never really frustrating. The game does a good enough job of teaching players the basic mechanics as new elements are introduced that even newcomers will be able to pick up the nuances of the game fairly quickly but has enough challenge to it that even veteran Portal players won't be able to just breeze through it. Some of the achievements/trophies are centered around players having to solver certain puzzles either in quick fashion or in different ways then they normally would. Exploration and experimentation is highly encouraged in game. In short, there is plenty of content to keep veteran Portal players on their heels and dazzle newcomers with all the possibilities.

Visually Portal 2 holds up pretty well considering it's running on Valve's somewhat dated Source engine. The environments are much more expansive and dynamic than in the first Portal and the visuals are much sharper. Some may lament the change from the cold and sterile look of the test chambers from the first game, the change in style suit's the story well. While it may not quite hold up to some contemporary major releases, it is by no stretch of the imagination ugly. The background score does a good job of reinforcing the tension and isolation of the game's story. All this really comes together to bring an enjoyable experience to the player. Portal 2 delivers in all aspects. Fun and challenging gameplay, engaging characters, and the ability to play with friends make this a can't miss title, unless your only system is the Wii, in which case you're out of luck.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 04/22/11

Game Release: Portal 2 (US, 04/18/11)

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