"The Teaser Trailers On YouTube Come Nothing Close To This Final Release"

I first heard of Portal 1 in winter 2009 (I have heard it was released sometime in 2007) and it was a great unique game. In a sea of stale and repetitive games comes something as unique as Portal 1. Although the game was short and a bit too easy, it was fun and I craved more. I tried to find user-created maps and the ones I did find are way too hard for my tastes. I really do not like puzzles that are ridiculously hard that require pixel perfect precision, superman-like reflexes, spaces that would give claustrophobics seizures, and death traps around every corner. After that, my liking of Portal 1 went on hiatus.

Fast-forward to summer 2010, Valve released several videos on YouTube at once demonstrating what they have been working on as a sequel to Portal 1. The new testing elements were absolutely exciting to watch. On occasion they would reveal a new video with alternate demonstrations of the new testing elements which would just increase my excitement toward this game. There were test chamber previews that looked very hard but were not overly difficult to solve. This game seemed like it was made for me. Fast-forward to launch date. Did the hype hold up? I say no. Do not get me wrong; the game was good but it was nowhere near my expectations. I will tell you why:

I was expecting maybe 250-500 puzzles to solve in the single player mode. The puzzles I was offered in this game were around 60 plus story mode sequences. I was expecting to have the single player mode take a good 2-3 days to get through. I bought the game late in the morning and finished it at night. Also the test chambers offered were just too easy compared to how the preview videos made them out to be. That should not have happened. Other games I have played are much longer and harder than that. In commentary mode of the game, one of the comments stated that original previews for this game gave the impression this game would be too difficult. Seeing as how there are many fan-made maps that are overly difficult as mentioned earlier, why did they change the game to make it easier? I have played harder games before and I survived and those games are much older. Play Super Mario World for the first time and get to the end of every exit. It was quite difficult for me when I was a kid but the payoffs were big.

Only two puzzle elements did not make it to the game and one of them was the Pneumatic Diversity Vent. Yeah, I know that the preview video only showed its use as to destroy turrets but a map I have downloaded for this game that tried to bring it back proves that it could be used for other things than to get rid of turrets. The other puzzle element that did not make it was the High Energy Pellet (people tend to call it an energy ball or energy orb). Although the launcher and catcher did make appearances in this game, they are non-functional and they are more or less a prop to aid in the look of the destruction of Aperture Science since you killed GLaDOS while you are going through the older test chambers you already solved from Portal 1. So Valve brings back the cubes, buttons, and turrets but not the energy ball?

Speaking of test chambers, over half the test chambers that were in the test element demonstration videos did not make an appearance in the final game. I have heard people make arguments saying we already know the solutions to those puzzles so why include them? I do not know about those people but I really like to try things in chambers that the preview videos did not try. This pretty much applies to any games I have seen previews for and played.

The co-op mode is quite interesting. Two players are required to solve test chambers. The execution is a little flawed, however. When the game was first released, everyone was new to the puzzles. Everyone was just trying new things to hopefully progress to the next test chamber. Now the game has been out for a while, you may run into an "uber" player that may try to rush you through every test chamber and know what to do while you may be new at co-op trying to think for yourself. They may impatiently tell you to place a portal somewhere or tell you to go over there. It gets really annoying. There is no way to reduce this down to a minimum. Valve just went ahead to just find you a player at random. Valve did not think ahead and place a button to find a player with a similar progress level as you. Because of this, if you are trying to follow the co-op story, that is pretty much impossible. I beat every test chamber in the game and I do not fully understand the story. This may work better with friends but I do not know many people that own a copy of Portal 2. The co-op mode is interesting but has its flaws.

One word of advice; by default for co-op, microphone support is enabled so if you want to keep your voice private over the game servers (and hear the game for that matter), disable the microphone.

There is a mode where you can buy accessories for your co-op bots. At first I thought there was an in-game currency where you can "buy" these, kind of like you making the choice what is unlocked in a game and what remains to be unlocked when you earn something for your efforts. No, you have to use real money to pay for this. Are you kidding me, Valve? I already paid money for your game and you want more out of me? You are going to have to do better than that, especially with what you gave me for a game. Thinking about it deeper than that, is this where the effort went? Instead of more puzzles, we have a store where Valve can just make more money off of us. This really made me think they are desperate. This should not exist in a game at all.

I do not go crazy over graphics like other gamers might but I will say this: If you do not have a high-end computer but have a decent computer with decent components and a decent graphics card, expect this game to lag at certain spots but run perfectly smooth in other spots. The frame rate is inconsistent in this game. Some levels have the game lag so much, it is not even funny and in other levels, the lag is just not existent. The loading sequences that happen every five minutes do not help much reducing this lag. Even keeping the graphic quality at a minimum does not really help much. The lag is tolerable and the game is playable but you will notice these flaws and it could get annoying. It will make you think if games today are more about flashy graphics and storyline rather than actual game play. Is that not what games are supposed to be; mostly full of game play? I really must be missing something here. I am not saying that we should go back to 8-bit graphics but I am saying we should not put so much focus on graphics and storyline.

Overall this game was not worth buying when it was first launched and the launch price was $50. The price has come down since then, well at least on Steam and it is going for $30. The game is good but it could have been way better, even as good as the previews have made it out to be. There are improvements, however, from the old mechanics of Portal 1 and one of them is that you can now zoom in and out to place portals on more distant surfaces using the scroll wheel of your mouse. You will see some other pleasant surprises so it is not that terrible of a game to pass up. I am just saying it could have been done better.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/16/11

Game Release: Portal 2 (US, 04/19/11)

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