Portal 2 is one of those rare games that you never want to end, but at the same time you want to see how it ends; it’s a classic example of a catch 22. Unlike the first Portal, Portal 2 lures you in right from the start. Without GLaDOS, the A.I. that is in charge of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, the facility begins to fall apart and is at the mercy of nature.
For those who haven’t played the original, the game consists of a series of test chambers, puzzles that must be solved using the portal gun. The portal gun can create two interspatial portals that will teleport you and anything that goes through one of the portals and out the other portal.
Unlike the first Portal in which most of the surfaces were white, meaning a portal can be based anywhere on it, in Portal 2 the majority of the test chambers have only the parts that are needed to complete the puzzle can have a portal placed on its surface. At times it does seem that you end up just searching for the next white surface to place a portal on This becomes even more apparent in the massive wide open areas. These areas are very deceptive as you soon realize all that all you need to do is look for white surface that is usually across the entire area. This makes even the biggest areas in the game feel even more cramped then the normal size test chambers.
Players take control of Chell in the single player campaign, the lone heroine from the first game. It has been many years since her previous encounter with the testing center as she has been kept in stasis. Wheatley, an A.I. core, voiced by Stephen Merchant, tries to bust Chell out from the Aperture Science Center, but in doing so GLaDOS gets reactivated during the escape. GLaDOS is not one to let old grudges die and at first is not happy to see Chell. GLaDOS puts her back into the testing program, while continuingly to rebuild and improve the facility.
GLaDOS comes across as truly hurt and has a true dislike for Chell. Who wouldn’t hate the person that disintegrated them in the past? Throughout each test chamber GLaDOS will continue to be her witty self that we have grown to love, and taunt you mercilessly as you struggle to solve her newest test chambers.
As you progress through the single player campaign the test chambers get more and more complicated. The test chambers are much larger than anything previously seen in the original title with many including multiple rooms. There are a bunch of new additions to add to the testing experience such as using a hard light bridge, re-directing lasers, and using tractor beams that will either push or pull the players around and finally conversion gels. The gels are the best new addition to the series, and are frankly the most fun. There are 3 different colors blue orange and white. The blue gel allows players to jump higher and further than before. The orange gel allows players to run at a super speed, which comes in handy when trying to launch off a ramp onto an adjacent platform. The white gel is the most interesting of the 3 as it allows a portal to be placed anywhere that the gel surface covers. The single player campaign will last roughly 8 hours, but for those 8 hours it is a pure joy to play. I expand on the story any more as I have, as I want to keep this as spoiler free as possible.
In a lot of games, co-op campaigns, feel as if they were tacked on at the end of the development cycle, but I can safely say the co-op in Portal 2 is one of the best experiences of this generation. Personally I tend to enjoy playing with a friend, more than single player, so I was greatly surprised about how much time and effort was put into this. The co-op campaign can be played locally, which utilizes split screen, as well as online through Steamworks. It allows users to log into Steam while playing Portal 2 on the PS3 console. It allows anyone with a Steam account to view their friends list, send instant messages, earn steam achievements and most importantly play the co-op campaign with any of their friends. Sadly at the time of this review the PSN was down, but I did get to test out the in-game overlay briefly that can be pulled up at anytime, and it felt exactly like it does on the PC or Mac.To log into Steamworks, you first have to log into PSN, which I still can’t wrap my head around why it is setup this way. If I wanted to play with people over Steam, I should just have to log into Steamworks and if I wanted to play with other PS3 users I should have to log into PSN.
You play as the two robots, Atlas and P-Body, but GLaDOS just refers to them as Blue and Orange. Having two players complicates even more so with the ability to use four portals instead of two. The puzzles used in the co-op campaign have more to do with timing, than the offering in the simple player. Having good communication with your partner is very important. If you don’t have a headset or use voice chat, you can still have your robot point out areas where you you’re your partner to go, or even point at walls that you want a portal to be placed. I found myself using these even when playing split screen, as it can help point out exactly the place you are referring to your partner.
Valve added the ability for each robot to interact with each other by adding human characteristics, all of which get on GLaDOS’s bad side. A menu wheel can be pulled up anytime, that has any of the unlocked actions that range from disco dancing together, to giving each other high fives, to playing a round of rock, paper, scissors (just be careful Orange is a cheater j/k). Just don’t let GLaDOS catch you on camera goofing off, or as she calls it, acting like humans. For completing the test chambers GLaDOS awards you with science points. The first time I killed my friend by placing a portal underneath him, and the other one leading him into a body of water, I was actually awarded points for being curious. When my friend promptly disintegrated me with a laser he picked up for payback, GLaDOS deducted 500 points. It was a bittersweet moment.
As you go through each test chamber, GLaDOS starts to become more and more jealous of the fun and the bond that Orange and Blue are having through their continues interactions, so she does what she does best, and tries to have them turn on each other. It truly speaks to how much she really is alone in the Aperture Science Center.
The load times on the PS3 are a little long for my liking, clocking in at around 12-15 seconds for each test chamber to load, but are not as bad as some games are on the system.
Replayability is always a concern on puzzle-based games; with whether or not replaying the same puzzles again and again will get tiresome or flat-out boring. Personally I don’t see myself running through either campaign more than once. The puzzles have such a defined answer that it loses its fun the second time around. Hopefully we will see new test chambers and new puzzles that will help keep players around and coming back for more.Note: The Portal 2 review is based on a retail PlayStation 3 copy of the game.