Preview: Portal 2

GlaDOS, you have to concede, was a bitch; sentient AI turned overlord, her initially dulcit, pre-set script quickly became devious, malicious, murderous.  But therein lay the thrill, Portal was not just about innovation and discovery, it was about human against machine and overcoming physical limitation, and it was, by all accounts, a breathtakingly smart game.  Yes, meme-overkill has dulled the experience a little, but that début headlong rush into your first wormhole was a delicious one that nobody can take away, no matter how many times they try to tell you the cake is (not) a lie.

It’s with a sense of wonderment that I look forward to the next game in the series.  For something that was originally packaged up alongside Half Life 2 in the Orange Box as a side-project the first Portal outshone its counterparts with ease, and now that the fully-fledged sequel is on its way (it’s due in April) anticipation of what might be in store for returning player character Chell is reaching fever pitch for anyone with a passing interest in Valve’s output.

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For starters, we can expect more of a story: Personality Spheres will carry the exposition, with Wheatley the first such orb that Chell will meet.  Indeed, the Stephen Merchant-voiced character will awaken Chell, her starter surroundings unfamiliar but hotel-like as the game gets going.  Before long, though, and once the player has realised the enormity of the situation, you’ll be back within the bizarrely homely white and silver of the Aperture Labs testing rooms, once again tasked with a number of increasingly tricky puzzles, and once again at the apparent mercy of a very much (still) alive GlaDOS.

Not that you’ll be restricted to just the Portal Gun again – Valve, taking influence (and employees) from Digipen project ‘Tag: The Power of Paint’ (a free PC-based download) have look further afield for the structure of each chamber, introducing at least two special properties to certain surfaces in the form of gels: propulsion (which increases Chell’s running speed) and repulsion (which acts as a very rubbery jumping material).  These gels will initially feel like paint, but you’ll quickly discover that they’re very much physical manifestations, and can be thrown through portals and applied to more than just walls and floors.

[boxout]Indeed, the player can also expect to meet more than just Cubes and Turrets, with Redirection Cubes, Aerial Faith Plates and Spherical Storage Balls mixing up the puzzle elements.  And the environment won’t be nearly as pristine as you might have expected, with years of decay and foliage slowly taking over the facility giving the game a distinctive look: it’s still Aperture, but it’s old, fading and overgrown, especially as you navigate away from the usually sterile surroundings of the test areas.  All of which will still carry that elusive Valve quality: you’ll feel like it’s only you in the world that’s managed to solve each problem.

So, as the single player game evolves in all areas, it’s in multiplayer that the series finds the biggest jumps: Portal 2 will feature a co-operative mode for two players, each taking the form of a highly characterised robot, and story-wise inspired by the Left 4 Dead titles, which promoted great teamwork and plenty of replayability.  Each robot has their own Portal Gun (and corresponding portal colours) and thus each chamber in co-op will require at least four different coloured shots to get through, preventing a dominating single player taking too much control and ensuring that both get a fair slice of the action.

I, personally, can’t wait for this.  With Erik Wolpaw returning on writing duties (and joined by Left 4 Dead’s Chet Faliszek) I’m expecting something very special indeed, and it’s a sentiment echoed by everyone here, the game’s our number six most anticipated release of the year.  Here’s to April.

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17 Comments

  1. I must be the only guy in the world who just dosen’t click with valve’s games, The other day I played the demos for both the orange box and Left for dead 2, and they were just so crap. genuinely awful.

    • No you’re not. I wouldnt say they were crap but I wouldnt say they were amazing either.

    • Portal to me looks new to me,so I will have to check out the first before buying the 2nd me thinks

      • Portal is a BRILLIANT game (and now very cheap on PC). You must have heard the internet meme “The cake is a lie!” ?

        Portal 2, along with Battlefield 3 is my most anticipated.

    • I have never played any of their games so I can’t really comment, having a PS3 doesn’t help, but from what my mates have said L4D sounds good.

    • Could be a little more vague? How are they crap/awful?

  2. I am with you nofi, I cannot wait!! Great preview. @BG123 I agree in part, but Portal is just brilliant, you probably didn’t get a proper feel for it with only playing a demo, when you experience the whole game it makes a world of difference; you really see the humour and level of detail in the characters and levels.

  3. I played Portal way back when it first emerged on PC after only seeing those instructional-style trailers. I was blown away when I played it by how clever, dark, funny and original it all was.

    Given that I went into that one with almost no knowledge of it and will be going into this one with astronomically high expectations, I wonder how it will compare.

    • Yep. The original had the advantage of the element of surprise, and the feeling that this is new and strange.

      Also the original portal was “Pure”, there was really only one new gameplay mechanic, and the game was centered around it (and did a brilliant job of easing us into it).

      This time around there’s the same thing but it’s no longer new. And they’re introducing more mechanics possibly making some puzzles more frustrating because with more tools there are more ways of doing things wrong.

      I hope this will be as awesome as the original, but I’ll settle for merely great and get it anyway.

  4. I loved the first but im a little worried about this. The screenshots look great but what was special for me in the first was the simplicity. The huge sprawling environments may add confusion to an already tough game

    • My sentiments exactly. I really, really hope they don’t try too hard to introduce wasted gameplay mechanics. It really was the simplicity that sucked me into the first gameand I hope the same simplicity is shown throughout the portal 2.

  5. Half Life 1 was just jaw breaking when it hit in 1997…HL2…even better…little game called Portal…stunning…Valve games crap???? Seriously?????

  6. I’m riding the hype train with its whistle blowing at fever pitch. Can’t wait to pull in to release date station. Hopefully there’s no delays or cancellations due to a fault on the (production) line. I think I’ve taken this analogy far enough, hope noone is siderodromophobic.

  7. No, but I do suffer from Altocelarophobia. No shit. I got Portal free on a Steam giveaway so I have no complaints, just hope my PC can handle Portal 2 on full settings. Looking at those shots I doubt I’ll be able to set the visible portal number to the maximum this time.

  8. I’m more looking forward to the PS3/Steam integration within the game.

  9. Portal 2 will be incredible, no-doubt. GlaDOS is back and sounding, plus looking, better than ever. Co-op will be a huge success and certainly draws me to the game, of-course, as you’ve said nofi the narrative is again going to be superb. The inanimate cake will obviously make a return, and a very welcomed one at that.

  10. I reckon Portal 2 is going to become apparent at the end that it is infact Episode 3 and tied in with the Half Life universe. Remember the end of Episode 2? You heard it here first… ;)

    In other news – Really looking forward to this game, the last was a surprise hit and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this full fat sequel!

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