It is a rare occasion in gaming when a sequel is put under quite as much pressure to out do its predecessor than in the case of Portal 2. Valve’s 2007 original was a 3 hour-long brainbender stuffed with varied and clever puzzles with a good dose of quirky humour courtesy of the game’s lovable […]

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It is a rare occasion in gaming when a sequel is put under quite as much pressure to out do its predecessor than in the case of Portal 2. Valve’s 2007 original was a 3 hour-long brainbender stuffed with varied and clever puzzles with a good dose of quirky humour courtesy of the game’s lovable villain, GLaDOS. If you’re reading this far down I probably don’t need to convince you further that the original was a breath of fresh air in the stink of mediocrity that surrounded first person games.

When tasked translating the hugely successful experiment that was the first Portal into a fully-fledged (and crucially, full priced) sequel, the pessimistic gamer might think that Valve would rest on their success and under produce second title. Thankfully, this is not the case.

Separate single player and 2 player co-op campaigns almost justify the retail pricetag on content quantity alone, each campaign clocks in at 6-8 hours long. On top of this Valve has also promised free downloadable content across all platforms. This will include challenge modes and new test chambers for both campaigns, and is sure to get gamers itching to return to Aperture Science.

The original featured a strange and volatile relationship between the mute protagonist Chell, and the omnipresent antagonist GLaDOS, with the famous Weighted Companion Cube rounding out the cast. This is largely unchanged in the sequel, with Personality Core Wheatley (Stephen Merchant) stepping into the fray, joined by Aperture Science’s founder and CEO, Cave Johnson (J.K.Simmons). The continual chemistry between GLaDOS and Wheatley makes for some genuinely brilliant dialogue as the player is toured through the Aperture Science of old. In addition J.K Simmons excels at his role of illuminating Aperture Science’s past and firmly rooting the events of the Portal series into the Half-Life mythology from which it was spawned.

With regards to gameplay, Valve has also turned it up for the sequel, introducing a number of new concepts that intersect nicely with those found in the first game. Thermal Discouragement Beams (Deadly lasers), Excursion Funnels (Tractor beams), Hard Light Bridges, catapults and surface-altering gels, all add up to a serious mental workout for the player.

When you consider all of these complications in the 2-player co-operative campaign, the game not only becomes a serious test of mental prowess, but also a serious test of trust between two people (inevitably resulting in the occasional propulsion into certain death by the partner). Despite voice chat being the communication channel of choice, the game implements a gesturing feature and a ping system, for you to communicate specific points in a chamber for a partner to observe.

With a game such as Portal 2, it is difficult to be objective in review. Criticisms raised at the 2007 original were few and far between, revolving around its short length and clinical feel. With the addition of new and deeper characters and a grittier, dirtier Aperture Science, it is impossible to level the same criticisms at the 2011 sequel. The only basis on which anyone may legitimately criticise Portal 2 is that there isn’t enough of it, which is possibly the greatest compliment that can be paid to it. Valve, however, are experts at fan service which means that the upcoming downloadable content should keep fans happy for many more hours to come. Possibly the only thing to please Valve fans more than continued updates for Portal 2 would be a shred of hope that the Half Life 2: Episode Three might finally see the light of day.

 

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