Tuesday, September 13, 2016

VGR Portal 2

Well here we are again, it's always such a pleasure! Remember when you tried to kill me twice?...

Now I only want you gone...
Eyz reviews Valve Software's iconic series:

VGR: Portal 2
From VALVE Corporation/Electronic Arts
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PS3, PC, Linux and Mac OS

Type Puzzle/Adventure/FPS game
Year April 2011

Here's a game nobody actually ever expected, let alone imagine would surpass the original!

Portal 2 is the sequel to the 2007 cult surprise hit that was the original Portal, a little surprise that came packaged with The Orange Box. It was a sort of first person puzzle game, with a great emphasis on its atmosphere and narrative. And it had a great dark twisted sense of humor to boot!

Portal 2 was once more internally developed by Valve Corporation and released in April 2011 for PC, OS X, Linux, Xbox 360 and more surprisingly enough for the PS3 (Gabe Newell had a lot of harsh word to Sony's system back in the day, before turning over a new leaf). On consoles the game was once more distributed by Electronic Arts, while on computers online distribution was made through Valve's own content delivery service Steam.

Portal 2 was announced through a series of updates and patches to the original game's Steam version, teasing fans with hidden notes and clues over the months before the official announcement.

While the first game was more of a bonus included alongside Half-Life 2, Portal 2 is a proper standalone title, a much bigger more surprising experience... 

The event of Portal 2 are actually set "a lot of time after" the events in the first Portal (and the Half-Life series).

It's a direct continuation following the plot of the first game, but it stands well enough on its own.

A long time ago the Aperture Science labs conducted experiments with human subjects that defied the laws of physics. Those were discontinued once the artificial intelligence GLaDOS took over the facility and killed everyone. The events of the first game saw mysterious mute protagonist Chell destroy GLaDOS and escape into the outside world... before being captured and dragged back inside the science lab. Apparently she was then placed into suspended animation...

The first act opens with Chell waking up in what appears to be a motel room. She's quickly greeted by a "personality core", Wheatley, and soon finds out she's been kept in suspended animation for an undefined period of time. Chell and Wheatley try to make their way through the now abandoned Aperture Science Enrichment Center only to come face to face with GLaDos and waking her up!

The second act of the game is kind of a recreation of the first game, with GLaDos now putting Chell to her sadistic tests, punishing Chell for revenge. The tests chambers are being reconstructed as Chel progresses along. Wheatley tries to break Chell out of this constant testing and the pair escapes... with Chell finally putting Wheatley in charge of the labs instead of GLaDOS, while putting GLaDOS inside a potato battery!! But Wheatley was never meant to be in control of so much power! And this old quirky "intelligence dampening sphere" starts running mad with power! Wheatley throws Chell and potato!GLaDos deep beneath the old long-abandoned Aperture Science laboratories...

This third act is a fun romp through old 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s laboratories, listening to the audio recordings of the original Aperture Science's founder Cave Johnson who grew madder over the decades in his quest against other research facilities (Black Mesa?). The man got driven mad, poisoned by moon dust! He would ultimately leave the company in the hands of his assistant Caroline who ended up turned into a test subject in a mind-computer transfer experiment

After all that, Chell and potato!GLaDOS are finally back inside the more modern Aperture labs, with Wheatley making absurd test chambers of his own, collapsing various puzzles into each other with no rhyme or reason. Like Cave Johnson himself, Weathless' slowly growing mad with power and should have never been put in charge of so much SCIENCE!

Let's simply say it all ends in one epic confrontation mirroring the original game... but on the moon?!

Ellen McLain reprised her role of GLaDOS. And she is joined by the now-just as iconic new characters of Wheatley (voiced by comedian Stephen Merchant) and Cave Johnson (wonderfully surprisingly played by actor J. K. Simmons). 

Gameplay is still very much based around the portals - although at one point early in development it almost didn't feature portals anymore!

It's a puzzle game in the form of a first person shooter-perspective. Playing with portals - and physics! To solve puzzles you must analyze and interact with the environment. 

You can only take a limited amount of damages before dying, so you must avoid confrontation with enemy turrets and other deadly traps as much as possible. Avoid falling off surfaces into bottomless pits or toxic waste material. Every new chamber features a checkpoint (although the game allows custom saves as per classic FPS tradition).

The first few stages/places you visit are very much tutorial levels to guide you through the game. And then the game will add new elements to the puzzles, environments and gameplay.

Your trusty portal gun or "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device" is back!

Controls-wise the game received some major updates to the original Portal formula. Keeping and refining the original gameplay elements. There's a ton of new features added to test chambers, to expand the possibilities of the puzzle rooms. Such as tractor beams, lasers replacing the bouncing balls of light and more! One of the major new additions comes actually pretty late in the story - paint gels! There's a Propulsion Gel to accelerate surfaces, a Repulsion Gel to bounce off and jump higher and white Conversion Gel to allow you to open portals anywhere!!  

Oh, and the Weighted Companion Cube is also back, although only briefly this time. 

Portal 2 one of the last games featuring Valve's proprietary Source Engine (before the release of the much upgraded Source 2). And despite the aging system, it looks miles better than the last Half-Life titles. It can simply look gorgeous at times, featuring some of the most unique, realistic and complex physics in gaming! The later Weathley destroyed test chambers are particularly impressive. They mostly worked on altering the engine enough t port it over to the PS3.

Like the original Portal, Portal 2 was co-developed with fresh new faces, new creative people that ended up joining Valve after impressive them with a small indie project. In this case it was the student project Tag: The Power of Paintup. The young Independent Games Festival-winning team DigiPen impressed quite a lot of people with their 2009 game project, a game about spraying paint with guns to play around with physics proprieties. Valve would end up hiring them to join the Portal team and incorporate similar concepts into their puzzles.

The idea was to make Portal 2 a standalone product from start! So the sequel was given a lot more time and resources to its development. And they did it. The idea feels just as fresh and with plenty enough surprises in store as the first time around!

Plot is given a lot more focus this time, while never losing sight of providing original, interesting and unique puzzles. 

If Portal 1 was a simple fun puzzle game with a great plot twist and a memorable finale, the second offers a much more elaborated adventure, something closer to those Cube movies cube about science, testing, a rogue ai and a complex backstory and lore. Exploring the past of Aperture Science is such a joy!

Portal 2 has a lot to offer. It has a ton of great new ideas, really fun and challenging puzzles, it's always a fun game for a replay. And let's not forget the fantastic additions of Wheatley/Stephen Merchant and Cave Johnson/J. K. Simmons! Those two really sold their part!

While some of the visuals might have aged a little bit, it still is a gorgeous-looking experience! The gels are particularly nice and impressive, such cool effects! 

I also love the learning curve. The game forces a new sets of puzzles every few test chambers to keep you on your toes, adding up to more and more complex concepts. Forcing you to think laterally to solve puzzles. Some of the first game's original chambers make a retturn only now really aged and deteriorated.

There wasn't much references to Valve's other series Half-Liufe this time around, although there is a clever story tie-in. A mention how an Aperture Science cargo ship (the Borealis) ended up teleported by accident (and therefore could be found at the end of Half-Life 2: Episode Two).

If there's one point I'd argue is that we maybe learn to much to draw our own conclusions about who Chell really is (the daughter of Caroline/GLaDOS? You have to wonder how she ended up in that position at the start of Portal 1...).

While nobody expected the lightning to strike twice, they were able to greatly expand upon the original Portal to not only offer a full standalone sequel, but it also turned out yet another great surprise!

The game was just as much if not more critically acclaimed than the original. Critics particularly praising the fantastic writing. I wish more games were as funny and clever thought of. Great pacing, clever plot and dialogues, and a ton of dark humor and jokes. I always found gaming to lack humor, this game proved me otherwise! (Yes, I miss old adventure games...)

For a puzzle game, it's a fairly long campaign for this type of game. Although the coop and DLC campaigns are much shorter in comparison (more on that below). It's about 3 times the length of the original Portal.

As usual per Valve tradition, once the story completed you unlock the ability to listen to an ingame commentary track.

Finally the music of Mike Morasky is absolutely outstanding! It can be quite relax, or pretty tense. Alternating between synthetic cues, creepy and captivating music. Jonathan Coulton returned to compose "Want You Gone" with Ellen McLain singing the lyrics as GLaDOS for the credits. And there's another song "Exile Vilify" by The National used in the background of the elusive "Rat Man's" secret rooms...

Overall, Portal 2 is one of the rare examples of a perfect sequel!

It's a very funny game, with a great sarcastic tone and meta jokes. Easily one of the funniest games I've played in ages. 

I particularly love the last third of the game with the old school 70s and 80s test chambers! Amazing voice acting throughout the game from what is mostly robots (and pre-recorded J. K. Simmons commentaries). The game has a great learning curve and challenging difficulty. It's easily one of the best titles from that past generation, in my eyes!  

This one comes Highly Recommended for any Portal/Valve fans, puzzle games enthusiasts and even newcomers to gaming!

The game also featured an additional 2-player coop mode, but I thought it deserved its own separate review, so look down below for more on that!

Valve would keep producing more content and support the game with a bunch of additional downloadable content as well as the great addition of a map editor to create, share and test other people's test chambers! A first DLC was in the form of the Sixense DLC level pack for motion controllers and the PS3's move control (titled "Portal 2: In Motion"). Finally a second DLC extended the coop mode. There also was one exclusive addition for the PC and Mac releases, The Perpetual Testing Initiative level editor sharing service which they launched for free on May 2012 for the Steam platform. The ability to play around user-created levels (and it even adds light elements of storyline with a Cave Jongson impersonator running tests across multiple universe!).

On a sad note, this would be the last game Valve actually developed around a singleplayer campaign experience (and they now basically just run Steam and keep Team Fortress up to date these day...).

I give it:
3 / 3 Bubbles!

VGR: Portal 2: Cooperative Testing Initiative and the Portal 2: Peer Review DLC
By VALVE/Electronic Arts
Type Two player cooperative mode/DLC expansion pack
Year October 2011

Since this was its own entirely separate campaign from the main game, with a unique story, test chambers and two new player characters, I felt it deserved a separate review as well!

The Cooperative Testing Initiative is a 2-player cooperative mode. You don't play as Chell here, but instead the 2 players control the robots Atlas and P-Body, both voiced by Dee Bradley Baker (originally it was going to be Chell and another human character). Each given their own portal guns with their own set of different colors.

To keep on testing for GLaDOS!

This cooperative campaign takes place sometime after the singleplayer campaign. GLaDOS built the robots out of recycled elements from a sentry turrets (P-body) and a personality core (Atlas). The goal is basically to focus on puzzle solving and explore test chamber after test chamber for the most part. Although as deeper you go into the research labs it turns out this was not just about solving puzzles and testing. The robots were actually looking for "the Vault", a storage of... humans kept in stasis!!

It's basically the same controls as the main game. Two players can play on the same console via split screen or separate screen via online coop. One, oh so rare, unique element was the ability to cross-play between PC, Mac and PS3 users regardless of the system!

The robots each have their own set of separate portals in different colors. Every time they're destroyed, GLaDOS restore them new bodies! 

The idea is to work together to solve even more complex 2-person puzzles! The robots start off spited each on their own side, but as the game progresses the players are given more freedom and more complex possibilities.

New additions to the gameplay include object-specific interactions and coop gestures!

Finally the Peer Review DLC allowed to continue the story of P-Body and Atlas with a few more puzzle rooms, a new coop test track. The story is a continuation of the plot that sees ATLAS and P-Body looking for some mysterious intruder in the facility (as well adding a challenge mode to both the singleplayer and coop campaigns). The player is also allowed the chance to customize elements of the game and the robots!

Overall: The addition of this cooperative mode to Portal was such a great idea! And a brilliant addition to the gameplay mechanics!

While I didn't find the story as engaging or the dialogues as hilarious as the main game (I missed Wheatley in this!), it still is a relatively solid experience and a Must Play!

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score! 

No comments:

Post a Comment