Friday, May 20, 2011

Portal 2 - Early Contender for Game of the Year

Portal 2 may be one of the best written games ever created. The follow-up to 2007's classic brings back the dark comedy, and extends it ten-fold.

The puzzles get quite interesting

Portal 2 was released for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Produced and Developed by Valve Software, this anticipated title follows the adventures of silent protagonist Chell, making her way once again through the bright halls and seedy underbelly of Aperture Laboratories. Along the way she meets Wheatley, a quirky little Companion Sphere that tries to find a way for the both of them to escape the ruined and deformed labs in one piece. At the same time, GLaDOS is back up and running, and is seeking revenge for Chells mistake of killing her.
Chell gets reimagined, but still uses the same face model as the first game

What made the first Portal stand-out from the crowd in 2007 was two things; the interesting and complex puzzle solving, and the charming and intelligent writing. You would only hear two voices in the entire game, and yet they were so full of character. GLaDOS in the first game started as a normal, monotone AI, then started to chastise and belittle the character, all the way up to the final confrontation of the first game. But these were not the only times that Portal set a back story. Small rooms off to the sides would give a glimpse into what was really going on in the labs, without giving anything solid away. (Other than 'the cake is a lie.')
GLaDOS is happy to see you, but is such that a good thing?

Portal 2 takes the reins of its former game, and goes at it again full force. Ellen McLain returns with her award winning performance as GLaDOS, the evil AI who only wants to test, and test with deadly neurotoxins. Wheatley is voiced by the talented Brit, Stephen Merchant, who is a stand-out, and holds his own while acting with Ellen. The two work well within the world of Portal, and the interactions between them are gut-busting to say the least. Cave Johnson, the former CEO of Aperture Laboratories, is voiced by J.K. Simmons, and plays the part perfectly. His character is like a cross between J.J. Jameson from Spider-Man and Stephen Colbert. Nolan North also voice acts in this game, playing malfunctioning turrets and a few other interesting characters, rounding off the cast quite well.
Just Say "Apple!"

Valve has always had a tradition in gaming, and that is no cutscenes. They want the story to be told while the player can still interact and move in-game, and this shines in Portal 2. From the very first scene, similar to the tram ride at the beginning of the very first Half-Life, the game has you hooked in the environment. Every step of the way characters will chime in with something either interesting or hilarious. The game is never boring.

One more thing I will say about the games ending. Jesus, that was awesome.

The co-op game play is better than I expected. The puzzles are more challenging than in the single-player mode, as there are two brains working together to solve them. The interaction tolls at work for the two characters are well implemented. Without using voice-chat, you can tell your partner exactly where to place a portal, or drop a cube. While at first it seems like the co-op mode is simple used as a sort of multiplayer add-on, Valve yet again sneaks some story in there, making it all the more worth it to give a try.
Trust is a hard thing to come by, even for robots...

Portal 2 comes close to being perfection. Some of the single-player puzzles are a little too easy, and there was only one puzzle I was nearly stumped on for a good 15 min. The back story and Rat Man locations are not as engaging as the first game, but there are a few Easter eggs that totally make them worth looking for. Also, while the ending song to the first game is now a classic among gamers, the ending song for Portal 2 is, in many ways, just as good, if not better.

Portal 2 has some of the best writing I have ever read in nearly any type of media, and Valve continues to release fantastic projects. That is is why I'm giving Portal 2:

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