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Hands Down: The Best Game of 2011

  • Sep 3, 2011
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When the original Portal was released in The Orange Box it was quite a surprise that of all the games in it... Portal was the one that stuck out the most.  No one, not even Valve, thought Portal would eventually be what people would pick The Orange Box for, let alone that it would sell well over four million copies worldwide (and that's not even including how many millions of copies it has sold on Steam).  At the time, the idea of a sequel just didn't seem like it would happen.  After all, while Portal was designed with the idea in mind, it wasn't always thought to come to fruition.  But because of an absurdly strong following, as well as being one of the few games to sprout memes that even non-gamers know ("The Cake is a lie!") eventually Portal 2 had to come along.  And it's better than its predecessor in every way.  This is perhaps the best game released this year and it is almost all based on the gameplay and story alone. 

Portal 2 puts players back in the life of Chell.  She's still in Aperture in a post apocalyptic world.  When she awakens to find that the world around her has come crashing down she is guided out by a small bot named Wheatley.  And as she tries to escape from Aperture she comes to discover that GLaDOS is still very much alive and once again she's pitted through test.  On the surface it doesn't seem like Portal 2 is much but deep down it's actually a VERY absorbing story.  Mostly because the narrative and mystery of Aperture is just THAT amusing.  Portal 2's story is also helped out by having some of the most clever and witty writing I've ever seen in a video game.  Wheatley is a charming character with several fantastic quotes because he's just so lively and the voice acting is so good.  Players of the first Portal, however, will be even happier to see that GLaDOS hasn't changed a bit from the first one.  She spends quite a bit of time taunting you and spouting off some of the best lines in the game.  There are others you'll eventually hear besides Wheatley and GLaDOS but to talk about them would spoil much of the story. 

The narrative comes alive in other ways as well.  The world you're exploring looks dark, murky and mysterious.  And the further you get through the game the more you begin to learn about Aperture and it's history.  And it's quite vivid.  It's so easy to be absorbed and drawn into the world Portal 2 takes place in.  Though it's quite empty and you're not likely to run into any other humans you still get to hear some clever and hilarious lines from those such as GLaDOS and Wheatley.  You'll never feel alone as you play as a result.  And even those around you who happen to be watching or listening will more than likely enjoy themselves as well thanks to this.  From a production standpoint Portal 2 doesn't have that many equals.  Because it's not just gorgeous to look at, it's extremely fun to listen to.  Very few games pull off their witty and lively commentary as well as Portal does. 

All this doesn't distract from the gameplay because you'll be able to run around and listen at the same time.  As with the first one you'll be presented with several different test chambers which you must complete by using your portal gun to place portals on walls to help you get to the exit.  Of course, there is more to it than this, you'll also have to press switches, place blocks in the right place, find your way around turrets and lasers etc.  At its core Portal 2 is an exceptionally challenging, but not impossible, puzzle.  The first half will probably see you getting through much of what it offers in no time flat because it's essentially all the same things you experienced in the very first game.  The second half begins to throw some challenges and interesting twists such as different kings of gel that make you bounce or accelerate at an alarming rate.  The puzzles soon become challenging, if only because the solutions are brilliantly designed.  But the way they're designed anyone can figure them out.  If you're stuck, all you simply have to do is mess around for a little bit and you truly begin to see the solutions take form.  There are times you'll scratch your chin and realize the solution is more obvious (or clever) than you previously thought.  You'll rarely find yourself stuck on a puzzle for too long.  They were designed to be something to get you to think, but not exactly to bang your head against the wall in frustration.  And between each puzzle you'll hear some of the characters spout off some commentary or something.

The game is catered almost entirely to those who like puzzle games, however.  You are literally running from one puzzle to the next as you explore Aperture and the mysteries behind it.  While the game is short, the pacing may not feel that way, especially when you're in one of the brain teasing rooms.  If you've become accustomed to fast paced action then Portal 2 may feel a bit too slow for some.  The game isn't very long.  At best it might take you a little over ten hours to go through it all.  Likewise, once you solve the puzzles the solutions aren't that forgettable (probably because a lot of them are quite clever).  There is a lot of replay value, however because sometimes it's fun to see if you can do the puzzle faster or to find some of the more clever achievements if you're into that sort of thing. 

There is also a co-op mode that has you solving puzzles in similar ways.  This is masterfully designed and you can do it with a friend locally or online.  Those who picked up the PS3 copy will no doubt be enthralled to know you can play with your PC friends over steam.  The 360 is, unfortunately, locked out of this, but imagine if all three versions could've gone on Steam and you could've played with your friend who has a 360?  Nevertheless the PC/PS3 link is something very few games do and it's nice to see it.  Hopefully we can see more of it in the future.

Portal 2 is an almost perfect game.  I own the PS3.  It came with a copy of the PC version.  One of the things that actually brings Portal 2 down are some of the technical specs.  The PS3 version had some pretty lengthy load times and there were times when the frame rate dipped slightly.  The PC version, perhaps because this one was digitally downloaded) didn't suffer from these issues.  The PC version also played at a higher resolution.  Needless to say while I was happy to have it on PS3 the experience on the PC was infinitely better because it was just smoother.  PC players accustomed to the console (it doesn't take an unusually powerful PC to run Portal 2) will be glad to know it has gamepad support if they can't adjust to the PC scheme.  Although the mouse and keyboard isn't hard at all (the mouse makes aiming much easier--obviously I am not much of a PC gamer).

In the end Portal 2 is one of the most well designed games I've played in a long time.  It is better than its predecessor in every way.  It's familiar while still adding elements that really make it stand above.  Simply put, if you enjoyed the first Portal you need to play this game.  Portal 2 also succeeds because the only game like it is... well... the first Portal and the experience of shooting Portals still feels fresh.  If there is to be a Portal 3... it has one hell of a game to top. 

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September 05, 2011
The review is well done and interesting.
September 03, 2011
Can anyone lend some $$ to buy this game? ;P
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About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this video game


Portal 2 is a first-person puzzle-platform video game developed by Valve Corporation. It is the sequel to the 2007 video game Portal and was announced on March 5, 2010, following a week-long alternate reality game based on new patches to the original game. Though initially slated for release in the last quarter of 2010, the game was postponed to the week of April 18, 2011. The game was released by Valve through Steam for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, while the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and retail Windows/OS X versions of the game are distributed by Electronic Arts. The game's release on Steam was preceded by a second multi-week alternate reality game, the Potato Sack, involving 13 independently-developed titles which culminated in a distributed computing spoof to release Portal 2 several hours early.

Portal 2 primarily comprises a series of puzzles that must be solved by teleporting the player's character and simple objects using the "portal gun", a device that can create inter-spatial portals between two flat planes. The game's unique physics allow momentum to be retained through these portals, requiring creative use of portals to maneuver through the test chambers. Other gameplay elements were added to Portal 2 including tractor beams, laser redirection, and special paint-like gels that impart special properties to objects they touch. Similar to how the student team of Narbacular Drop were brought into Valve to expand their game to the basis of ...
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ESRB: E10+
Number of Players: Single-player, Co-operative
Publisher: Valve Corporation
Developer: Valve Corporation
Console: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac OS X
Genre: Puzzle Action
Release Date: April 19, 2011 (NA)
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