Portal 2 Preview
In getting early glimpses of 2007’s Portal – packed in with The Orange Box – one might’ve assumed it was just another Valve shooter. But it really wasn’t: it was a puzzle game and the “gun” you were seeing would punch holes in the environment and act as doorways. You were trying to escape from the Aperture Science facility and the AI robot GLaDOS led you through a series of challenges. It wasn’t long but it was certainly fulfilling and quite unique, so when Gabe Newell announced at last year’s E3 that the “best version" of Portal 2 was coming to the PlayStation 3, we were excited. Given Newell’s history with Sony-related comments, we thought hell had frozen over. But nevertheless, the fact remains and the sequel will be “two and a half times longer” than the original; we’ll also have the benefit of a new co-op mode.
Valve has really stepped it up for this second effort, as we’ll have more ways of dealing with more complicated puzzles. New tools include this bouncy slimy stuff, light bridges and special jump pads. At the start of the adventure, it seems the entire facility has been abandoned and overrun by nature; trees and vines are infesting the once sterile laboratory and it seems you’re just a forgotten survivor. So right away, we see and hear something different. We’ll have the visual and auditory effects one might commonly associate with a forest environment, along with the futuristic elements from the first title. GLaDOS will certainly return but before you really dive in, Valve has made the sequel accessible for newcomers (probably a good idea, as the PS3 version of The Orange Box was inferior, and many gamers avoided it). Your portal gun will only be able to fire one portal at the start but as you progress, your invaluable tool will become more versatile.
Puzzle-solving involves all sorts of gameplay mechanics, and that includes transporting cubes through portals, hitting the correct trigger switches, and when involved with a partner in co-op, there’s even more fun to be had. …just try not to kill each other too often. It’s guaranteed to be a major draw for fans of the game but it’s highly recommended that you complete a single-player quest first; many of the complex challenges in co-op mode include mechanics found only in the latter parts of the story. Both of you will be a robot and GLaDOS will mock you like crazy if you continually mess things up. It’s inevitable that you’ll do something horrific to your teammate – accidentally, of course – simply due to the challenge within, and the fact that you always need to be on the same page. But the good news is that you’re not really punished when death occurs; you just respawn.
If you want to see what your friend is seeing, just press a button and you’ll get his POV. Active portals can be located by checking the simple icons that pop up on the screen, and you can place tags to indicate where a portal should go. This is one of those games where co-op play can really expand upon the base product, and it’s not just because the co-op mode is almost as long as the single-player adventure. It’s more challenging and will tax the both of you to the limits. At least, that’s what we’ve heard. Overall, the slick atmosphere, fantastic writing and dialogue, and unbelievably clever puzzles will carry the day, and don’t forget that if you pick up Portal 2 for the PS3, you’ll get a special bonus: a Steam Play copy of the game for free (obtained by linking your PSN and Steam accounts).
There’s little doubt that the originality and challenge fans adored in the original will return, and it’s obvious Valve has taken the next step. We can’t wait to give it a try.
2/10/2011 Ben Dutka