Portal 2's first DLC pack, "Peer Review," is finally here. Though it was a little late (October can hardly be considered summer) we can forgive Valve, since they did let us download the DLC free of charge though they could have easily milked us for some extra cash.
I got through "Peer Review" this weekend, and though it was significantly shorter than I had hoped—and the Challenge Mode didn't really add a whole lot other than giving us the chance to quantify our speed runs—it still proved that the Portal story has room to expand beyond what we've seen thus far. Atlas and P-Body never got any sort of definitive "Atlas and P-Body are no longer inside Aperture Labs" ending in the base game of Portal 2, after all. Besides, the ending of the game's co-op campaign left a massive door open (both metaphorically and literally) for future plot threads.
What I most wanted was to be able to write this week's column about all the crazy Half-Life 3 references. The base game had a few of these, like the Borealis life preserver and the thing that might be one of Half-Life's Barnacles that can be only be seen if you pause the elevator sequence of the single-player campaign's ending. However, I didn't catch a single allusion to the Half-Life series, though I admit my search wasn't as thorough as it could have been. It was sort of hard to focus on the background details when I was frantically gesturing to my idiot partner to shoot portals while he ignored me, shot me in the face with his portal gun (even though that doesn't do anything), and jumped into acid pits.
However, I did notice something that seemed to back my suspicions that Portal 2 is a game with a whole lot of life left in it, and it has to do with the way the new content is integrated into the base game. Upon downloading the content, a new door opens up in the co-op lobby. Going through that door brings you to a hall, where a panel opens up on the wall, and from this panel, you can select which testing course you'd like to try. The only course available is "Art Therapy," which came with the "Peer Review" DLC. Why is there the option to select a course if there's only one course to select? Obviously, this is the hub where we'll see new DLC missions in the future. The fact that this detail was included suggests pretty heavily that Valve is planning more DLC for this game.
And it's definitely not unlike Valve to support games long after their launch dates. Look at Left 4 Dead 2. That game continues to get updates and added campaigns, even though it was released almost two years ago. They've even added one of the original Left 4 Dead campaigns to Left 4 Dead 2, and there are plans to bring the rest over soon. In fact, they've even been pretty good about bringing new content and fixes the original Left 4 Dead, even while supporting the sequel. To make all this content even better, it's always been free.
The Portal series has been immensely popular, and there's no reason to doubt Valve's continued support for it. I'm pretty sure we'll still be seeing free Portal 2 DLC two years from now.
However, I wouldn't expect any Advanced Chambers in this content, even though the original Portal had them. (In case you've never played Portal's Advanced Chambers, they are extra hard versions of the later test chambers in the game's campaign.)
You see, I've always had this theory about the Advanced Chambers. I have a feeling that at some point in the development process, some people started discovering new ways to solve chambers that the developers hadn't intended. For example, one chamber might have been intended to require two Weighted Cubes to solve, yet players figured out a way to get through the chamber with only a single Weighted Cube. In this case, the developers would have decided to build a more difficult version of that chamber that only gave you one Cube to work with. (And just to be jerks, they'd most likely replace the floor with a giant pit of acid.) Doing this would have added content to an admittedly short game with very little development time involved.
The reason this wouldn't work for Portal 2 is that it had a much better QA testing process. In fact, many gamers feel that one of the game's only real flaws is that it was too refined. So most of these more difficult solutions were discovered by testers and implemented into the game already. Sure, you'll find YouTube videos of some insanely clever solutions to these chambers, but most of them require a level of accuracy and dexterity that makes them nearly impossible in anything but the PC version. So I doubt we'll see any Advanced Chambers feature in the future, unless Valve decides to completely rework the existing chambers to make them harder.
My prediction: Portal 2 is a game that's going to get a ton of post-release support, and I'm willing to bet that almost all of that support will be absolutely free. It probably won't include Advanced Chambers, like the original Portal eventually did, but there's plenty more story for Valve to tell here. Perhaps we'll even see some of the content from the first Portal show up in this game, similar to what Valve did with Left 4 Dead 2.
The bottom line: Don't exchange your Portal 2 disc for GameStop store credit quite yet. You will probably miss out on a ton of cool content in the future. It's a good thing, too, because I'm sure the "Peer Review" DLC only left many of us with "The Itch" for more testing.
CCC Editor/Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*