|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Release: April 18, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Josh Wirtanen
Part first-person shooter, part puzzler, Portal took the world by surprise back in 2007 with its unique gameplay style. In fact, not even its creators expected it to be so successful. It was pretty much made as an experiment and packaged with Half-Life 2's Orange Box, so there wasn't really a lot of pressure to make an amazing standalone game.
Oh, how things have changed.
A cult fan base, over a million downloads, several awards, and plenty of bootleg Weighted Companion Cube merchandise later, the pressure is on to make sure Portal 2 is a superior product. But Valve feels up to the challenge. Can this much-anticipated sequel truly live up to the hype?
The key to the original Portal's success was the perfectly executed combination of innovative portal-based gameplay, interesting setting, richly nuanced characters, and intriguing storyline. In order to please long-time fans, Portal 2 must not only include all of these elements, but must also expand them in a logical and satisfying manner.
While the portal gun (technically called the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device or ASHPD) remains virtually the same, quite a few new physics elements have been added to make Portal 2 more interesting and possibly more challenging. There is the Thermal Discouragement Beam, a high-powered laser that can be redirected using prism-like cubes; the Pneumatic Diversity Tube, a vacuum tube that can suck up objects and hurl them into other areas; and the Aerial Faith Plate, a catapult-like tile that launches objects or players into the air. Another exciting new feature is the addition of gels that can be painted on floors and walls to give them new properties. Blue gel will make a bouncy surface, useful for getting up into those hard-to-reach places, while orange gel will enhance your speed. When you combine all these elements together and add them to the portal mechanics, the possible amount of puzzles is truly overwhelming. It is not hard to believe that Portal 2 promises to be significantly longer than the original.
The characters Portal players have come to love and hate (and possibly love to hate), Chell and GLaDOS, are back to reignite a rivalry that has been dormant for hundreds of years. But this time they are not alone. Chell has a new robot buddy named Wheatley to help her out of jams and provide companionship. Unlike the Weighted Companion Cubes of the first Portal game, Wheatley can actually talk and interact with Chell.
The mysterious Aperture Science Laboratories facility is back as well. However, hundreds of years have passed between Portal and Portal 2, so this setting now shows significant signs of decay. Many of the familiar laboratory test rooms have been filled with vegetative life, making for a much darker and more detailed version of the world we were introduced to back in 2007.
While the entire plot has not yet been revealed, there is enough available video footage to suggest that Portal 2's storyline is going to be at least as entertaining as the original. It should contain no shortage of the psychological experimentation, sly manipulation, and dark sense of humor that made Portal so worth obsessing over. And GLaDOS is back with all of her charming malevolence and melodic auto-tuned witticisms. In short, this game will mess with your head, and you will love every second of it.
And if all of that is still not enough, there is a brand new two-player cooperative mode that requires two players to work together to solve complex puzzles. According to the co-op trailer, these challenges are so difficult they've never been solved by a human. But don't fret, instead of human avatars, players control one of two new robot characters, each with its own ASHPD. There's even a new feature that allows players to point out the locations they would like their partner to create portals. This mode will be available in two-player split-screen or online full-screen.
If the trailer on Portal 2's website is any indication, the graphics are gorgeous. The new robot characters are insanely detailed, the animations are incredibly smooth, and the background textures look better than ever. This game should be a truly delicious piece of eye candy.
Yes, the wait has been excruciatingly long since its first announcement back in March of 2010, and a series of delays have made it even worse, but Portal 2 looks like it should be truly worth it. It's being called one of the most anticipated games of 2011, and for good reason. Quite frankly, it's difficult to not get excited about the second iteration in this phenomenally innovative game series.
By Josh Wirtanen
CCC Freelance Writer