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Well now, here's a perfect example of how to make a game that is not only exceptionally designed and genuinely fun to play, but is also completely unlike anything currently on shelves... even if it doesn't do a WHOLE lot different from it's predecessor and has a slightly questionable amount of on-disc content for a full retail priced game.A sequel to 2007's surprise smash "bonus game" that was brought to consoles as part of Valve's Half Life centred 'Orange Box' compilation,Portal 2 once again sees you in control of the silent, nameless female from the first game who wakes up from a ridiculously long hibernation/sleep period to find Aperture labs (where she was seemingly still held as a lab rat running portal based logic tests following the first game's ending) in ruins, crumbling to pieces and overgrown with vegetation. So with the help of simpleton robot Wheatley you must find a way to escape from the seemingly endless structure you find yourself in and also find a way to survive the testing fixated GLaDOS, who isn't quite as "destroyed" as you left her at the end of the first game. To say more would spoil it, but the plot of Portal 2 very much takes the 'simple but effective' route, with a plot you can sum up in a couple of sentences, but that is filled with superb dialogue and banter from both GLaDOS and Wheatley throughout that is genuinely hilarious, especially with regard to Stephen Merchant's(aka the funny one from his partnership with Ricky Gervais) performance as Wheatley. The plot may not have a lot to it, but what it does have is solid gold.Gameplay is extremely simple and really really easy to master as controls consist of nothing more than basic movement and the ability to create 2 connected portals on compatible surfaces. Nothing fancy, nothing complex, this is the most simplified first person control set up you're likely to find. The real meat of the game though is in it's level design... it's glorious, ingenious level design. Portal 2 manages to be simultaneously taxing and compulsive in a way that you never see outside of simpler 'Tetris' level puzzle games. providing a beautiful looking, full 3D game world and making it a 'one more go/can't put it down' pick up and play experience would sound a pretty hefty task, but Valve has managed to create just that. There's not really a whole lot else that can be said about the gameplay to be honest, it's the same mix of portalling and momentum fuelled trial and error and objective based narrative that the first game offered, but on a bigger scale and with some really neat new additions to the gameplay being tossed into the mix later on in the game that I really shouldn't spoil for you. Needless to say it never gets boring or stale, because it never gives you a chance to feel that way... the game is perfectly pitched and perfectly paced. Aside from the main single player mode the game also has an equally ingenious co-op mode that is shorter and more individual challenge based than the main game but is in some ways much more clever than the main game in it's puzzle designs. The implementation of teamwork required is quite simply astonishing and there are few experiences in gaming that can match arguing with someone about how to solve a puzzle and ending up being right over them. It is superb. Unfortunately, as at the time of writing this review the Playstation Network has gone to silicon heaven I have been unable to try the co-op online, playing through it in split screen, so I can't say how it functions online obviously, but seeing as it offers everything the PC version does (Including full access to your Steam profile and functions, including the ability to play against both PC and PS3 players online), I daresay that it'll be a great online experience... if the network is ever switched back on of course.On a technical level, Portal 2 is across the board faultless. Fantastic visuals, flawless performance, great (If minimalist) soundtrack, and truly incredible voice acting from all involved... which is pretty much just three different characters and a generic robot voice for the turrets and even with such a small cast it is still amazing, with Stephen Merchant in particular nearly making the game worth the price of admission alone.This is the very definition of a five star game. It's fun, easy to pick up and play, engrossing, has excellent multiplayer and will absolutely leave you thinking about it even when you aren't playing it. It is a fantastic game... BUT (And I'm truly sorry I have to include a 'but' here at all) there is definitely a very real question over whether this game truly warrants a full retai price for what you get. It is unquestionably fantastic, but the game's play time is comparable to the average first person shooter, coming in at around the 7 hour mark to complete the single player mode and the co-op (Depending on player skill) is even shorter than that, meaning that you have a game here that you'd maybe get... lets say 15 or so hours out of if you play everything on offer. That might sound decent enough for a game nowadays, yes, but unlike most games nowadays, Portal 2 has absolutely ZERO replay incentives for any of it's modes to offer the player. Once you complete the single player mode... that's done. No additional difficulties to try, no hidden bonuses to unlock... just a straight run through the same puzzles again, same dialogues, same story sequences... nothing changes. Co-op is likewise, with only the option of playing through with different players being anything resembling a reason to replay. There are no challenge modes here, no competitive multiplayer elements, no skill testing time trials or score challenge type modes... there is only that 15 hour package and then nothing else but the option go through that same 15 hours again. For a modern day boxed retail title, especially such a high profile one from a developer as talented with as much knowledge about the industry as Valve, offering no reasons to play the game again is a huge oversight in my opinion. Yes, Valve have announced that there will be a major free update for the game released to download 'later in the summer' that adds 'challenge rooms' amongst other new content, but that isn't going to do much for the game's worth at this moment in time. It's the sort of thing Valve really really should have worked on including in the game from the start. It's a nice extra that this PS3 version comes with a code to download the PC/Mac version of Portal 2 for free I guess, but again... same content...So there you go... a truly incredible gaming experience, but for now, it's only good for one run through unless you really really love every second of it (Which, to be fair, you certainly COULD), but I couldn't in good conscience say that this is something you could happily pay in the region of 40 quid for and be completely satisfied with. When the price drops and the additional content is added though? Then you'd seriously be an idiot not to buy it.
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On a recent holiday of mine my mother handed me 30 quid, and told me to "buy myself something nice". I wasn't too surprised by this, she often treats me. What I was surprised about was the exceptional experience I was about to embark upon. This all started when I picked up Portal 2. I always wanted to give the game a shot, but I never went out of my way to buy it. I didn't think it was a game I needed to play, I could always rent it on a quite weekend. Looking back,I can't believe how wrong I was.Portal 2 is a must have game for any gamer. Period. Its style of gaming is completely different to any other I have played in recent times. It's a game that requires you to think, a lot. You can play Portal 2 solo, but there is also an entirely different co-op campaign. Regardless of your choice to play by yourself or with a friend, you are getting an impeccable game, easily one of the best of the year.In single player you play the role of Chell, who is the silent protagonist of the game. She is a test subject in the Aperature Science Enrichment Facility. The game starts with Chell waking up in a motel room to the frantic screams of a personality core, Wheatley. The facility is falling apart, and it is up to Chell and Wheatley to find a way out, quick. They choose to go through several shutdown test chambers, stumbling across the dormant GlaDOS. In their attempt to find an escape pod, they accidentally awaken the demonic robot, and all hell breaks loose. She hasn't forgiven Chell for her actions in the first game, fans of the series will remember that Chell "murdered" GlaDOS. From here, GlaDOS starts to rebuild the facility, and begins testing Chell. When I began playing the game I thought it would be test chamber after test chamber, maybe a confrontation with GlaDOS at the end? Don't make my mistake, there is a hugely promising storyline with this game, one which offers some of the best twists and turns I have ever seen. Don't worry if you think I've spoiled anything, this is only the opening and it's a pretty good one I think.As good as the storyline is, the gameplay is able to top it. Portal 2 offers exceptional puzzles, blended with a first person view to make it quite the experience. You are equipped with a portal gun for the duration of the game, which makes life a lot easier for Chell. This gun allows the player to teleport by planting portals on two flat surfaces, step through one and you will emerge out through the other. Your portal gun can be used to teleport cubes, reach areas that would normally be out of reach and even redirect lasers. Another point to note is that the game's physics allows you to maintain momentum when travelling through a portal. This little trick can often be used to solve a puzzle, and it is a simple addition to the game the dramatically improves it.Audio is an aspect of a game that I don't normally place too much emphasis on, but it would be criminal not to credit the works of Stephen Merchant (Wheatly) and Ellen McLain (GlaDOS). Together they make the game the experience it is, I simply cannot praise them enough. Merchant provides the game's humour, and you can tell he's not just cashing a pay cheque, he really put a lot effort into the game. He makes Wheatly the hugely entertaining character that he is, and provides you with many laughs during the campaign. The same can be said for McLain, but instead of humour she provides intensity. She was the driving force behind me beating a lot of the chambers, as I always wanted to prevail over GlaDOS, and overcome her smart comments. Subliminally GlaDOS was egging me on, and I spent many late nights in front of the television, repeating the phrase "just on more..". The voice actors made the game for me, and I can't imagine what the game would be like without them.There are a lot of positives about the game, but it doesn't come without its flaws. There is no real replay value, once a puzzle is done the solution is saved in your mind. You can replay the game if you want, but it doesn't really offer anything new or different. Also the game is a little short for my liking, I still feel that it's value for money but I would have liked to see it go on for a bit longer. A little gripe I had with the game was the fact that you couldn't select individual chambers to play from the main menu. You can only select chapters, meaning you might have to play through 10 chambers to reach the one you wanted to play. I know the flaws aren't huge ones, but they are worth mentioning.Finally, I'd like to discuss the co-op aspect of Portal 2. For me, it's the best part of the game, and I have many reasons for saying this. I played through the game with a friend, and we were absolutely blown away at times. It requires teamwork and complete co-operation to even stand a chance against some of the test chambers. The feeling of conquering one of GLaDOS' chambers on your own is great, doing it with a friend is a thousand times better. Words can't even describe how we felt when we triumphed over some of the puzzles. This is the best co-op I have ever experienced hands down, and I am eagerly awaiting any DLC.Closing CommentsI could go on for days about how great Portal 2 is, but that would just be a waste of my time and yours. It's rare to see a game so unique be this well received, but Portal 2 deserves every bit of praise it gets. It's suitable for any gamer, which is one of the reasons it's such a huge success. Get the game, although GlaDOS might often let you down, Portal 2 won't.Overall Score = 9.0
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Do you like puzzle games? Yes? Then you owe it to yourself to play Portal 2, full stop.However, if you're like me and you're not really into puzzle games so to speak then, well, you STILL owe it to yourself to play Portal 2. It's not often that it can be said a game has everything, but Valve have created a masterpiece here for puzzle and non-puzzle fans alike. The visuals are top notch, the storyline engaging, the script is well written and at times laugh-out-loud funny and, most importantly,the game play is spot on. This is a puzzle game so you'll need to get your logic hat on, but don't let that put you off if you're not a puzzle gamer. For while the challenges in Portal 2 can be clever, intricate and mind-blowing at times, what the game has nailed 100% is the fact every problem you encounter makes sense and all puzzles are solvable through logic. Sounds silly I know, but if you're a gamer then you'll know those moments in some games where everything you try doesn't work and when you do find out the solution, it seems so implausible that it can frustrate you even more - 'oh, of course, I needed the lightbulb from the lamp-post to give to the random man so he'd give me a dog to chase away the cat who was holding a golden ball of yarn that I need to gift to the other man so he'd give me his step ladder so I can get to the roof of the building where the matchstick is which I need to burn the candle to wake up the dinosaur who's asleep in front of the washing line I need to get to!' Or something. Portal 2 however, as I said, makes sense, mainly because of the physics of the game. Puzzles are believable and as you get used to the portal gun, you'll start to see all sorts of possibilities. Even the later levels, where the puzzles become quite difficult, you'll be happy to keep trying things out as you know the puzzles will be logical and solvable with a bit of forward thinking. As you go on there is a genuine sense of reward when you finally unlock the secret behind one of the puzzles (I don't think I've yelled 'YES!" as much playing a game since my uni days spent playing Pro Evo 4 hours on end).The storyline continues a while after the end of the original Portal, once again you play as Chell. For those new to Portal, the game generally takes place in 'test chambers' in the Aperture Laboratory. It's presented in the first person, so if you like COD you'll be fine! You get a Portal gun that enables you to create pathways to different areas of a room - this is done by shooting a blue portal and an orange portal onto walls/floors. Think of them as holes, except when you create two holes they join up and become a pathway. A bit like a portal, really. Anyway, as you progress you gain access to other interesting elements that help you go faster, bounce higher, or even place a Portal onto any surface. The interesting thing about portals is just how they can be used to manipulate a room, it's not just a case of getting from point A to point B as hopefully you'll see if you play the game (or you'll know if you've played the 1st game). As you progress through these test chambers, the story unfolds and you then move onto other areas. I'll draw a line here though, as you don't want any spoilers now do you?! All I will say is that you start off with a friend called Wheatley (voiced brilliantly by Stephen Merchant) and you may or may not run into a certain foe called GLaDOS...other than that there's not much else to say that won't give out plot details (which is just as interesting as the puzzles!)As I said at the start of this review, I'm not a puzzle gamer per-say. Portal 2 is so much more than a puzzle game though. It's emotive yet funny, clever yet simple, a puzzler-meets-adventure-meets-FPS game. You'll laugh, you'll have your heart strings tugged, you might get a bit stuck, but mostly you'll do as I did and spend a whole day playing it from start to finish because it's just THAT good. Then, when you've finished, you get the excellent co-op mode (and I do recommend playing single player first) which can be played locally via split screen or, online via PSN or even with someone on PC via the Steam Code included in the PS3 version of the game. I was going to review how well this part worked but at the time of writing PSN has been down for around a week now for reasons I'm sure you're all aware of. Local co op is great though (the puzzles are even more intricate when there's two of you!) and a fine extension to the main game.It's hard to put into words how much I recommend trying this game. Even if you're apprehensive that it might not be your 'thing', similarly to Heavy Rain, it's the kind of game that may divide opinion but can genuinely be called an experience that I feel all gamers should try. I honestly don't have a negative to point out about this game, if we're being picky there's no advanced maps (like in the original), but that's a tiny criticism! Some have mentioned the longevity (I'd say a solid 8-10 hours for single player) but add in the co op and it's certainly longer. Also, as with the aforementioned Heavy Rain which clocked in around 9 hours, there's a definite case for quality over quantity and for me Portal 2 is as quality a game you will play this console generation (plus if there's a better ending to a game, well...you'll just have to play it and see!)
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Chell, a test subject at Aperture Science, has successfully destroyed the insane AI known as GLaDOS and escaped from the facility. Unfortunately, injured in the final battle, she was 'rescued' by a robot from the facility and returned to cold storage. Awakening many years later, Chell finds herself once against trapped in the facility. With the help of a friendly AI, Wheatley, she must flee once more...something made harder when GLaDOS is brought back online.Released in 2007 as an add-on to the 'Orange Box'compilation, Portal was a surprise success for its developers, Valve. It won several Game of the Year awards and glowing plaudits for its conciseness and the cleverness of its central mechanic, not to mention the frequently hilarious writing (and the brilliant closing song). Portal 2 has a lot to live up to and is put in a difficult situation for a sequel. Sequels are usually bigger, more epic and larger in scale than the original, but the Portal concept wouldn't really work on a vaster canvas. Making a sequel to Portal that respected the original game without ruining the things that made it brilliant would therefore appear to be a tall order.Happily, Valve have pulled it off. From start to finish Portal 2 is almost unimpeded brilliance. The game is longer than Portal, coming in at about eight hours compared to the original's three. Since even the splendid original game was risking becoming stale at the end, Valve have split the sequel into three clear sections. In the first Chell uses portals very much as in the first game and is aided by Wheatley and opposed by GLaDOS. At the end of this sequence Chell finds herself in the most ancient parts of the facility, where a very different set of puzzles await using different mechanics. In this section she has no enemies or opponents but is guided through the puzzles via messages pre-recorded by Aperture Science's long-deceased founder, Cave Johnson. After this she returns to the upper levels where an all-new set of challenges await, leading to the epic conclusion.As such Valve neatly avoid what could have been the game's biggest pitfall, outliving its welcome. The shifts in tone, plot and game mechanics are handled well, but still combine to form a coherent game. The cast has been enlarged with the addition of Stephen Merchant (Ricky Gervais's wingman, who increasingly is outshining his partner) as Wheatley. Valve wanted a completely different type of vocal performance for Wheatley then you normally get in a video game and Merchant's half-ad-libbed dialogue is different and more immediate, not to mention hilarious. J.K. Simmons (best-known as J. Jonah Jameson in the Raimi Spider-Man movies) provides the recorded voice of Cave Johnson and his deadpan delivery of increasingly deranged dialogue is also excellent. Ellen McLain also returns as GLaDOS and, in one of the more inspired ideas in the game, is given more dramatic meat to work with as GLaDOS begins to suffer an immense internal struggle as she and Chell discover the secret past of Aperture Science.Graphically, the game looks great with some impressive production design and animations. The Source Engine (eight years old in 2012) is definitely ageing, but nevertheless remains impressive. The puzzles are fairly fiendish and require some lateral thinking in order to make sense of all the new elements ('paints' that give different effects to surfaces, catapults that throw the player around, tractor beams and light-bridges), but the gradual introduction of these elements allows the player to get to grips with them effectively. There's a few puzzles near the end of the game that are really tough, but nothing too frustrating. More complex are the puzzles in co-op mode, but with two players working on solutions these shouldn't be too much of a problem.Events in the game build and culminate in the final battle, which is once again impressive. However, the finale of the game must rank amongst the most bizarre - but also brilliant - in gaming history. From the unexpected opera serenade to Wheatley's closing, introspective monologue it's thoroughly entertaining. Things are left open for the continuation of Chell's story (either in further Portal games or possibly future Half-Life titles) but there is no cliffhanger.Portal 2 (*****) is funny, clever, dramatic, well-acted and constantly inventive, and one of the best games in Valve's already stellar history. It is available now in the UK (PC, X-Box 360, PlayStation 3) and the USA (PC, X-Box 360, PlayStation 3).
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We all know by now that Portal 2 isn't the game that we all wanted Valve to make, but there's still no sign of the next bit of the great Half Life so I guess we'll all have to make do.Happily, Portal 2 is absolutely amazing. The original was a surprising gem of a game, given that it was almost like a bonus game in The Orange Box, full of humour, innovative and, importantly, brief enough to hold your interest over it's short playing time. So it's good to see that Valve have delivered (yet again)despite the onerous task of drawing out a neat, 4 hour puzzle into a full price, deep narrative experience.I was accused of minor spoilers in my review for Portal so I'm going to be very careful here not to give the game away. If you're desperate to know the end, you'll find it elsewhere and a sneaky peek at the Achievements before playing would give you hints of how the story might pan out without actually ruining anything. The absurd plot is rendered believable and hugely engaging, containing as it does a great deal of exposition, a complete history and some brilliant twists.I know I'm a total Valve fanboy, but I really don't care. There's no other game company out there who can do engaging narrative without cutscences in quite the same way, drawing you in without ever taking you out of the action and this ability is masterful. They have simply never produced a bad game and Portal 2 continues this unblemished record.Graphically, you could accuse the Source engine of being a bit old now as it's been around since 2004 (honestly!!!) but the maxim of "If it ain't broke..." clearly applies. So it's not as pretty as CryEngine 3 or even Unreal Engine 2 but for the sake of Portal 2 the venerable engine handles all the test chambers, rotted industrial environs and brilliant characters perfectly well. The environments are all there to do basically the same job, but they are hugely varied and perfectly capture a sense of place and time.Sound design is magnificent and the voice talent is truly exceptional. GLaDOS returns (obviously), wittier and more bitter than ever which is perhaps understandable, but her role is much deeper than before and Ellen McLain delivers a brilliant performance. Stephen Merchant is perfectly cast as a dippy personality sphere and never once manages to be annoying despite any of my initial misgivings but the absolute shining star or the show is JK Simmons as Aperture Science's founder, Cave Johnson (one of the best names in history, surely). Simmons manages to be warm, welcoming, despotic, insane, anachronistic and current all at once, displaying a complete disregard for human life and is never less than utterly brilliant, like the dark side of the American Dream made flesh. The loveable, lethal Turrets return as well, bringing the same charm as before. There's tons of quoteable dialogue, maybe nothing as iconic as "The Cake Is A Lie" but that was giddy heights indeed.Gameplay has always been a Valve strong suit and Portal 2 continues this rich tradition. Despite being effectively a First Person Shooter with a bodycount of around Zero and only one weapon it's completely gripping throughout. The narrative and action mingle well and the puzzles are superb - some really easy to get you into new habits and some fiendishly difficult. A few times I had to leave my PC, do a bit of ironing or make a brew to get some valuable thinking time but in every case the solution was a genuine Eureka! Moment which had me slapping my forehead that I'd missed such an obvious answer.I will admit though that I'm a bit too scared of the co-op mode just now, in case I come across as a total noob and fail spectacularly to uphold my end of the partnership. I can only imagine that good communication is essential to a co-op playthrough as both players will be required work together to complete a given task. Valve's track record is excellent for co-op so I'm sure it's brilliant, I'm just terrified of being too thick to play it.Anyway, you get the idea. I like this game a lot. A must-buy, without question. Thank God for Valve, yet again they raise the bar for gaming as a whole and at the moment they seem to have no peers at all.So, now we've got Portal 2, can we please, please, please have the next bit of Half Life? Come on, Valve, it's been ages! At this rate, it'll be better than the resurrection when it does finally surface.
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Version played: PC.First of all, a primer for those who don't know what "Portal" is about...In the original game you played Chell, a woman involved in a testing programme run by Aperture Science, in which you used Portals to solve a series of puzzles ("test chambers"). Using a Portal Gun you created portals on walls and floors - one mouse button creates an orange portal, the other a blue - and when you enter one portal you emerge from the other. As the game progressed your use of portals became more and more creative,and the game was huge fun, if a little short."Portal 2" is set around 100 years (some have said) after the events of the original game. Once again you play Chell, kept in suspended animation since the original game, and once again you will use portals to complete a series of test chambers. This time you are assisted by Wheatley, a spherical computer (superbly voiced by Stephen Merchant) who guides you through the early stages before the plot takes one of its numerous turns.Alongside your portal gun you are also helped - and hindered - by turrets and switches as before, but also you will encounter Hard Light Bridges (beams of light you can walk on, and also use as barriers), Excursion Funnels (vortexes of energy you can use to transport objects including yourself), Aerial Faith Plates (like spring-loaded platforms which catapult you through the air), and three types of gel you can direct onto surfaces, orange to allow things to move more quickly, blue to make them bouncy, and white to allow you to place portals. As the game progresses these devices are gradually introduced, and combined in devious ways.What did I like? The game is incredibly inventive and the puzzles really make you think. Some of them will leave you baffled, but whenever I felt outfoxed by something I'd walk away from the PC and after a few minutes something would usually dawn on me. After finishing the game (which took me about nine hours, spread over a week and a half) I found myself thinking how much easier life would be if we had portal guns and the like. Graphically it is tremendous, the test chambers building themselves before your eyes in places, creepers hanging from the ceiling in dilapidated parts of the facility, and in the second half of the game (no spoilers) the shift in the textures used is spectacularly effective. The sound is understated by and large, the odd tune popping up here and there, a song at the end (just like the original), and the voice acting is fantastic - Stephen Merchant as mentioned before, plus JK Simmons stealing the show as Cave Johnson, and the script is often laugh-out-loud funny.What didn't I like? Not a lot. It does get a tad repetitive after a while, and unlike the original game which had something of an adventure element towards the end where you were wandering around the facility in an attempt to find an exit, this game is essentially test chambers from start to finish. A lot of people have complained about the loading screens too (at the end of a level you enter a lift, and the screen displays a loading screen rather than showing the lift doors, as the original did) but personally I didn't mind them and at least they change to match the tone of the section of the game you are currently in. It's also a shame that the co-op game (essentially a 2-player "Portal 2" with its own story) requires two players so if you don't know anybody else who plays it you're essentially only getting half of the product you've bought. Yes you can play online with strangers but if they've already played the co-op levels it isn't so much fun as they tend to tear around the place and you want to explore.Oh, and it is definitely worth pointing out that Valve have recently announced that this summer they will release some free DLC for "Portal 2", possibly providing more levels, so maybe any complaints people have made about the lack of challenge levels (the original had some puzzles where you would be asked for example to solve a particular chamber by only using so many portals) will be addressed and resolved then.Tremendous fun, and despite recently finishing it I want to play it again to see what I've missed. I must have played the original "Portal" from start to finish a dozen or so times, and I can only imagine that I'll play this one even more.A brilliant game.
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I don't usually write games reviews, partly because they take me an inordinate amount of time for me to write and partly because so many people review games that opinions can easily get lost in the clutter. But I felt compelled to write a review for Portal 2, if only to give my tuppence-worth on a game that some people seem to dislike simply because it so closely resembles the first Portal game. I haven't played that one, so I was coming at it with a completely open mind.For those of you who don't already know,Portal 2 is a puzzle game through and through. You play the part of a person trapped in what ultimately amounts to a massive laboratory, being experimented on by a demented computer. But the experiments don't take the form of physical abuse like gene manipulation or having your arms chopped off, they're mentally-focussed challenges in which you just have to get from one part of each testing chamber to another using the ubiquitous portal, a two-sided doorway between two points. To assist you, you're given a portal gun that allows you to project one (and, later, both) sides of a portal onto flat surfaces in each chamber; using this gun, you can (for example) fire one side of a portal onto the wall next to you, fire the other side onto a wall on the other side of the chamber, and then walk between the two points at will.This method of instantaneous transportation allows you to cross large gaps without the need for a bridge, to scale heights without a ladder, and to avoid obstacles like automated gun turrets simply by `portal-ing' around them. It sounds simple, but the game limits where you can place portals, so you do need to think about where you can go, where you need to go, and how you can reconcile the two; you're also limited to having only one portal in a chamber at any one time, so it's not just a case of zapping portals as you like. As the game progresses, you get given extra surprises like tractor beams, a liquid gel that lets you bounce around the level, and others that I won't go into for fear of spoiling the surprise.At first glance, some of the chambers appear frighteningly complicated, and while it is true that you need to think things through quite logically, experimentation is quite simply the best way to get through each one. I was rarely stuck on any one level for more than 5 or 10 minutes, and when I found myself in that position, and then the solution came to me, I kicked myself for not getting it sooner. However, if you do find yourself frustrated at not being able to complete a particular level, my advice is to try EVERYTHING; zap portals everywhere, coat everything in gel, and above all explore the level in its entirety. It's very easy to miss something important, especially flat surfaces that you can place a portal onto that might be tucked away in the chamber somewhere.The graphics are functional without being overly impressive; they don't push the boundaries of graphic design, nor do they push the limits of the PS3's power, but they do suit the game well. Then again, Portal 2 isn't the kind of game you buy for its graphical prowess, and in any event you'll be focussing so hard on solving each level the quality of the graphics may well pass you by without you even noticing. The voice-acting is also worth a mention, that of Stephen Merchant as your small robot assistant in particular; I've never been much of a fan of his work, but even I have to admit that he does a fantastic job here. It's important to get the voice-overs right when you're developing with a game that contains only 3 characters, but Merchant carries out his role superbly, with wittiness and malevolence in equal measure.All in all, Portal 2 amounts to an extremely clever and time-consuming game that gives you enormous satisfaction as you progress through it, but that rarely lets you feel like you're completely stuck and want to resort to looking up the solution on YouTube. Granted, those times may happen, but if you have even the slightest bit of puzzling ability and you try everything you can in a level, then you should be okay. I bought Portal 2 on budget, but I can honestly say that I would gladly have paid full-price for it, and there aren't many PS3 games that I can say that about.
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Having really enjoyed the first Portal, I was hesitant about spending a full forty quid on its sequel, so waited and only recently got it in the Steam summer sale; having now completed Portal 2, I can honestly say I would have paid the full price when it came out if I'd known how good it was.Obviously the gameplay is almost identical to the original but with a few new additions, notably the different coloured gels that change how surfaces behave.These add a bit of variety to a winning formula but certainly aren't enough to make this sequel worthy of full release price on their own. What makes Portal 2 worth splashing out on is that it's a fully realised version of the original's promise, going beyond the mind-bending gameplay and puzzles and maturing into a fully fleshed-out story. Without wanting to reveal any spoilers, you go 'behind the scenes' at Aperture Science, learning about the history of the facility and experiencing Valve's unique blend of dark humour and sinister tension whilst never straying too far from the gameplay mechanics we've come to know and love. The voice acting can't go without a mention: Stephen Merchant does a great job of engaging with the Valve sense of humour, and genuinely brought a smile to my face as I was playing. Glados is also back from the dead, and her constant sarcasm contrasts nicely with the dopey naivety of Merchant's 'Wheatley'.But if you haven't played the original and don't understand some of the humour, don't worry - the game eases players in with a nice selection of fairly easy puzzles to introduce you to the concept, before focusing more on narrative and moving gradually up the difficulty ladder. I'd say the harder puzzles kept me thinking a bit longer than the tougher moments in the original Portal, but overall the difficulty is about the same. All in all Valve have got the difficulty just right, making it hard enough to keep you coming back for more but not so tricky that it's frustrating.Graphically, the Source engine is one of the oldest still in use in modern games, and I must say I was impressed at how polished it still looks: the early chapters of the game see you moving through a future Aperture Science facility, now falling apart and overgrown with weeds, and here the visuals really shine. Later on, in the bowels of the facility, you're met with a duller colour palette and this certainly brings back memories of Half Life 2, but despite its age the Source engine stands up to the job, mainly because of the consistency of the game's visual design, which is so good that you rarely notice that the graphics are a little out of date. Again, Valve have pulled off what so many sequel-makers fail to do: they make it easy to forget you're playing a sequel.Portal 2 impresses on all fronts. The story forms an integral part of the action, rather than being tacked on as a vague justification for the test chambers, and the opportunity to experience life outside the original game's limited setting lets you see the vast scale of the Aperture Science facility in a way that's simultaneously witty and breathtaking. The ability to play community-made maps adds huge value to the game, and it'll run smoothly on even pretty old computers, so this really is a game that anyone can engage with. My only tiny criticism is not being able to play local co-op like you can in the console versions: I have an Xbox controller as well as keyboard and mouse, so would have liked to try playing splitscreen with a friend, but apart from that I'm struggling to think of anything I didn't like about Portal 2. At its current low price on Steam you'd be mad to miss it.
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Portal 2 ingeniously combines its series of devious test chambers with a hilariously engrossing story that will persuade many to immediately place a portal at the start and end of the game, commencing an infinite loop of perfection.WHAT I LIKED:+ "I've been really busy being dead. You know, after you murdered me". GLaDOS returns, and she is taking no prisoners this time. The test chambers are more difficult, more arduous and more addictive than ever. Each room of the plot's first third offers a new technique for you to master,whether that be laser beams that can be refracted or aerial faith plates catapulting you across the dilapidated facility, making each chamber uniquely memorable and gradually increasing that balanced puzzling difficulty.+ "OK, I've got an idea, but it is bloody dangerous. OK, here we go... AUGH!!! Huh? Oh for God's... They told me that if I ever turned on this flashlight, I would die!". Wheatley, a bumbling yet somewhat helpful core, is the game's secret weapon. Voiced by the ever gleeful Stephen Merchant, he is undeniably the greatest asset. How? Well, just his dialogue alone makes strolling through the dark corridors ridiculously entertaining, and as the story progresses, his integral position makes for some humorous character development. Wheatley also allows you to explore the space in between test chambers, mixing up the gameplay even further by expanding the usual imprisonment and expanding the backstory of the series.+ "All right, I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons? Don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am?! I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!". Cave Johnson, voiced by J.K. Simmons, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing else to add.+ "Those of you helping us test the Repulsion Gel today, just follow the blue line on the floor". New puzzle mechanics are gradually implemented during the second third, including repulsion gel, which again enhances the usage of portals allowing you to experiment as you progress. Zipping across the floor and into a portal? It's way more fun than it sounds!+ "Orange now has a Portal Device. Finally". Portal 2 doesn't just offer an exceptional single-player campaign, it also offers an absurdly co-operative experience with its additional multi-player facility. Five different courses, each packed with various test chambers, that will challenge both minds simultaneously. The ability to utilise four portals between two players opens up the potential solutions to new heights, and many frustrating lows, yet constantly revolving around communication. Hopefully no partners will be slaughtered in the process...+ "This next test may involve trace amounts of time travel. So, word of advice: If you meet yourself on the testing track, don't make eye contact". Considerably longer than its predecessor, yet never outstays its welcome. The single-player campaign can be completed in approximately six hours, whilst the co-operative campaign expels roughly two to three hours. Still short, but ever so sweet like a cake.+ 'The Part Where He Kills You' and the sequences leading up to the final boss encounter were suitably epic, boasted by an electrifying score.+ Everything. Just everything.WHAT I DISLIKED:- Nothing.VERDICT:5/5 space cores, in what is simply one of the greatest video games to ever be developed.
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This game made me remember how much I wish that Valve would develop more games. The dialogue and story structure seemed tailor made to be perfect for a video game, while the gameplay itself is nothing short of genius.It is handy to have a knowledge of Portal 1 to enjoy this game, but by no means essential. A quick online summary of the events in the previous game will bring you up to date, but since the Orange Box (where Portal 1 is found for the playstation 3) is pretty cheap now,I would suggest you buy it first. The game is essentially a series of physics and logistics puzzles where you have to use a portal gun to create different portals (doors in the world placed by you) to ensure you complete a series of 'test chambers' run by a corporation long since run-down. The genius of the game lies in the wit with which the story and the monologues are developed. The puzzles themselves aren't as challenging as, say Myst or parts of The Room, and it can be surprisingly cinematic with sections that link the test chambers which you go through. The less said about the story is probably for the better, as a lot of pleasure comes from the gradual unfolding of the history of the corporation and the artificial intelligence (or lack therof) which tries to keep the place together. I originally played it when it first came out, and have had a great time going back to it in the last week, where it was completed within a few evenings. Extra credit should be given to the sound design, but the star of the game has to be the writing of the characters who speak to you, and which is the chief pleasure when looking back on the game. Steven Merchant has never been better (I am not a fan of any of his other work to be honest), G.K Simmons is a delight as always, and GLADOS has to be one of my favourite science fiction characters of all time.But special note has to be given to the specific shape of the game. I can't think of another entertainment experience which is quite like the portal games. There aren't any cutscenes, the protagonist is wholly silent (with a a cracking joke as to why early on), and the game has a pretty rigid structure of making the rounds of going through the test chambers with a few lines of a monologue at the beginning and end, and a few narrative sequences creating an adventurous break between the locations, and pushing the story forwards. Yet the writing has a great process of unravelling within this structure - of both the character of the artificial intelligence, and the history of Aperture Science - the corporation for whom you are a test subject. No book or film can have the same form which this game has, and the pleasures of discovering a world like the one of this game, and they way it is handled seems perfectly tailored to the single player video game experience. A lot of the character interaction has really sharp writing to it, I cant think of many films which can match the wit and intelligence of the humour here, and this feels like a game which isn't trying to replicate the cinematic experience (a flaw with naughty Dog games) but manages to create a unique game of a type by itself. If you're in any way interested in story structure, or the possibilities of creative alternative forms of storytelling, Portal 1 and two are a must for the strange achievement they have managed to make which is unlike anything else. Not to say that it's mind-blowing and will change your life, just the the subtle choices in how the world and the personalities of the voices which tell the story are a very interesting indication of just what video games can achieve.
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