Portal 2 Review – GLaD you could make it

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Portal 2 is the sequel to the enormously successful and critically acclaimed first title which originally came packaged in with the Orange Box from Valve, along with Half Life 2, its episodes and Team Fortress 2.

No one really knew what to expect, but not too long after, the industry found itself blown away by something very special. No pressure then… to produce an amazing sequel, right? Valve want to make it so.

Hit the jump to find out if the Valve couldn’t handle the pressure.

The first Portal was incredibly successful for a reason, and by successful I don’t just mean that it sold well or was popular with critics, but it was deeply loved by gamers. That’s because Portal was something different, something a little special. What made Portal so special was that just to begin with, Valve had given us an incredible and mind-bending way to solve puzzles from a first person perspective.

Then… what people didn’t expect, was that Valve managed to wrap this ‘puzzle’ game into an intriguing story with hilarious-yet-creepy writing and characters and then deliver us something that we had never quite experienced before with an ending that could have gone anywhere. There was definitely something subtly magical in the ingredients thanks to the guys behind it.

So where to the then, Valve?

Portal 2 kicks off quite some time after the first game and the entire Aperture Science facility has become rusty and overrun with plants thanks to its lack of maintenance (I wonder whose fault that is).

After waking from a long, unintentional slumber (more like stasus) you are assisted by a small bot to make your way to safety and before you know it, you are about as far from it as you could get, but I won’t say why.

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The brilliant puzzle solving is back and better than ever as you will now also be using it not only to go through tests, but to get around as well as you try and get a grip on your new derelict surroundings.

That’s not to say that proper Aperture Science testing does not take place, and now with added elements like liquid goo-like compounds with properties like insane elasticity for bouncing or the incredible lubrication for catching crazy speeds over short distances, you now have even more to pick your brain over. The additions with puzzle elements don’t stop there, but the change from the first game’s puzzle to the second’s are enough for anyone to enjoy more of what they love, without having to endure just more of the same.

I personally found the puzzles to be easier than the first game, but I’m not sure if it’s because they are, because I have merely been trained well by the first game to look in the right places… or if I was just wearing my smart-boy-underpants. Regardless, the puzzles are still great fun to do and there are still some that will have you stumped for a while as you delve deeper into Valve’s carefully crafted puzzle adventure.

The campaign really takes you on a very interesting journey, but one which I dare not spoil in a review. It will run you around 6 hours depending on how well you handle the puzzles and (it also includes Valve’s usual ‘commentary’ mode as well for those wanting a second go) is a fantastic journey thanks to the brilliant writing, complex… well, ‘characters’ in the game and a lot more exploration and discovery of where you are and what its purpose is.

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The small A.I bot that assists you, named Wheatley, is voiced by the UK’s Stephen Merchant, the actor/writer most known for his work as the writer of the incredibly popular series ‘The Office’. Much of the game’s script is directly influenced by his very distinct brand of humour and you will interact with his character very often, and while the voice work is done beautifully and the writing is genius… it is a bit of a marmite sort of comedic tone and script that you will either thoroughly enjoy, or get a little annoyed with over time – then again, that might well be just what the story needed, so take it at that.

It’s no secret, thanks to the trailers, that GLaDOS makes a return and in that regard you should know exactly what to expect in terms of writing, voice and humour. Add the elements of GLaDOS and Wheatley together, along with a magnificent other character’s voice work that you will hear (I won’t say for spoilers sake) and you will find yourself amused at almost all times.

Behind the scenes of Portal 2, amazingly still sits the good ol’ Valve Source engine, banging and clanging away at its ‘old’ age. Surprisingly, the game actually still looks very good and a lot of that is also thanks to fantastic art and graphic design that works together with the engines best features to keep the new environments looking great and running at a consistent, smooth pace.

One of the most exciting new features of Portal 2 is of course, the ability to play a separate co-operative multiplayer campaign featuring two little test bots named Atlas and P-body.

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