E3 2010: Portal 2 PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jun 18, 2010
What We Know
The folks at Valve were genuinely surprised when their quirky, mind-bending, puzzle shooter Portal became a smash hit when it was released as part of the Orange Box back in 2007. It’s hard to imaging Valve being surprised with success, but by their own admission, they just weren’t sure if gamers would embrace it. So when it came time to start thinking about a sequel, Valve decided to take everything that players loved about the first game, and build it out into a standalone title that not only expands the gameplay into tons of challenging and varied ways, but that delivers a more complex and deep narrative experience that picks up “several lifetimes” after the first game.
What We’re Seeing Now
Sadly, I wasn’t granted any hands-on time with Portal 2, which depressed me to no end, however, I did get to see a 15-minute demo reel that Valve put together to highlight some of the game’s new features, characters and puzzle elements. There were quite a few puzzles demonstrated in the video, and each one required something entirely different of the player (beyond the standard place a portal to enter and a portal to exit), which made sense given that these portions were mainly tutorial sequences.
For instance, one sequence introduced a new vaulting mechanism that tosses anything that lands on it across the room. Another showed a new energy beam transporter of sorts that can be manipulated via portals to help you reach otherwise unreachable locations, and move objects (and enemies) around the room in style.
One of the crazier new features you’ll come across is a giant vacuum vent that literally sucks up any objects in the immediate area. So setting up an entry portal at the mouth of the vacuum tube and setting an exit portal in the middle of a room full of turrets means so long turrets. And since the turrets in Portal have rudimentary voice capabilities, the sound of seven turrets screaming innocently as they are sucked into a mini black hole is simply delightful. At one point during this portion, a portal was set up on one side of a corridor, and the force of the suction actually tore off portions of the opposite wall. What was even better was that GLadDOS immediately replaced the missing panels with brand new ones, a practice that you’ll see constantly throughout the game as GLadDOS attempts to rebuild her beloved and dilapidated Aperture Science around you.
Another major new addition is the inclusion of gels. These gels have different properties that allow for a variety of gameplay. For instance, the blue gel, aka Repulsion Gel, is used for bouncing, while the red gel boosts your speed. The tech was actually first built by a team from the DigiPen Institute, the same school that produced the team responsible for Portal, for a game called Tag. Valve brought them on to work on Portal 2, and the results are rather spectacular when you see what this extra layer adds to the gameplay.
During one demo section, the player is introduced to one of the new companions (aka personality spheres) that Chell will encounter during the game. Not only do these new characters help flesh out the world of Portal 2, but it also makes the experience a less isolated one than the previous game. And yet, this doesn’t seem to have made the game any less terrifying or creepy, and that’s a very good thing.
Speaking of companions, Portal 2 will also feature a co-op multiplayer mode that stands as a completely separate experience from the single-player portion. It tells the story of two robots trying to make their way through Aperture Science just like Chell. I didn’t get to see any co-op gameplay, but I can’t wait to see how Valve have taken the lessons learned from their Left 4 Dead games and incorporated them into the Portal world. My guess: it’s going to be nuts.
Portal 2 was already on the top of my most anticipated games of 2011 (previously 2010 before the delay), and after seeing the game in person, I can honestly say it’s going to take a lot for anything to knock it off the top spot. (And remember, I only saw 15 minutes of pre-recorded gameplay footage.)