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Portal 2: Is The Honeymoon Over?

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Posted April 18, 2011 - By Guest Writer





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Portal 2: Is The Honeymoon Over?

In ten years the question may be presented: “Was Portal good or surprising?” This isn’t to say in any way that Portal wasn’t a spectacular game worthy of all the praise it received. But perhaps people were so infatuated with it because they were too ashamed to admit how blindsided they were by every aspect of the game. I doubt any player out there sat down their controller as the famed hoop bounced past Chell and thought “Yeah, totally saw that coming.” 

The concept of portals in games is neither new nor unique. Countless games have explored portals as a gameplay mechanic to great success. From sliding down green tubes in Super Mario to more recent games such as Prey using portals in ways reminiscent of Portal, it’s not a particularly groundbreaking idea. However, none of these games executed this concept with the efficiency and sheer beauty that Valve did with Portal.

Portal was something new. It was an enigma in the gaming industry. It couldn’t be classified as a first person shooter, even though it was. In theory it had the basic FPS elements. Portal was presented in the first person perspective and there was a gun you used to disable your enemies before they destroyed you. And to cap it all off it was made by Valve, famous for Half-Life and Half-Life 2 – both quintessential first person shooters. Regardless, everyone intrinsically knew that Portal could not be grouped in this category.

Portal 2 E3 2010 Demo Part 7 "Propulsion Gel" »


It couldn’t be classified as a puzzle game, even though many were quick to do so. Think about it. What are some other puzzle games off the top of your head? Bejeweled? Tetris? Apples to oranges. Perhaps Arkham Asylum – no that’s an action game with puzzles. So Portal doesn’t really fit in the puzzle game mold either, and it’s just as easy to discount Portal as an action game. 

Being hard to classify does not alone make Portal the stunner it is. Portal is amazing because the game did so well at what it did so uniquely. Just as Star Wars would not have been a success simply for its story (and definitely not its acting); it was because its new special effects were executed so well it became an instant classic. The trick now is turning Portal 2 into The Empire Strikes Back, and not The Phantom Menace.

Portal 2 E3 2010 Demo Part 6 "Repulsion Gel" »


Valves seems aware of this challenge and are taking it on with gusto. In the first Portal, much of the entertainment came from the buildup to receiving the portal gun and testing the range of its abilities. But now that we have it and have all experimented with it for countless hours, Portal 2 will need new aspects to keep us guessing. We may not have seen every possible use of the portal gun, but this alone will not justify a $60 game. Valve has the solution in spades: enough new puzzle-solving tools to keep gamers occupied until Armageddon. 

Numerous trailers have revealed an array of tools and mechanics the main character, Chell, will need to use to stay alive. Some of these are gels used to coat a surface to make it sticky, slippery, or repellant. This, combined with the portal gun essentially means that theoretically any surface could be covered in utilitarian goo. Another tool is an “excursion funnel” which suspends characters above fatal drops and can be moved via portal. Most of these are near-impossible to explain without showing you, so we’ve embedded some videos to help out. 

Portal 2 E3 2010 Demo Part 2 "Excursion Funnel" »


At one point Valve was so committed to keeping Portal fresh that they had cut the portal gun out of Portal 2. Thankfully this change had enough play testers tasting blood to that it was put back in. This just goes to show that with Portal 2, gamers should not expect simply a Still Alive-esque game, but a fully immersive, new, and distinctive game; one that adds a mind-boggling amount of possibility. 

GLaDOS was another key contributor to Portal’s quality. Her lines are so brilliant that I have dozens of them as text message ringtones on my phone. Whenever my mother texts me, GLaDOS tells me how dumb I sound. Having said this, there is a definite potential that GLaDOS could get old; the model of hilariously psychotic robot is fun for a while, but sooner or later they all become 343 Guilty Spark. Yet again, Valve has the answer.

Since GLaDOS’s untimely demise, her infamous personality cores have separated from her and developed microcosms of her control in other parts of the Aperture Science testing facility. These cores offer different, well, personalities that should bring variety to the voice in the game guiding you to your next task. Some of them, such as the first one you encounter, Wheatley, are helpful, while others may just put GLaDOS to shame. Either way, expect some serious one-liners out of the studio that brought us “it also says you’re adopted. So that’s funny too.”

Portal 2 E3 2010 Demo Part 4 "Thermal Discouragement Beam" »


The one aspect of Portal 2 that gamers are unanimously clamoring for is the story. The first game gave us only subtle hints of the history behind GLaDOS and Aperture Science, and a few seconds at the end of the game were our only look at the outside world. It has been confirmed that Portal takes place in the Half-Life universe, but the time period is dubious at best. So Valve has a win-win opportunity with Portal 2. Either they can reveal a lot more of the story to satiate the curious among us, or they can continue to play it close to the chest – forcing the player to concentrate on the gameplay and reserve thoughts about the story for drunken forum arguments. 

Sequels are so often just repacked games with a few new weapons, maps, or gimmicks. Portal 2 looks to be much more than this, as Valve has committed to making an experience for gamers that is just as fresh as, if not fresher than Portal. Even if people are unsure about the changes in Portal 2, I think we can put the differences behind us. For science. You monster.

By Jonathan Deesing

Portal 2: Is The Honeymoon Over?
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