Review: Portal 2 [PC]

Portal 2 Main Menu Screen

Welcome to my spoiler-free review of Portal 2!  I will try to keep this review short and sweet so you can get to playing the game instead of reading about it.

Portal 2 is a masterpiece through and through.  Unlike the original Portal, which was little more than an (awesome) proof of concept game that was polished up as an extra for release with the Orange Box, Portal 2 has an actual story line to follow and characters that are full of, well … character,  to get to know throughout the course of the game.  Take a look at the official Portal 2 media page to get a feel for  Cave Johnson, founder of Aperture Laboratories here.

“But Castle, how does the damn game play!?” you may ask.  Like a dream, good sir (or madam), like a dream!  When you get down to it, the gameplay is very similar to the first game.  The phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind here.  With that said, it should be noted that there is much more to this game than just “shoot a portal here, shoot a portal there, place a cube on that thing”.  The deeper you go into the game, the more interesting the tests get.  If this sounds a bit vague, it’s because I refuse to elaborate on what, in my opinion, would be a spoiler.  You’ll have to trust me when I say that the new tests are smart, fun and you’ll have a damn good time figuring them out!

Once you have completed the single player campaign, you should absolutely play co-op!  The new multiplayer portion of Portal 2 is best played with a friend, but you can play it with complete strangers through match-making.  I highly recommend that you and your co-op partner have a way to communicate vocally, although Valve was kind enough to put in some non-vocal communication tools (such as marking where you’d like your buddy to place a portal) that come in handy.  While the puzzles in co-op are just as linear (1-solution) as in single player, but they do tend to be much more challenging to figure out, and they always require teamwork.

I enjoyed co-op so much, that I only have two complaints.  1.) It eventually ends.  2.) Once you’ve already done it, there isn’t much reason to play it again.  The 2nd complaint is especially true if you are trying to play it again with someone who hasn’t done it yet, as most of the fun is in working together to figure out the puzzles.  Once one of you knows it, it’s too easy to say, “put your portals here and here, and I’ll put mine here and here and we’ll win!”

With the recent beta release of the Portal 2 Authoring tools we should start seeing some new, custom, content that will extend the life of the game here very soon!

I originally purchased Portal 2 on the PS3, due in no small part to the free PC copy of the game that comes with this format.  PC wound up being my preferred platform partially because of the PSN downtime but mostly due to the precision of aiming with a mouse.  I would like to note that while I found the mouse and keyboard setup to be preferable, there were no moments in the game that required a very fast and precise aim and it was nice to play from my couch for a bit.  In the brief time that PSN was still up while I had portal 2 I can say that the integration of Steam with my PS3 was pretty neat, and while I could chat with friends logged into steam on PC it was a pain in the ass without a keyboard.  I did not have the opportunity to try out cross-platform co-op play at the time of this writing.

Is it as good as its predecessor?  In my opinion, no, but it is very damn good.  Portal 2 is definitely worth your money and is a must-have for anyone who is a fan of the first game or any gamer that is looking for a few laughs.

Pros:

  • Clever puzzles
  • Humorous Dialog
  • Fun story
  • Co-op is a ton of fun if neither participant has done it before

Cons:

  • Most (not all) puzzles only have 1 solution
  • The current drive to replay the game is low, mostly due to the above 1-solution-only puzzles
  • If you’ve already completed the co-op puzzles, there isn’t much reason to return

Portal 2 is also available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Rating: 9/10

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