Portal 2 Review (PS3)

Played on: PS3
Played for: Around 7 hours to finish the campaign and 2 or 3 hours doing some split-screen co-op.

Portal 2 is a game that intrigued me when it initially released but wasn’t something that I picked up immediately since I had never played the original. I know, sue me. I’ve heard a lot of great stuff about the multiplayer and the girlfriend and I were looking for some co-op games on the PS3, so when we finally shelled out the cash for a second controller, Portal 2 was the first game we purchased. We were both stoked to dive in to the split-screen co-op mode but we had no idea just how blown away we were going to be with the single player campaign. Portal 2 is unique and amazing, this is the truth, but the cake, however, is still a lie.

Graphically, Portal 2 just fits. If you put it side by side with other current “shooters” (and I use that term loosely to describe Portal 2), it’s not as realistic but everything just meshes so well in the cohesive package that Valve offers. Test levels break apart and reform, faith plates induce vertigo and everything from the depressed turrets to the companion cubes give off an amazing sci-fi vibe along side a fitting soundtrack.

The first portion of Portal 2 puts Chell through various tasks in monochrome colored test chambers, but no matter how similar each chamber looked to the last, they were always unique enough to keep from growing stale. Working through the campaign, you eventually end up in various retro test chambers from the birth of Aperture Science, endure some chaotic chase sequences and welcome some amazing puzzles that breathe new life in to the surroundings.

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The gameplay in Portal 2 primarily focuses on solving puzzles using a portal gun that, when fired once, opens a portal door, and when fired again will open an exit portal. The puzzles in Portal 2 ranged from being pretty self explanatory to being complete and total mindbenders that force you to combine the use of your gun, faith plates that launch you in the air, companion cubes that rest on switches and using various different “gels” that bounce you around, speed up your movement or allow you to create portals anywhere. The creative team behind Portal 2 deserve fresh baked cookies just for their creativity.

We also usually don’t stray from a game to hit up YouTube for strategy videos, but we found ourselves doing so in Portal 2 two or three times after spending a few hours stuck at certain chambers. Once we saw how they were done, we /facepalmed because we were looking way too far in to the puzzle to see the obvious result, and that was the beauty in the game’s design. You get a hard puzzle, hard puzzle, hard puzzle and ALL I HAD TO DO WAS HIT THE BUTTON WITH A CUBE! *flails arms around*.

The multiplayer portion of Portal 2 works the same way but requires a ridiculous amount of teamwork and the use of not 2, but 4 portals to solve puzzles. Anyone playing Portal 2 online without a mic is pretty much boned as communication is the only way to survive every puzzle. The girlfriend and I played side-by-side and we still struggled with some of the puzzles, but they never felt cheap or unachieveable. If you’ve got a buddy online who also has a mic or someone to play with in person, you’ll both probably enjoy the change of pace from the standard online shooter that we’ve all grown tired of. At least I know I have.

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The audio in Portal 2 is outstanding and easily won my “Voice Acting of the Year” and “Soundtrack of the Year” awards for 2011. Wheatley and GLaDOS have some of the best lines ever spoken in a video game and J.K. Simmons of Oz, Juno & Spider-Man fame voicing Cave Johnson is hands down the most amazing thing ever. Period. Cave Johnson and his exploding lemon rant had my girlfriend and I in tears and I couldn’t wait to move further along in the campaign just to see what GLaDOS was going to say next. Things like “Here are the test results.. you’re a horrible person. That’s what it says, you’re a horrible person. We weren’t even testing for that.” sometimes outshined the puzzles, and it’s rare for a game that isn’t an RPG to be driven by its narrative.

Valve composer Mike Morasky did a fabulous job with an amazing electronica soundtrack while Jonathan Coulton returned to write the ending theme “Want You Gone”. If you’re in to electronic music in any way, the Portal 2 soundtrack should be right up your alley even if you weren’t a fan of the game, much like the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy from Daft Punk.

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The trophies in Portal 2 range from the basic story related trophies to doing random things like launching a turret from a faith plate or completing a puzzle in a small amount of time. Some require exploration while others just require a quick readthrough of the trophy list to figure out. The only time consuming trophy is Friends List with Benefits which requires you to hug 3 different people on your friends list while playing co-op, and that’s only if your friends list is small or you don’t want to boost via the trophy forums.

The Verdict – A

Overall, Portal 2 is an amazing experience that I didn’t expect. The graphics may turn a few people away, but anyone who refuses to play the game because of the graphics should be shot in the nuts in a public restroom. The gameplay is solid puzzle solving at its absolute best and the voice acting is some of the best dialogue I’ve ever heard in a video game. Period. Unfortunately, the short campaign lacks any sort of replay value since there isn’t more than one way to solve a puzzle, but that’s what co-op is for. If you want to kick your brain in the balls and want something completely different from the usual shooter, do yourself a favor and pick up Portal 2. If we didn’t invest 150 hours in Skyrim last year, Portal 2 would have easily been our Game of the Year award winner.

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