Review: Portal 2

May 27, 2011

Portal 2 is simply an experience. From the opening trials to the inventive climax, Portal 2 keeps you on your toes with unique gameplay, variably difficult puzzles, excellent voice acting and music, and a fun story. This sequel to the 2007 hit by Valve takes an idea, which first began as a test demo, to the battlefield of critics and trolls. Valve walked away with more than a hit; they have a true classic in their library and certainly a new franchise to fund the decade-long development of Half-Life 3.

You play a human woman with no name treated like a lab-rat all for the amusement and gratification of GlaDOS, who, like the Borg Queen, is more than she appears in fact, she is the Aperture facility. Seriously she controls it. Although in the first Portal you presumably killed her, she returns to torture you through mind-bending puzzles. You begin by attempting escape some unknown time following Portal 1. Your only purpose is to leave the facility and all of your efforts aim to satisfy that purpose. The experience is separated by chapters which do feel different from one another like movements in classical music. Speaking of which, all the sound in the game is great. The voice-acting is amazingly real and engaging; the music is well timed, and while you may or may not be in the future, the sound effects have that Star Wars feel: it’s futuristic and aged at the same time. In true Valve fashion, the protagonist is given life by the antagonist(s). That allows you to truly insert yourself into the script even though the game is as linear as you’ll find an FPS to be. And yes, this is an FPS.

Graphically it’s impressive how well the Source engine holds up. Remember, this is the same engine used in the 2004 classic, Half-Life 2. You won’t see any frame-rate dips even with the PS3/Steam integration. Matt and I tested the Steam chat for roughly 30 minutes while I played the game. We were able to comfortably text-chat, again, without a dip in performance. Other PS3-exclusive features include the ability to play with your Steam friends. This was also flawless and well-executed. We should all be impressed as Sony and Valve were at one time seemingly never going to work together after the debacle that was the Orange Box for PS3.

You’ll find no equal to Portal 2 on console. Thus far we have a clear leader for 2011 Game of the Year and perhaps a game that will lead true console/PC integration by the next generation of consoles. We highly recommend Portal 2 for any gamer. And it’s a fun game to play with your wife – sometimes an extra set of eyes can help you crack a puzzle. Enjoy!