Valve has made multiple phenomenal games; Half-Life, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress and Counter-Strike, along with a plethora of fan-made games created through their specialised source eingine such as Garry’s Mod and The Stanley Parable. But, out of all of these games – there is one unlike any other: Portal.
One of the things that makes Portal such a memorable and significant game outside from its gameplay is the writing. It starts off pretty normal, with the player being directed through a test facility. Very quickly the AI assisting you, GLaDOS, becomes increasingly more sarcastic, antagonistic and hostile. It’s just the way that the delivery is so outlandish and deadpan that GLaDOS makes you want to get away from her power and to want to destroy her.
Throughout the game, the level design feels futuristic and aesthetically pleasing but as you progress, you find yourself going outside the boundaries of where you’re meant to be and into a place that mirrors GLaDOS personality: Rotten and disgusting. And even though GLaDOS is the only “other” person in the game per-say, personalities are even given to the environment around you – the turrets, companion cube (that doesn’t speak) and the cores that you find at the end of the game that you use when you face-off against GLaDOS.
All of the levels in the game fun and require some thought to be able to complete them. Sometimes there’s that eureka moment when you realise how you’re meant to solve the chamber, and it feels pretty good! Even after you complete the game there are challenges maps where you have to beat the different test chambers while also fulfilling specific requirements such as least amount of portals, etc.
It’s almost impossible to talk about this game without mentioning Still Alive. In terms of best endings to a videogame, Portal’s credits have to be up there in at least Top 3 category. It’s so different to any other ending – snarky, retrospective and just beautiful. Chances are if you’ve been a gamer for a good while, you’ll recognise Still Alive and the phrase “The cake is a lie”, which just shows what an enormous impact Portal has had not only on the gaming industry, but popular culture as a whole.
My one issue with the game is that it’s too short. It feels like a demo of what a full game could be like – a proof-of-concept, if you will. That’s not a bad thing by any means, I just wish there was more to it. But what it is in the final the game is absolutely fantastic.
The presentation of Portal makes it feel like an ambitious indie game – but yet it has the backing of one of the biggest game companies in the world. It’s such an interesting contrast but one that works very well in the game’s favour.
Portal feels like a unique capsule in time for Valve’s golden era. An idea that Valve had never tried before, slyly added on to their biggest gaming deal yet – The Orange Box (which was packed in along with Team Fortress 2 and the Half-Life 2 games) – which already had two established IPs that people were looking forward to. It was a risky move putting Portal on there, but it absolutely paid off and made the game the cult classic and beloved videogame that it is today.