A while ago, I said that the original Portal is akin to a demo of what an actual game could be like. That’s not to say Portal is a bad game or anything; I gave it an 8 out of 10, yet something to me felt off about it. It didn’t feel complete. It felt like it was missing key pieces that could’ve made it great. That’s not to say that Portal is a bad game or anything – it was and still is a fantastic and unique addition to Valve’s catalogue of influential videogames which set itself apart from other games in genre focused around puzzles.
For all the amazing things that Portal achieved when it first released with the Orange Box in 2007, I wanted more. A lot more. That’s where Portal 2 comes in.
To put it simply: Portal 2 is the fully realised potential of the first Portal game.
As soon as you start the game, you’ll see that things aren’t exactly as they were from the ending of the first game. Aperture Science is overgrown with vines and the nature around it as the player had defeated GLaDOS, who can no longer run the facility. You travel through Aperture Science’s ruins, meeting new characters and as well as old ones after being awakened from an unspecified amount of time in stasis and accidentally re-awakening GLaDOS when exploring what’s left of the area.
The destitute remains play a huge part in how the world is designed in every single part of the game, which is divided into chapters. You’re not just exploring the remains of current Aperture Science either, you’re delving into completely new territory (and old test subject areas from the first game, now decrepit) from before the time of the original Portal, as well as discovering entirely new parts of a re-designed Aperture that develops as the story continues on.
One of the best parts of Portal 2 is how it retains its humour and satire. It’s just as abundant was it was in the first game, but instead of just GLaDOS being the only voice, there’s around three or four more that also give fantastic deadpan deliveries that aren’t forced and fit within the Portal universe. In fact, all of the characters in this game are perfectly voiced, with big names such as Stephen Merchant (The Office UK) and J.K Simmons (Spider-Man, Invincible) contributing to the voice cast.
The story in Portal was relatively simple: A sarcastic artificial intelligence guides you through futuristic test chambers as you slowly navigate your way through before confronting them.
In Portal 2, it’s much, much more complex. There are several smaller narratives that the player goes through as they explore the facility for a second time. Each chapter of the game focuses on something different while the bigger picture of what’s truly going on begins to piece itself together like a eureka moment when it’s all figured out.
New concepts are introduced that have never been seen before, such as the aerial faith plates that you step on to be thrown across the chamber, or the hard-light bridge that gives you the ability to bypass dangerous hazards by walking across a translucent bridge to get to the other side. Of course that’s not all of them, but that’s only a taste of what has been added in the sequel. These new mechanics work incredibly well, too.
Not to shock anyone, but as a puzzle game it has delivered on its core goal of having to make the player think about how to solve each puzzle whether it’s in one part or two parts. Some are harder than others, especially in the later areas of the game that utilise multiple of the new mechanics at the same time with already established ones, but that’s what makes it so great – you have to think about how to get to the end and putting real thought into how to accomplish that.
As part of Valve’s push towards making Steam better and more integrated into the PC Gaming sphere, they introduced two new modes outside of the main campaign – the Co-Operative Testing Initiative and the Perpetual Testing Initiative. The first is an entirely new campaign mode for two-players where you find you and your friend trying to complete all five courses that are designed around different mechanics. The second game mode is steam workshop support, enabling you to play through user-created test chambers which can be made through Portal 2’s level-creation kit internally or an external effort that uses the Source Development Kit.
There’s something special about Portal 2. Not only as a sequel, but as a standalone game. It’s colour and textures give it its own unique vibe in comparison to its predecessor while still being identifiably a Portal game while standing out from other games made in the Source Engine. Its fantastic use of actors to play different roles and progress the plot means that the game never feels like it’s ever dragging on or becoming too much; every part of the game matters and is fun. The world continues to build more than it ever has before, including secrets just like you could find the original, which may allow you to discover revelations before they’re fully revealed.
Portal 2 isn’t just another 60-minute continuation of the first Portal. It’s a fully-fleshed out sequel that improves and expands on everything established in the original game, as well as adding even more new mechanics and innovative levels to create a masterful and unique experience full of twists and turns that gives it reason to be known as the definitive “Portal” game, even if it wasn’t the one that started it all off in 2007. Almost every singleplayer game developed by Valve is great, but Portal 2 solidifies itself up there not only as one of the best Valve games, but as one of the best videogames of all time.
10 – Perfect