Friday, 22 April 2011

Portal 2 Review - PC (Single Player)

Following the original Portal’s successful debut alongside the Orange Box’s heavyweights of Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, having more than stood on its own two feet; Valve have recognised the games iconic charm by releasing Portal 2 by itself. With the original enjoying so much success for a game that presumably would have only been considered as little more than a HL2 Mod before release, this leaves Portal 2 a huge task to show its worth as an independent game. But I believe that Valve have pulled this off and beyond.

With Steven Merchant as the blundering guide, the plot is full of twists and turns, with plenty of sharp humour from both the story and characters, whilst adding to the atmosphere created by the huge improvements to the scenery and graphics. Especially to the rather bland entry/exit elevators from the first game, that has been given a complete make-over, as well as other areas of the game. Now the older style levels, as well as the brand new areas completely fit into and expand the atmosphere created by the story. All I would say about the story is that it is perhaps a bit short for a full priced game, but it is still two to three times the size of the original. And if the Co-op is anywhere near as long as the single player, then this game is certainly worth the money paid.

The new levels are as challenging as ever with a good learning curve from the start. Some later levels are huge; and although this causes a few problems with direction, new and experienced players by this time have had plenty of time to know how to tackle the problems and won’t take so long that they may begin to consider giving up. The new mechanics are inspired; especially the new paints which add a whole new layer to the challenge of the game, but players will enjoy all the new devices available to complete each test; one of which always conjures up the image of Tom Baker’s face from the old Doctor Who TV series whenever you enter it.

As for players who are new to the series, the start of the single player shows you every move you need to get through a good chunk of the game, which is just as good for experienced players that may not have played the original for a while. Some of the newer mechanics tend to be thrust onto you at one point, but this tends to be the exception rather than the rule as the majority are introduced by the guides.

One of the biggest problems in the first game was attempting to direct yourself into a portal when falling a big distance. This has been solved in Portal 2 without making it too easy, as now your character will auto-target a portal if you are more or less heading for it; and this also goes for placing the cubes onto buttons, which now only require you to place the cube somewhere on top of the button rather than right in the middle. As for the sound direction, it is as atmospheric and fitting as the first game; although if I’m honest, the music isn’t quite as outstanding but is still good.

So Overall, Portal 2 expands on the innovative first game with a great story full of humour, exciting and expansive new levels, with inspired new mechanics into a game that easily fits its self-evident atmosphere. Sound is good although not quite to the level of the first. The game is accessible and I’d therefore recommend it to both new and experienced players. The only areas that I found wanting were that the story was short; although a quality story on a short game is always better than a average story on a longer game. Also that some of the big levels tended to be fairly unclear in places for where you needed to get to and where you could place portals. But otherwise this is an outstanding game and a great effort by Valve on a sequel that always risked it not being value for money.

9.5/10 - Potato Clocks

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