So the eagerly anticipated follow up to the mind-bending Orange Box surprise hit dropped recently. Now I realize that a physics-based puzzler/adventure game isn't exactly right in the wheelhouse for the people that frequent this board but once in a while a game comes along that so freakin' brilliant that it deserves to have its praises sung to the far corners of the world... If the world had corners. Anyway what I'm trying to say is that Portal 2 is amazing.
Valve isn't one of these companies that churn out numerous (often uninspired) games every year, they will go for years without releasing a new title. But when Valve does release a new title it's a big deal, and rightfully so because they make really great industry changing games. Anyway let's dive right into their latest.
We'll start with the stuff on the surface. I'll admit the Source Engine is starting to show its age, compared to other AAA engines anyway. This game is certainly no Crysis in terms of eye candy. With that said it's still a good looking game. The visuals, like in the first Portal, aren't flashy, I'd go so far as to say kinda minimalist, and very much form fits function. Which is precisely what they should look like since for the most part you're looking at the inside of a research facility and test chambers created by a psychotic but brutally efficient super computer. Everything fits together well, all the rooms make sense in the context of the game, nothing looks out of place, unless it's out of place on purpose to fit with the story. The animations are smooth and believable and the effects are quite satisfying.
The audio is terrific. The sound effects all fit perfectly to the visuals. The portal gun emits a familiar and gratifying hum. Valve is well known for having a silent protagonist, it's almost their trademark now. Most other companies would catch flak for that in this day and age of voice acting, but not Valve. The reason being is that all their other characters that surround the protagonist, whether friend or foe, are all so well developed and acted. Portal 2 proudly carries on this tradition. GLaDOS is back and every bit as awesome as you remember "her". In addition there are a couple of new characters, namely Wheatley and Cave Johnson, whom you get to listen to during the game, and they're both freakin' awesome too.
Okay so the game looks and sounds great, but how does it play? Terrific. Ingeniously designed levels provide the kind of genius puzzling experience that no game (save for the first Portal) has come close to matching. In addition to the portal gun there are a few new tricks up this game's sleeve that add even more possibilities, and let me tell you Valve used those possibilities to their fullest. You will encounter puzzles that will at first seem thoroughly impossible, but despite that the game is not frustrating because the puzzles are fair and the difficulty ramps up nicely, plus once you think creatively and discover the solution the feeling of satisfaction is immense. What's more, as great as the single player campaign is there is also a co-op mode that's actually *gasp* cooperative! It's bloody brilliant.
Oh yeah and the story is great too. There are some definite surprises and plot twists along the way and all the great humor that the first game had plus a whole lot more.
On top of all that the game is all types of polished. Valve bucks the (frankly unacceptable) trend of companies releasing games to the market that are beta quality at best then fixing their broken game afterward with patches by releasing a finely tuned and thoroughly stable game. I'm sure it's not perfect, there must be SOME bugs, but I sure didn't encounter any.
I have one criticism and one criticism only. While this game is much longer than the first it's still a bit too short for my liking. You could probably beat the solo campaign in 5 or 6 hours if you're really good, but more realistically it will take you closer to 10. Still with the co-op and other extras you'll get many more hours than that out of it.
So here's the quick summary:
*Not flashy but nice looking and appropriate visuals
*Satisfying sound effects
*Amazingly memorable and downright hilarious characters
*Some of the best voice acting you're ever going to hear in a video game
*Quite possibly the most brilliant level design ever in a puzzle game, or any kind of game for that matter
*Would be nice if it was a bit longer
Valve does it again delivering yet another masterpiece. Utterly amazing and brilliant game. I don't want to jump the gun and proclaim this as Game of the Year when it's still April but it's going to take something unbelievably special to top this.
Will Pay For Cloth Map