Portal 2 Review Roundup
By Jimmy Thang
When Valve's short 3D puzzler Portal debuted with the amazing "Orange Box" game compilation back in 2007, it shocked the world with its ingenious puzzles and sharp, witty humor. To this day, the game is widely praised and holds an extremely high rating of 90 on review aggregate website metacritic.com from 27 review sites.
With the recent launch of Portal 2, the general consensus is that the sequel is even better. Currently, Portal 2 features an outstanding 95 rating on metacritic from 14 publications, making it the sixth current highest-rated game on the site.
Better than its predecessor
The overwhelming consensus is that Portal 2 is better than its predecessor. "Portal 2 not only betters the original Portal, but completely annihilates it...If you thought the original Portal was a masterpiece, prepare to have your mind blown," exclaimed strategyinformer.com. The gaming site added, "Portal, once a Valve favourite, now seems like a prototype, a mere demo, compared to what its sequel has to offer."
For those unfamiliar with the original game, Portal required players to use a "portal gun" to solve puzzles. Whereas guns are typically used to kill enemies, the portal gun doesn't shoot any bullets. Rather, the item allowed players to teleport by shooting two different colored portals (orange and blue) along walls. For instance, players could shoot a blue portal onto an adjacent surface and then blast a subsequent orange portal to a far-away ledge. By stepping into the blue portal, players could exit out of the orange portal thereby reaching an otherwise impossible-to-reach area. Using this ability, players were forced to solve intricate physics-based riddles. Portal 2 carries this same gameplay mechanic but provides new transportation tools such as "Excursion Funnels" which allows players to shoot beams from which they can fly through, "Aerial Faith Plates" (springboard-like devices) that bounce players to incredible heights, unique colored gels that allow players to run faster or jump higher than ever, and more. Because of these additions, videogamer.com stated, "Portal 2 is a far more diverse experience in this respect, introducing a host of new mechanics and subsequent applications of your portals."
As playing with just Portals was mind-boggling enough, some may worry that these new mechanics might be too daunting for less hardcore players to comprehend. Gamespot disparages these concerns and states, "Portal 2 does a great job of introducing you to new tools and then challenging you to use them in clever ways."
One of the bigger criticism from the original game was that it was a puzzle game that sometimes required players to have quick-reflex dexterity. That requirement has been, for the most part, removed. "As for the puzzles themselves, they’re wonderful. Portal 2 has fewer agility-driven obstacles, so less dextrous gamers shouldn’t find themselves stuck on anything for lack of stick-flicking ability," noted gameinformer. Gametrailers.com followed up with similar sentiments, stating, "Your mind will definitely get more of a workout than your thumbs."
In regards to the quality of puzzles, IGN stated, "Portal 2 is a first-person thrill ride from beginning to end that challenges you to think without failing to entertain." Strategyinformer had even higher praise and called the single-player -- "bloody perfect."
While Portal 2's single-player has been highly-touted for its puzzles, a large part of the praise is pushed via the game's excellent presentation aspects. The story, characters, sound, and voice acting are all top-notch according to virtually every publication.
"It sounds mental to say it, given how incredible the puzzles are in this game, but we'd honestly rank the storyline as the main reason to play this game. It's utterly fantastic." exclaimed Strategyinformer. Gamespot echoed similar hyperbole and said, "Portal 2's writing is a standout."
"The script, by Eric Wolpaw, Jay Pinkerton and Chet Faliszek, is a riot. It's both shameless and devastatingly successful in its pursuit of belly laughs…Portal was a sequence of great jokes, but Portal 2 is that rare beast, an actual video game comedy – and one of the funniest ever," exuded eurogamer. Videogamer.com also praised the game for its humor, "Portal 2 raises the bar for dialogue delivery, presenting a continuous stream of hilarious chatter, witty insults and comical references to past antics."
Delivering the humor is the game's colorful cast. "You have to be dead inside not to enjoy some of the quips from these characters," says gametrailers.com. New to the cast is "Wheatly," a floating basketball-shaped robot equipped with a British accent and goofy sensibilities. "I think he might be my favorite video game character of all time," stated videogamer.com's Jadin Smith.
Allowing the characters to shine is the voice acting. In this regard, next-gen.biz says, "[the voice acting and characters are] perfectly pitched, and funny to the bone."
But voice acting isn't the only great addition on the audio front, "Sound too, has been improved, with music now used much more frequently. The game actually dynamically creates these tracks to correspond to the action you’re performing. It’s a neat touch and helps accentuate your actions," wrote gamexplain.com.
While the original Portal was short, it proved quite challenging at points. For Portal 2, there is some mixed feeling regarding how difficult it is, but the general consensus is that the puzzles are challenging (equal to if not a bit harder than the first game), but not impossible.
"If you like a challenge, it’s impossible to put this game aside until you’ve burned through all of it," said PCGAMER. While all of the puzzles are completely doable, the review site added, "[Some] test chambers had me convinced at one point or another that they were completely unsolvable…Then, through either sudden revelation, divine inspiration, or total accident, it would come to me." Eurogamer.com also echoed sentiments that the puzzles teetered on the edge of impossibility, but were equally contrasted by their immensely satisfying solutions. "Some chambers are vast, layered, cause-and-effect constructions that seem impossible before revealing a solution of such imagination, tactile satisfaction and devilish wit that you'll laugh as long and loud as you do at any of the jokes."
In regards to the manual dexterity that is required in the game, giantbomb.com stated, "While a certain amount of crackerjack timing is key to solving some puzzles, brains almost always trump reflexes, and if you find yourself struggling with the controls… you're probably doing it wrong." Because players will often have to use their brains in this game, the review site recommends players to take "a short break" every now and then which could "mean the difference between sussing out the solution and turning your brain into a potato."
On another slight end of the spectrum, gamexplain.com stated that the puzzles offer a similar level of difficulty as those in the first, and were almost never frustrating. The strategy guide website added, "Regardless of how punishing some of [the puzzles] may appear, they’re almost always fair, and make sense within the game’s logic." gamexplain.com concluded that the puzzles are "almost entirely frustration-free."
Regardless of the difficulty, 3Djuegos.com urged all gamers "give [it] at least one go."
While the original Portal was emphatically praised, it took most gamers four or so hours to beat on their first time through, making fans crying it was too short. The general consensus among reviewers is that Portal 2 is at least twice as long as its predecessor. "The single-player campaign will likely last at least twice as long as your first Portal playthrough, clocking in at somewhere around seven to nine hours," stated Gamespot. Gamexplain.com agreed that Portal 2 was much lengthier and stated, "The game more than doubles the length of its predecessor."
Adding to the length and overall longevity of the game is the new co-op mode. Portal 2 allows gamers to control two cutesy robotic characters and solve joint-puzzles together. The general consensus regarding co-op is that it's fantastic and because two brains are better than one, the mode's challenge level has increased. "The co-op half of the game is considerably harder than the single player, as far as I'm concerned," wrote videogamer.com's Jamin Smith. However, he added, "Being stuck on a puzzle was never something that bothered me…The process of discussing potential solutions with your partner and trying out different strategies turns out to be the most enjoyable thing about co-op play." IGN ushered the significance of working together and stated, "Communication is vital to success."
Regardless of the difficulty, review sites were enamored by the new mode. "Seriously, this is one of the best designed cooperative experience I’ve played," said Gamexplain.com's Andre Segers. Strategy Informer exclaimed similar hyperbole. "[Portal 2 is] one of the best two-player experiences we've had in ages. For six hours straight we sat, laughed, shouted, pointed, shouted some more, and marveled at the kind of situations you can beat when four portals are involved."
Next-gen.biz stated the positive qualities of the mode's added difficulty, "When you get it right, there’s a sense of a shared achievement; when you get it wrong, it can be laugh-out-loud funny." Gameinformer.com said gamers should "do whatever it takes to find someone to tackle these challenges with. They’re that good."
Visually, everyone seems to agree that the game is a step above the original. "Everything is impressively modeled and textured," said IGN, adding, "The attention to detail throughout is nothing short of stunning." While the Source Engine has been around for quite some time, IGN stated, "it's still impressive how much mileage Valve is getting out of its Source technology first used for Half-Life 2 in 2004." Taking place long after the events of the first game, the Aperture labs are no longer the pristine white labs they once used to be. Now the place is run-down, rusted, and infested with vines. Regarding the game's aesthetics, gamexplain wrote, "The visuals, art design in particular, are a significant advancement from the original…the facility as a whole has been given a fantastic layer of polish. You’ll now watch as test chambers are constructed before your very eyes, which is simply a joy to watch. "
In summation, the general consensus is that Portal 2 is a brilliant game, one that must be played and a strong contender for game of the year. Eurogamer.com exclaimed, "It will no doubt stand as one of the best entertainments in any medium at the end of this year. It's a masterpiece." Videogamer.com had similar high praise and said "Portal 2 is genius." Strategy Informer said Portal 2 is the best Valve release to date." This is extremely high praise considering the developer created the Half-Life, Team Fortress, and Left 4 Dead franchises. The gaming site added, "[it is] one of the most refreshing, exciting and innovative games we've ever played. There's no doubt in our minds that numerous Game of the Year awards have now already been shotgunned...If you thought the original Portal was a masterpiece, prepare to have your mind blown." Finally, giantbomb.com said the game has achieved "a unique voice and an incredible level of quality that all developers should aspire to.
For those interested in watching video reviews, check these links out below:
While it is recommended that players play through Portal 2 without the help of hints, some gamers may inevitably get themselves stuck. The following websites are strategy guides to help you get through the game. Keep in mind that because the game just launched, many of the outlined guides are still works in progress.
While we know what the critics think of the game, we want to know what you think of Portal 2. Is it game of the year? Join the discussion by sounding off on our forums!