Portal 2

Portal 2 Xbox 360 Review

If you don’t know what Portal is, you’ve been living under a rock. If you haven’t yet figured out if the cake is a lie, you shouldn’t consider yourself ready for Portal 2. Seriously, play through it if you haven’t already done so, because each game plays differently. Portal is a unique game that incorporates an FPS with a casual puzzle game. Add to this a well balanced difficulty level, humor for every age group, and the length of a stand-alone game, and you get something accessible and appealing to a huge audience. Portal 2 is a shining example of what a sequel should be: something embodying the concept of the original, yet taking it to a different level all on its own. Portal is one of the many gifts bestowed upon the gaming community by Valve, best known for the Left 4 Dead series and the Half-Life 2 series before selling Portal as a part of The Orange Box.

Again, Valve brings the amazing Portal experience back for a solo run with improvements. I’m not one for nostalgia most of the time, but the beginning test chambers reminded me of the first portal and the immense enjoyment I gleaned from the brief gem that was Portal 2’s predecessor. Portal 2 quickly makes sure to stand on its own legs, adding the laser, or “Thermal Discouragement Beam”, within the first few test chambers. I found the 3 gels to be an excellent addition to Portal’s signature puzzle style, integrating well with the excellent physics of the game as well as with other elements, such as the excursion funnel. Once you’ve played Portal enough, the methods of using the portal gun become obvious in most situations, so the gels did an excellent job of mixing things up and adding a variety of physics-based solutions.  At times, the size of the test chambers were large, making it difficult to tell where to go, though this was only a minor problem. As for the actual difficulty of solving the puzzles, they were kept just right throughout the entire game. Never once did I feel stuck because of incompetent level design, and considering how complex all the elements in Portal could make a puzzle, Valve does a superb job of keeping the challenges fun. Co-op effectively doubles the length of the game, as well as doubling the fun factor, I’m a bit of a skeptic, so I haven’t yet tried playing co-op with someone random online, so I played it splitscreen, which was the most fun I’ve had playing co-op in any game. Pacing in the gameplay can be a bit slow at times when it comes to running around on catwalks with Wheatley or when attempting to navigate the outdated Aperture Science facility between test chambers, otherwise you can move through it about as quickly as you want. I will say that I got a bit frustrated with loading every few minutes, but loading was quick and did not negatively affect immersion significantly. As for immersion itself, Portal 2 does an excellent job of creating cutscenes in the environment around you, so you never feel a need to put down the controller while a scene flashes in front of you, and are instead more inclined to look around curiously at what’s happening around you.

Portal 2 ScreenshotThe dark humor that tickled the funny bones of so many people in the first Portal is back in the 2nd. Though humor was not as well done in the second, it is still superb and has more variety than the first. The voice acting was done extremely well, and every character has a very distinct personality with a fitting comedic personality. I was impressed with the story in this game, not requiring any knowledge of the first game as well as being pretty good. The game doesn’t give you a personality, you have no back story and don’t talk. So Portal 2 works more on developing the personality of everyone else around you, which is done through dialogue as well as the atmosphere of the game. Each different character has their own fitting environment for their part in the story, and if you listen to the dialogue of Cave Johnson, as well as laughing until your sides ache, you will learn the interesting backstory of what happened to Aperture Science.

The graphics are not the best you will ever see, and could probably be considered antiquated when compared to games like Crysis and Battlefield 3, but it is still pretty good looking and everything moves very smoothly within the game, so while the graphics are not top of the line, it keeps the experience immersive and flowing. I thought the sound effects were also a positive addition to the atmosphere and were quite well done.

The achievements in Portal 2 are typical Valve achievements, in other words, very well done. You actually earn achievements by doing things other than just playing through the game, and if you want all of them you will end up doing things that will make you laugh and playing through the game a second time in order to go achievement hunting is barrels of fun. So, the biggest fault with Portal 2 is its lack of lasting appeal, because once you’ve played through the single-player and co-op campaigns a couple times, the puzzles become very simple, and so it becomes significantly less fun. In the first game, every chamber had a challenge version of the chamber which let you replay a chamber to try and use the least portals, steps, or time and there was also a good selection of significantly more difficult “advanced chambers.” These two features vastly improved Portal’s replay value, and it was a bit strange to me that these weren’t included until I heard that they would be a part of the first DLC. Now, I probably will never again include DLC in a game’s review ever again, much less let it improve the score, but since this DLC is completely free and adding features that in all likelihood were simply not finished and integrated soon enough for release, I will make an exception and allow it to raise my score.

I am happy to present Portal 2 a score of 10 out of 10 with the inclusion of the first free DLC.

GGC Score: 10 out of 10
Click here to purchase Portal 2 for Xbox 360 from Amazon.com

About Will

A lifelong gamer, I've always had a passion for the geekier lifestyle. Now, I'm working towards making that a lifetime career. Here's to me

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