Wot I Think: Portal 2

By John Walker on April 19th, 2011 at 7:10 am.

It's finally here!

Portal 2 has now unlocked. If you’ve preloaded it, you should be able to start the unlocking process now. I played the game all the way through last week, both single-player and co-op, and am very pleased to tell you, without a single spoiler, Wot I Think.

Here’s a thing I feel safe to say: Portal 2 is Valve’s first full-length single-player game since Half-Life 2 in 2004.

For everything else, I’m in a pickle. And if you want to enjoy this stunning game properly, you should be concerned too – if you’re planning to read lots of reviews of the game before you play it, I beg you to be careful. The biggest dilemma in front of me now is how to tell you why Portal 2 is quite so magnificent, without robbing you of any of the surprises I received when playing. And the frustration is, you won’t understand why I can’t tell you things until you’ve played it for yourself. After about the first hour, everything in Portal 2 is a spoiler. Even the co-op. I’m going to try to review it for you now without ruining anything.

Um.

It’s really bloody good.

Let me see what else…

So what do you already know? From the comics we know that Chell is once again the protagonist, dragged away from her seeming victory at the end of Portal, imprisoned and once more awakened in a mysterious chamber. We also know, by her all-encompassing presence (if you’re in America, she’s on TV every five minutes, on every bus, on every poster) that GLaDOS is, by some means, returning. Despite her quite substantial destruction.

And you’ve probably heard that there’s a new character voiced by Stephen Merchant, Wheatley. You know that Aperture boss Cave Johnson is involved in some way. You’ve seen that alongside the portal gun there’s now paint-like gel with special properties, and t-beams which can carry objects. Have you seen the bridges? There are bridges too.

Test subjects are woken from their enforced comas every few years, medical reasons, and so it is that Chell is awoken in a run-down, faded, eroding room by the frantic knocking on the door. It’s Wheatley, one of GLaDOS’s former personality cores, desperate to get your attention. He’s to be your guide, an occasional companion as you explore the derelict remains of the testing facilities, now overgrown with plants.

Things begin in a familiar way, reintroducing the basics of portal dissemination, first with only one portal, then two, in puzzles that are different but reminiscent of the opening of the first game. It’s of course necessary, because that special place your mind goes into to be able to “think with portals”, as Valve so aptly describe it, needs to be reawakened.

But it’s far more involved than just that. Aperture is in a terrible state, ruined, after hundreds of years of neglect. Wheatley’s guidance is peculiar, with his mostly being stuck on rails, and means your path is an unusual one. The elevators aren’t all working, so you’ll be sneaking through panels and dropping in to familiar but disheveled rooms from new entrances.

And all the way you’re being entertained by a breathtakingly good performance from Stephen Merchant as Wheatley. Ricky Gervais’s frequent comedy partner firmly establishes himself independently here, offering a naturalistic delivery that hits every beat with exquisitely effortless timing. It’s often hard to follow his instructions, because you know that if you wait Wheatley will make another joke about it. Merchant has recorded so many alternative lines that it takes far longer than most will be willing to hang around before you’ll hear him repeat.

Along the way you re-encounter GLaDOS. How – I’m not going to say, because it’s a wonderful moment. What happens as a consequence – I’m not going to say. Where you go next – I’m not going to say. You can see the issue.

In many ways, this opening act feels like a deconstruction of the original Portal. Smart writing and smarter puzzles cunningly reference what you already know, but require more inventiveness. The behind-the-scenes view of familiar-but-derelict test chambers feel like a breaking of the frame from the off, in a way the first game offered in its final third.

The game’s in three acts, and it’s not a fraction of an exaggeration to say that telling you even the most basic details of the second part would absolutely destroy some surprises that brought me much joy. I want you to have them too. So dodging around this, I’ll say that the paints you’ve likely seen in the trailers make their appearance in this second section, and I want to relieve some of the fears you may have about them.

When I first saw that this new element was being included in screenshots I feared this was going to be an example of sequel feature overloading, where a developer becomes afraid their follow-up is too similar to the original, so stuffs it full of new content that removes the previously engaging simplicity. That simply isn’t the case here.

The gel was appropriately inspired by a project by students at DigiPen – the same institute that provided us with the student team that went on to head up the development of Portal. Members of Tag: The Power of Paint’s creative team were hired by Valve, and concepts brought into the new game. But rather than adding a paint gun, or complicating your interaction, instead these new tricks are all intelligently implemented via the portal-based techniques that already make sense.

Blue paint on a surface creates a bouncy pad, that will launch you the same height you fell onto it from. Orange paint lets you move much more quickly, which opens up lots of inventive uses for portal physics, especially in the co-op game. And white paint added to a surface makes it possible to place a portal. The extraordinary liquid physics make it a mad pleasure to splatter paint around levels, and the feeling of adapting your environment can create the sense that you’re being much more inventive in your puzzle solving. Especially when you’re redirecting the paint from its sources using portals.

However, gel also causes my most serious criticism of the game. One of the key pleasures of Portal is that sense that you’re inventing the solution to a puzzle, whether it’s one of many or the only possible route through the level. Occasionally with the paint it becomes too obvious that there’s really only one way to complete a room, and you’re not going to do it until you’ve stumbled upon the logic they used. One level in particular requires the exact placing of paint in heavily prescribed places or it’s simply impossible. I’m certain some of my plans should have worked, but fell fractions short of success in a way that didn’t feel entirely fair. While there’s a sense of satisfaction in eventually realising the solution, it’s preceded by a good degree of frustration that never appeared in the original game, and thankfully only occasionally appears in the sequel.

The mistake, I think, is in having you fall just short of your target platform in these circumstances. It suggests that you mistimed your jump, or didn’t fall into a portal from quite high enough, and you can find yourself repeating the same futile route again and again until you give up and try something else. This, combined with a brief failing of Valve’s trademark semi-conscious signposting of what you should be doing next (which is blissfully brilliant elsewhere in the game), leads to a brief sag.

However, that’s not true of so much else. Another sequel fear I had was that it might get too difficult. That’s not realised either. It’s definitely more difficult than Portal, but only in a way that continues the smooth curve established by the first game. Where Portal 1’s most complex challenges tended to involve finding ways to fall a long way into a portal, to fire yourself out of another, Portal 2 seems to knowingly mock you by preventing your doing this. So often you’ll see a gap and a drop and you’ll think, “I know what to do.” But then you’ll see they’ve deliberately made that route unavailable, forcing you to reimagine. GLaDOS is messing with you.

Also new, and absolutely always brilliantly included, are the T-Beams and hard-light bridges. The former are swirling tunnels of energy through which both you an objects can float. The latter are thin sheets of a blue “solid” that can be walked on. And both can pass through portals opening up a kajillion new puzzle solutions. Just think about the possibilities for a beam through which you can float a cube, dropping it from one to another by redirecting an exit portal to elsewhere in a room, then floating yourself along the beam through a portal to reach another area. It requires you open more doors in your brain, to think in even more dimensions.

There’s also a few new blocks, the most significant of which is one that can redirect red laser beams, which again expands the puzzling possibilities. And never more so than in the co-op.

Here again I bang up against the wall of spoilers. I literally cannot tell you the context for the co-op without ruining the end of the single player game. What I can say is make sure you finish the single player before you start the co-op, as it references much that came before, as well as assumes a lot of knowledge about how gel, beams and bridges work.

However, what is safe to say is quite what a significant difference there is when buddying alongside a chum. The first few levels are expertly designed to force your brain into thinking in yet another new way. This time it’s how you approach a level with the availability of two pairs of portals.

Both players can pass through the portals of the other, so here the challenges can be far more elaborate. Where once you were limited to propelling yourself in only one direction, here you can be flung all over in fantastically complex manoeuvres. There’s also some awesome new tricks available, such as one player putting two portals on the floor and ceiling, and then the other player falling through them to reach enormous speeds. At this point the first player can switch the exit portal to somewhere else in the chamber sending their buddy flying incredible distances. Stuff you simply couldn’t do on your own.

Co-op has its own narrative, although not one as compelling as the single-player’s fantastic story. Here it’s much more about mind games between the two players, which is a lovely angle. However, the significance of its ending seems far more loaded than anything else in the game – big consequences. I’d also argue that it could be interpreted as an origin story for Valve Software, although I’m not sure that’s their intention. You’ll see what I mean. We’ll write much more about the co-op soon.

Most of all, Portal 2 is funny. It’s so damned funny. It’s funny from the opening scene (“When you hear the buzzer, stare at the art.”) to the very final moment, which made me guffaw. Gags in the opening sequence with your introduction to Wheatley play on how games work, memories of the original game, and whole new running jokes that are surely to become the next wave of memes.

And splendidly, the game does not rely on referencing the original. Cake goes almost entirely unmentioned, and it’s certainly not about being a lie. And your cuboid friend? Well, no way am I going to take anything away from that. But again, just brilliant.

And praising Merchant as I have above cannot stand alone. Ellen McLain returns as GLaDOS, and is pushed so much further this time, hitting every single line with perfection. The volume of incredible jokes is beyond belief, each tinged with a slithery cruelty that makes it almost hurt. J K Simmons is also fantastic as Cave Johnson, really throwing himself into the role with spectacular gusto. It’s an all-round remarkable cast, delivering some of the finest writing video gaming has seen.

Improvements to the Source engine are abundantly clear when compared to the original Portal. The titular holes are more beautiful, and the locations so elaborately detailed and animated.

Gosh, the animation. Panels are not just a joke for the trailers. The walls of test chambers being made of hundreds of panels on robot arms is absolutely key to the entire game, both in terms of how it’s approached, and its narrative. Rooms can be adjusted mid-flow, the walls, floors and ceilings seemingly alive.

The detail kept taking my breath away. At one point there’s a walkway to run down, on your way to the next location. You’re running past some machinery that’s used to construct turrets, just backgrounds. But I stopped to watch through one window, crouching to see past a rail, and saw the most extraordinarily elaborate, Pixar-like detailed sequence of about eight robot arms meticulously building a turret from scratch. It must have taken someone days to put this animation together, and it’s completely throwaway, in the corner of your eye, designed to be run straight past. That’s the level of detail going on in this remarkable game.

Wheatley also deserves special mention. Those personality cores you saw gibbering at the end of Portal 1 had some character. But the animation in Wheatley’s is utterly beyond belief – what is essentially an eye somehow manages to communicate shame, fear, guilt, happiness, cheekiness, and so on. It’s an incredible feat.

There’s also a great deal to find for the more careful player. Littered with Easter eggs, they’re often far more involved than the hidden rooms found in the first game. There are at least two entire songs to be discovered by those willing to explore, as well as many more snippets of story if you meddle with objects and the environment beyond the main demands.

Alongside that, there’s an entire other story going on if you’re looking for it. If you’ve seen that episode of Community where Abed has the relationship with the pregnant girl, you’ll know the sort of delivery I mean. A whole other story, separate from that of Chell, Wheatley and GLaDOS, taking place out of focus in the background, with a wonderful pay-off in the closing sequence.

Coulton’s new song is as good as Still Alive – which is no mean feat. The National’s song is so amazingly nonchalantly included that I didn’t even realise I’d found it at first. And most of all, everything is so, so funny. It’s undeniably one of the funniest games of all time. I laughed out loud so often I began to feel self-conscious.

And crucially, when I’d finished the game, both single player and co-op, the first thing I wanted to do was start again. So I did.

There’s so much more I want to tell you! I want to tell you about the [REDACTED] turrets that [REDACTED] creates. I want to tell you about the sequences in the [REDACTED] from the [REDACTED]. Gosh, I want to tell you about the bit at the end with the actual [REDACTED]. I want to explain the whole potato thing to you! I think if I did I’d write something that better conveyed the exciting reasons to play. But something that would make playing far less exciting. Apart from that brief saggy moment toward the end of the second act, this is a refined, ludicrously detailed, and wonderfully smart game. At around eight hours long for the single player, it’s also nearly three times longer than the original, with another six or so hours for the co-op. Of course you should get it. In fact, you should have been reading this while your pre-load was unlocking.

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206 Comments »

  1. Pijama says:

    John.

    Here is the thing, I read only the introduction. Only this article I have ever done it – the rest of yours I have always read in full. I am playing it now, I am at the start, and it is indeed FUCKING GREAT.

    Now… Just a question.

    Did you really, REALLY, post this at 7 in the bloody morning?

    • Bobsy says:

      Clearly it was prepared in advance. John stumbled out of sleepy-land, pressed the magic button, not unlike GladOS herself, and then marched bleary-eyed into the world beyond.

    • adonf says:

      Hmm, didn’t John and Quinns fly to the US&A recently ? I’m not sure that they’re back.

    • John Walker says:

      I love how poor the spy-stalking of our readers can be. I was in the States last week, but Quintin stayed firmly on Blighty’s shores.

    • Pijama says:

      Spy-stalking? Clearly this is no gentleman behaviour, sir John. Why you think so little of us? :(

      HA

    • pepper says:

      Thats because he hasnt discovered the camera’s, microphones and motion sensors yet.

    • shoptroll says:

      That was awfully sneaky of you guys. I was convinced your trip was Valve related, not the Zenimax shin-dig in Utah of all places.

      6 hours of work to go. This is the longest day ever. Reading the reviews isn’t helping either :(

    • Driadan says:

      Thats because he hasnt discovered the camera’s, microphones and motion sensors yet.

      Apparently, we forgot to add a gps there.

  2. Matt says:

    Why must I work today!

    • PoulWrist says:

      Indeed :(

    • Ovno says:

      Damn right, I got up turned my pc on saw portal unlocking and had to go to work, damn you valve, why couldn’t the arg have got it released last night when I could have played it rather than having to go to work…..

    • suibhne says:

      I know why *I* must work today – to pick up Portal 2 when it’s delivered to my office.

      (In the States, Amazon was considerably less expensive than Steam.)

    • tstapp1026 says:

      @suibhne: wow. really? Even less that the 10% off that Steam has offered for the last month or so? Time will tell, but $44.99 (US) seems quite the fair price when games are going for $49.99 and even $59.99 these days. I played about 15 minutes this morning and I must say, if there is any length to this game (as compared to the original), then our monies have been VERY well spent.

    • NateN says:

      @tstapp1026: I think they were selling it with a $20 gift card. Basically you’d pay full price, then you’d get some money back to spend on something else later. I had already bought it by the time I saw that offer pop up.

      If I had known at the time that the PS3 version came with the PC version I would have bought that just because I’m very curious about how Steam is going to work on that platform. But I didn’t, oh well.

      I got to start playing it at 12:50 this morning once it unlocked, decrypted, and got beyond error 10. I played it until 2. Turns out I’m WAY TOO OLD to be playing games until 2 in the morning, at least if I’m going to go to work and be a fairly productive human being right off the bat…

      Right, more coffee!

  3. Baris345 says:

    Oh, the horrific implications of being a starving student and actually considering paying 50 euro for a game. You know how long it’s been since I bought a full price game? Over a year!

    Damn you Portal 2. You and your sexy ad campaign and (supposedly) fantastic gameplay.

    • Spliter says:

      Actually it’s 38 euro.
      Mind you this is the best things on earth 38 euro can get you.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      I have no money either, so alas will be waiting for amazon or someone to knock some money off :( That means months of avoiding people accidentally blurting spoilers and frustration at all the in-joke dropping, but hey ho. The god of cash has decreed I must be poor right now, and so it is.

    • Brumisator says:

      It’s not just fantastic gameplay, it’s fantastic visuals (technology and art direction), fantastic sound, fantastic writing, fantastic atmosphere, fantastic [redacted].

    • Rinox says:

      @ Spliter

      If he’s in Western Europe, it’s 50 €. :-(

    • pepper says:

      The lowest price I have found is in the low 30′s at a dutch site called budgetgaming.nl. It also has data on foreign stores.
      this should help for those living in western europe:
      http://www.budgetgaming.nl/game-profile/portal+2_PC.html
      Note that this links to other sides and is subject to change. At the very bottom you can find the foreign websites, note that some of the pre-release buy deals are still active.

      edit: reading through the comments, this one would be the cheapest(28,95):

      http://www.zavvi.nl/games/platforms/pc/portal-2-pc/mac/10215567.html

      Although it will only be delivered after the 21st.

    • Kdansky says:

      Let me make this very simple for you:

      It’s totally worth 50 Euro.

      End of story. It’s the best game in the last ten years.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I regret not going with my initial gut feeling of “Well, I liked Portal, but it was enough Portal for me thanks – I’ll wait until the sequel’s €15 or something.” The first three hours are basically Portal with David Brent yammering at you half the time. In a slightly different voice, since he’s played by the other half of the Gervais/Merchant partnership, but it’s David Brent. I didn’t realise that Gervais/Merchant only had one character between the two of them, and I didn’t understand the Ricky Gervais backlash, but now I do and I do.

  4. mjig says:

    I preordered and was very excited to play. Now I found out there’s day 1 DLC in the form of skins.

    I regret buying it, a few months ago I would have told you that VALVe was my favorite developer, no question about it. Now after both the Mann Co update, constant hat cross promotions, holding Portal 2 hostage, and now day 1 DLC, they’ve dropped pretty far on the list. I don’t see myself purchasing another VALVe game in the future.

    I know this is going to get some hate, because most people feel the same way about Valve that I did, but they’ve really fallen in my eyes. Bioware and Valve, two great companies that have gone to shit recently. Damn shame.

    • John Walker says:

      I don’t quite follow. I find the hat nonsense as irritating as anyone else, but Portal 2 certainly wasn’t “held hostage”. It did actually come out early. And I find day one DLC problematic too. But those seem like really strange reasons to not buy a great game. Nor indeed to declare you’ll not buy another game the company makes. What a strange logic.

      Feel free to be annoyed by things, but why refuse to enjoy good games in some sort of self-defeating revenge?

    • wazups2x says:

      I’m completely fine with DLC as long as it’s just for aesthetics. Maps only split up the community and weapons create an unfair playing field.

      I wish every company would copy the way Tripwire does their DLC. Their way we can still support them and get some nice skins but avoid splitting up the community or giving certain players advantages.

      In case anyone doesn’t know who Tripwire is, they are the PC developers that made Killing Floor and are in the process of making Red Orchestra 2. They release a ton of free content for their games and fund it with the DLC skins.

    • skalpadda says:

      Looks like it’s all cosmetic, so why not just ignore it?

    • mjig says:

      I’ve got a backlog stretching back to the 90s, I can afford to miss a game if I find the publisher’s business practices to be disagreeable.

      For me, day one DLC is enough of a problem that I would rather miss out on the game than let developers know that we’ll buy a game regardless of how they treat their customers. It’d be pretty hypocritical to complain so loudly about it, yet still support publishers who do it.

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      they way you write VALVe i think you won’t be able to be mad at them for too long. I’m sure they are sorry and they know they fucked up. Will you please take them back? Pretty please.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      No hate here friend just must be my lack of emotional connection to a game developer but, I just don’t invest in a company to the extent that these perceived actions would drive me to not buy their product again.

      It’s a logic you don’t need to put yourself through I feel.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Dude, they’re just skins.

      The issue with day 1 DLC is that they’re selling content that could have been released with the game seperately, for extra money.

      This isn’t content, therefore it isn’t an issue.

      But hey, this is the internet, people will always get their silly rage on for no good reason.

    • Baboonanza says:

      I’d just like to say that while I disagree with you completely (I have never bought DLC for anything and I’ll judge a game on it’s merits, not whether I think the DLC should have been free) I respect your principled stance.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      ThebigJ is right, this isn’t content that belongs in the game really, it’s just superfluous cosmetic junk that some people are addicted to. Portal 2 as a game I paid $35 for is complete.

    • Kadayi says:

      Ignore this shit. He’s one of the 0 score metacritic trolls (go see for yourself, there are loads of 0 scores already). These people seriously need to get lives.

    • woodsey says:

      They’re meaningless character skins.

      They don’t break the game, they don’t add extra missions, they’re not story elements that have been removed beforehand for the sake of DLC.

      Who gives a crap?

    • Barman1942 says:

      Not to mention they’re skins and gestures you can unlock by playing the game. Writing the game off completely simply because of that and because you have a “backlog of games stretching back to the 90′s” makes you seem incredibly snobbish when it comes to games.

    • Tatourmi says:

      It is actually a perfectly morally viable behaviour. If you don’t accept one practice and want to make it change then you don’t support the people doing it. Quite logical in my opinion. Besides, the problem witht these is the break of immersion. I quite like the design of their robots and the way they fit in the environment. As soon as monocles and hats get involved it quickly becomes a bit silly, not in the good way. That is what I would criticize here.

  5. drewski says:

    I probably should have played Portal, huh.

  6. solaris999 says:

    Wow, my decrypt’s at 32%, John, How did you know?! Looking forward to this so much – will have a let’s play up sometime as well hopefully.

    Anyone know if co-op is possible between PC and PS3?

  7. drewski says:

    Also having CENSORED parts of the images makes me smile.

    Also this sounds really, really good and now I want to play it. Not that I didn’t before, but now I *really* want to play it.

    • Nezuji says:

      I just got up to the part of the game where you find out what’s under those CENSORED labels, and it makes me smile, too. It makes me smile because even if you showed them to someone who hadn’t played the game yet, they just wouldn’t have any idea of what to make of it. They might even think they were faked screenshots.

  8. Memphis-Ahn says:

    Too bad reviews weren’t posted before the game came out, or I would have pre-ordered it.

    • pepper says:

      Be fast and you can still buy it on preorder price in many places, since the official release date for those stores is in 2 days.

  9. Girdot says:

    I’m pretty sure Abed didn’t get the girl pregnant in that episode. He just delivered the baby. Or maybe not? I dunno, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

  10. skalpadda says:

    Got an hour in now this morning and the opening was brilliant, can’t wait to get back home and continue this afternoon :)

  11. Conor says:

    I. Wish. I. Had. Money. So. I. Could. Buy. This. NOW.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Me too :(

    • Dozer says:

      I. Wish. My. PC. Wasn’t. From. 2004. So. I. Could. Play. This. Game.

      Money for buying Portal 2 isn’t a problem – the credit card can absorb the hit. But buying a new motherboard, CPU, graphics card, and probably also RAM, PSU and case and just for giggles a hard drive too (ie, completely replacing the PC) would have me overoverdrawn. Sadface.

  12. JimmyBignuts says:

    …BUT I DON’T WANNA GO TO SCHOOL.

  13. Vague-rant says:

    So, as someone who doesn’t intend to play portal 2 for probably a good few months, there is no HL3 allusion?

    Unless that in itself is a massive spoiler.

  14. thebenshaw says:

    Rescue Rover anyone?

  15. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Hmm I forced myself to stop reading after the first few paragraphs, I really should pick this up sometime, But I really REALLY don’t want to spend $50 on it, even though it is probably quite worth it, I just, can’t :/

    • darkath says:

      This is Valve, don’t worry it’ll cost 5$ before you know it xD

    • allanschnorr says:

      I know exactly how you feel. I just can’t bring myself to spend $50 on a game this short when I have around 100 games I haven’t even played yet on my steam account. But I probably wouldn’t resist a 50% discount.

  16. Zanchito says:

    ¡Thanks, John, an article in very good taste!

  17. SpinalJack says:

    Thanks for that, I needed something to read at 7am while this game unlocked :)

  18. darkath says:

    I only read the introduction, i’m sold, Reading “Here’s a thing I feel safe to say: Portal 2 is Valve’s first full-length single-player game since Half-Life 2 in 2004.” from a RPS writer is enough for me.

    However i’ll wait a few weeks/months for a -50% sale :D

  19. Vandelay says:

    Thank you Mr. Walker. You did an excellent job of getting me buzzed for the game, without giving away too much that wasn’t already known from trailers. Why do I get the feeling that work is going to feel very long indeed?

    • alphager says:

      The game unlocked two minutes before I had to leave to work. I got to take a glimpse of the decryption-screen…
      Still 7 hours 33 minutes to go…

    • Engineseer says:

      Different time zone here…well, at least i got to turn the subtitles on before i went to work…

  20. thegooseking says:

    I’d heard about the orange and blue, but white liquid? Really?

    Valve, you do know what gamers are going to colloquially call that, right? You do understand the gamer mind?

    On that note, my decrypting is complete. Off I go to play.

  21. KauhuK says:

    I preordered Portal 2 from Play.com because it’s 31,49€ there. I dont buy new games from steam because Finland is in the more expensive steam pricing group. Even with the preorder discount it was about 45€ and now without the discount it’s 49,99€.

    Edit: I don’t mind waiting few days to save some money because I’m a poor student.

  22. felisc says:

    mh, i’m pretty sure that many of us are going to leave work pretty early today.

  23. Jamesworkshop says:

    I had the opposite fears, paint looked like the best addition, no worries there at all it’s already sold me on this game already, after I went through TAG.TPOP

    As for whetley I hope merchant does a better job than that placeholder voiceactor (and given better lines), because that annoyed the hell out of me the first time round.
    It might have killed the character for me so i am aprehensive of having to listen to whetley for an entire game.

    • Ovno says:

      I wish they’d left the placeholder in and not got {insert annoying comic of the month here} that way I wouldn’t be sat here wondering if I’ll be able to play it without killing wheatly at the first moment so I don’t have to listen to the annoying prick.

    • Dozer says:

      He’s the annoying actor of 2001 actually, which is when The Office was broadcast. (He co-wrote it, and appeared briefly once or twice.)

      I am a bit perplexed by Wheatley in the pre-release footage. The whole ‘lovable anthropomorphic robot’ thingie doesn’t make any kind of sense to me. I watched all of Wall-E thinking “WHY IS THAT AUTOMATIC VACUUM CLEANER DICKING AROUND”. GlaDOS on the other hand is distilled awesomeness, because she’s sinister and manipulative, like Adobe Acrobat Reader, which brings authenticity.

  24. Baboonanza says:

    I managed to play an hour of Portal 2 before leaving for work. The script is even better than the first game, I was literally giggling at some of it. Merchant is good, GLaDoS is deeply, deeply awesome.

    Must. Resist. Quoting.

  25. passingstranger says:

    So, to my surprise, there is an interactive “trailer” for the upcoming J.J. Abrams movie Super 8 included in Portal 2. I recorded my playthrough of it, if that’s what it can be called.
    This is interesting…

  26. bill says:

    Oh my! I so much want to play this. But lack of money and a tiny baby mean it’s going to have to be delayed – but (as with portal) I just know that the web is going to be full of memes and spoilers for the next 6 months… no way I can avoid them all.

    Quick question: what are the system requirements and will it play on a similar level machine to Portal 1? Does turning all the graphics down make it playable on older systems?
    My laptop made it through Portal 1 ok, but i’m worried about all those liquid physics. Something like portal really needs a reliable framerate or it’s unplayable.

    Second question: How long is it?

    • Harlander says:

      ~8hrs single player, ~6hrs co-op. Did you skip over the article in the hope of avoiding spoilers? ;)

      As for running on creakier rigs – it’s Source, right? That seems to scale down pretty well (and keep looking pretty good in the process)

    • Wulf says:

      My reaction to how well it runs was, quite accurately recalled, as follows:

      Holy crap, why is it that the physics work so well on this three/four year old computer of mine? This makes havok and the physics of UDK look primitive. How many years did they spend optimising their physics routines?! I have physics, realtime shadows, and all sorts of other trickery going on, and it’s still as smooth as silk. What’s going on here, Valve?!

      Frankly, they optimised the shit out of it. They go a little nuts with the physics tricks on times, but I’ve never seen an instance of slowdown, not one. And my computer is, as mentioned, pretty ancient.

      Also, this is a laptop.

      Yes, it runs that well.

    • bill says:

      @Wulf: Nice. Thanks. now i just have to avoid the spoilers.
      @Harlander: Thanks. I read the article – but then i got distracted before I got a chance to post and all the details went out of my mind. ;-)

    • viverravid says:

      Holy crap, why is it that the physics work so well on this three/four year old computer of mine?

      Easy answer: very little physics simulation is actually done in engine (except the liquids, which looks like it uses the classic metaballs algorithm which has been around since the 80s or so).

      Most of the really flashy physics stuff with panels etc was actually calculated offline, and the game is just playing back an animation. Valve calls this ‘cinematic physics’. It’s basically just an animated cutscene, but a simulator did most of the animation, not a person.

    • Dozer says:

      I have a 3ghz Pentium 4 and a geforce 7300. Would I regret playing Portal 2 on such an antique?

  27. roryok says:

    The biggest dilemma in front of me now is how to tell you why Portal 2 is quite so magnificent, without robbing you of any of the surprises

    That’ll do me. Not reading the rest until after I play. Good day gentle folk.

    • skalpadda says:

      If you’ve seen trailers there won’t be any spoilers in the review. The few spoilers that are there are mostly about new mechanics, the names of a few characters and their voice actors, no story stuff apart from the first minute or two of the game..It’s a good review and John has made a great effort not to spoil things but if you want to go in completely blind I guess staying away from everything might be a good idea :)

  28. reticulate says:

    As my rig has died I’ll be playing this on the 360.

    Also, I won’t be playing it for a couple of days simply due to finances.

    I get the distinct impression I’ll be spoilered by memes before then. Drat.

  29. AdamK117 says:

    Hardcore review after what looks like a hardcore session. Awesome article!

  30. akemichan88 says:

    Took day off from Uni.
    Said something happened in the family

    Yeah

    Me playin Portal 2.

  31. Dominic White says:

    So, my only question:

    Have Valve inexplicably cut split-screen mode from the PC version again, like they did with Left 4 Dead? I remember the L4D demo/beta having gamepad/splitscreen support, but people actually complained that it reminded them of console games and Valve removed it.

    I have a big screen, extra controllers and places to sit. Why should the PC version be crippled, huh?

    • alphager says:

      You can enable split-screen on L4D and L4D2.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yes, you can technically force split-screen mode in L4D via an incredibly awkward and convoluted console/ini-hack-based workaround that requires you to somehow force a gamepad into the Player 2 position. That’s not support.

      So, again, I ask: Does Portal 2 have split-screen on PC?

    • steviesteveo says:

      Oh noes I must type words to make my computer do something?

  32. Joyo says:

    Played first hour, just to try and be on top of things for once (I have to work now, and then I’m out of the country until next week). Nice, pretty and good and WAIT WHAT did John Walker just reference Community? REALLY? RPS folks watch Community????

    WHAAAAAAAA?

    Between that and the National song my interests have intersected so accutely this morning that…that…*speechless*

  33. Flint says:

    This is the first thing that’s actually made me interested about playing the game. So, uh, well done John.

    Although I’ll probably end up spoiling all the details for myself in a fit of curiosity well before I actually buy the game.

  34. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Will be waiting till next weekend. Then I’ll buy. Thanks for the unspoiled review.

  35. The Goozeman says:

    My decrypting is taking a very, very long time.

  36. Diziet Sma says:

    Sorry but I just can’t risk reading this review… I think I need to play portal 2 a little bit first myself. I’m sure it’s an excellent review and full of the usual biting wit etc. etc. byeee

  37. WMain00 says:

    I can’t buy it until Thursday probably. I have no money. :(

  38. Teddy Leach says:

    Hands up if you don’t find Ricky Gervais funny.

    • Ovno says:

      \o/

      I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire.

    • tomeoftom says:

      You’re both vapid husks of a person.

    • kavika says:

      Does he do anything other than the “I’m so cool I don’t have to try, or even bathe”/”I’m so awkward, but I don’t care” schtick?

      I’ve seen him on Conan O’Brien about 4 times, and haven’t liked him once. He didn’t say anything specifically funny, and seemed to rely on insulting Conan to get any laughs. Yes I know it is ribbing/roasting, but that seemed to be all he ever did.

      Is he more varied/funny in his actual work?

    • Dozer says:

      The impression I got from watching The Office, and then watching the behind-the-scenes bits on the DVD, as well as seeing other interviews with the ‘actors’ – is that no-one in The Office is actually acting. They’re all like that in real life.

    • Icarus says:

      \o.

      I would piss on him, but only if he wasn’t on fire.

  39. whizzkidd says:

    Steam download currently at 76%. Just waiting for Virgin Media to throttle my bandwidth so I have to wait another hour.

  40. Schadenfreude says:

    It bugs me no end that if I want to buy this game through Steam it’ll cost me €49.99 yet if I were to buy it from Game.co.uk it would only cost €35 inc. postage (And no doubt I’d find it cheaper from other retailers).

    It just seems completely ridonculous that digital distribution is more expensive than having a hard-copy shipped from another country (if I was an enviro-mentalist that would probably annoy me even more) and it’s the primary reason I’ve yet to embrace Steam.

    The internet may no have oceans but it’s certainly got nonsensical price premiums all over the place.

    • whizzkidd says:

      I paid £26.99 on Steam. It’s currently £24.91 on Amazon. Not a bad deal at all.

    • JackShandy says:

      In australia, it’s the exact opposite, and it’s beautiful. Steam usually inflates the price if you’re in the australian section of the internet – not so! Portal 2 $45, which makes it less than half the price of almost every single damn game you can buy here and the cheapest AAA game I’ve seen in a long time. I think I’ll celebrate by buying it.

  41. SuperNashwanPower says:

    HAPPY PORTAL 2 DAY EVERYONE!! Enjoy your portaling.

    I cant afford it right now so you can all wish me a belated Happy Portal 2 day in a few months time when it is cheaper :D Taaaaaa

  42. Samwise says:

    started playing as soon as my decryption finished about 5:45 :D

    gotten about 4 hours in ~chapter 8/9ish can’t remember right now, uni work and portal all nighter + day :D

    writing is so good, wheatly, glados and cave are all hilarious, couple of nice surprises i wasn’t expecting already as well

  43. Carra says:

    Ok, I’ll have to buy it.

  44. clownst0pper says:

    Oh why is it not pay day. Im poorer than something very poor. :(

  45. Navagon says:

    This sounds awesome. Not that I’m surprised. But I was expecting more in the ways of flaws than the one you listed. Such as the feature overkill you say it doesn’t suffer from.

    Yeah, I’ll definitely have to get this soonish.

  46. mwoody says:

    I got to your first big paragraph and quit, as it sounds like it’s something I should experience as fresh as possible (I’ll come back afterwards and read it, I promise!). One question I’d love if anyone who’s played it could answer, though: story-wise, is it better to play co-op or single first?

    • MD says:

      Haven’t played it, but to quote John, “make sure you finish the single player before you start the co-op”.

    • mwoody says:

      Thank you. Usually I’m loathe to comment without reading the post, but here I hope my reasons are clear.

    • Dozer says:

      You saw the bit where he said “I am very pleased to tell you, without a single spoiler, Wot I Think.” and stopped reading because you didn’t want to hear spoilers?

      SNAPE KILLS TRINITY WITH ROSEBUD

    • MD says:

      No worries, and yeah totally understood, I didn’t mean to sound cranky or anything :)

      @ Dozer: even ‘spoiler free’ articles can be worth avoiding, if you want to go in completely fresh.

  47. MrSing says:

    Why must I be on a fucking 2 weeks holiday, sitting at a creepy 1,5GHZ Atom Netbook and being not able to play this marvelous game…

  48. Stepout says:

    I was in fact reading while my pre-load was unlocking. Unfortunately I’m at work…

  49. Bureaucrat says:

    Does anybody who had motion-sickness issues with the original care to report on how the sequel bears out in this respect?

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      I havent got Portal 2, but have just been playing the game that gave Valve the idea for the ‘paint’ – Tag. I dont know if Portal 2 has the “stick to walls” function that Tag has, but that actually did make me feel slightly icky. When the screen changes to another angle, it messes with your wobblies. Maybe Valve will have found a way to do it without vommings in Portal 2

    • p4warrior says:

      @SuperNashwanPower – That feature was removed from Portal 2 for this very reason.

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