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 »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Malfernion says:

    Portal 2 was really good. Skipped a day of sleep to help finish the countdown and play it. I agree with john that it is incredibly funny, i think i may have woken the neighbours up by laughing too loud at 5 in the morning.

    I would definitely recommend it to anyone thats not sure, your’e doing yourslef a disservice if you don’t get it.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Rinox says:

    This WoT has completely pulled me over the line, but I need to wait for my credit card bill for this month to come in…already too much on there for this month, need to spread it out a bit.

  3. Spinoza says:

    Interesting…

  4. Eukatheude says:

    Just finished single player. Amazing, just amazing. And there’s a lot of stuff i surely have missed, so here i go again.

  5. Nighthood says:

    Did anyone else enjoy the Super 8 interactive teaser, hidden away in the extras menu?

    I thought that was quite a nice little advertising feature, though it was dissappointing that it wasn’t for a new Valve game.

  6. terry says:

    I enjoyed what I played of this pre-work, is it just me or does the ambient music become more “complete” as you get closer to a puzzle’s solution?
    Also I can see this being a fun game to make levels for, with the more varied mechanics I found myself ruminating over them like crosswords. I solved one of the puzzles that had me stumped while poring over vegetables in the supermarket, came up with a few more based around the solution and felt very clever for doing this away from the PC while being simultaneously very stupid for being at work at all.

  7. noobnob says:

    With this and Deus Ex: Human Relations coming soon, guess I’ll just avoid every single gaming website ’till I get to play both games. Because I know that there will be spoilers in the comments section.

    See you all in 6 months or something.

  8. MrWolf says:

    I’ll be calling in sick today with a case of “orange and blue ring worm”, methinks.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Tunips says:

    Just finished the single player (I’m on Australia o’clock, so it’s not even crazy late). Quite the thing. The thing that really stuck with me was the neat way of integrating player-caused object-based jingles with the soundtrack. More things that aren’t specifically music games should do that.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I particularly enjoyed the music that plays on the light bridges.

  10. Cynic says:

    “Ricky Gervais’s frequent comedy partner firmly establishes himself independently here, offering a naturalistic delivery that hits every beat with exquisitely effortless timing.”

    How many rounds in the pub did he buy for you to type this? While a lot of the blue eye’s lines have had me chuckling, the delivery more often than not makes me cringe.

    Great WiT though, and if I didn’t have to leave to get some food RIGHT NOW, I’d still be enjoying the hell out of singleplayer.

  11. Jonathan says:

    OKAY FINE I’LL BUY IT JEEZ.

  12. draknahr says:

    Damn you, I was going to avoid this for a little while at least until I finished off 5-10 of my 198751975892 game backlog but now I’m calling a cab! And…my fingers refuse to stop….

  13. Sp4rkR4t says:

    My ps3 version with the free Steam copy doesn’t arrive until Thursday, I now fully comprehend how massive a mistake this was, I don’t think I can wait that long.

  14. edit says:

    Well, I’ve completed the single-player campaign and it is indeed fantastic. The only real disagreement I have with this Wot-I-Think is that I experienced no frustration. The whole thing was a joy.

    Half-Life is still the Valve series which is dearest to me, but I couldn’t be happier. Portal is one of my all-time favourite games, and this is a better game in every respect, building perfectly from everything that was great about the original. And I still have the co-op left to experience…

    • brulleks says:

      Just finished and no frustration here either. A few sections I had to retry multiple times, but it seemed a lot easier than the first game. No less enjoyable for it though – and easily the funniest game I’ve played. I found Merchant grating at first but mostly because I kept getting his face in my head instead of the robot’s.

      Too much of a visual connection there with that voice, I think, but the times when I did manage to force his presence to the back of my head, the character and the voice fitted brilliantly with the game. It was like Patrick Stewart in Oblivion – I always saw Picard’s face in my mind instead of Septim’s.

      It felt like a real adventure – a fresh world to journey through, despite my previous visit to Aperture Laboratories. Superb stuff. Need to try the co-op still, but that will require finding someone to play with.

    • thegooseking says:

      I got really frustrated in the level where I had to spray my white goo everywhere. (What?)

      There was one thing that looked like it might be a solution but was really tricky to get right, and I kept trying it and trying it and getting tantalisingly close… and then realised that the solution was actually something completely different.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I found Merchant’s character highly entertaining for a few minutes, then rapidly found him highly irritating and kept casting about for any way to leave him somewhere, drop him off something, or at least go hide in the opposite corner so his spiel would be a little quieter. In that last bit where you’re carrying him around, I spent quite a long time trying to find a way to not do it because I didn’t want to do what he told me.

      (Why do Valve do that? Having no choice in the actions of your protagonist would feel a lot less irritating if it was a cinematic cut-scene – as it is, their games are chock-full of essentially cut-scenes, thinly disguised as interactive sections of game.)

    • RakeShark says:

      I think I only got frustratingly, almost distressfully stuck on one puzzle towards the middle of the third act, and twice I was starting to approach frustration during the second act.

  15. Wulf says:

    I love this game.

    The following may or may not be a spoiler that may or may not go over your spoiler threshold, therefore you may or may not wish to read it.

    There are so many things that I liked but I think my favourite was that everything had its own musical cue. Everything. And it was all a weird sort of hybrid metal-techno-industrial kind of thing, and often in levels, as terry noted, the more stuff you get going, the more ambient music you have going on. It’s quite thrilling. Especially amusing is when you knock a bunch of turrets over at once, they sort of play you a little victory tune for doing so, whilst saying about how they don’t blame you at the same time.

    This game is eminently pleasing.

    I love this game.

    I thought I’d only be playing it for the co-op, but because everything has its own bloody personality, I’ve been sucked into the single-player and it’s not going to let me go until I’m done.

    The spoilers may or may not have ended at this point, what follows is information that you may or may not find irrelevant to the current topic of the day.

    The Super 8 thing was nifty, wasn’t it?

    Not the first time I’ve seen this, though. Cyan Worlds did it too aaages ago and at the time I remember thinking to myself, well, I wish this sort of thing happened more often. And now it has. I would like to see even more of this sort of thing. See, Cyan Worlds was hired by a book author to recreate some areas from the books in question. CW being CW and not being anyone else but CW did this in an imaginative, beautiful, arty, and breathtaking way that was an absolutely joy to walk through.

    I hope CW get their act together and do something else, eventually. :C It’s a shame that so few people could get into the things they did, because the worlds they created… wow. Raw imagination, the stuff dreams were made of. But yeah, point being that CW has done this before.

    It’d be fun if more developers were inclined to put together interactive tasters for things. They’re fun.

    Right.

    Hm.

    Look at me still talking when there’s science to do.

  16. the_fanciest_of_pants says:

    Just finished single player. Dear lord this is a good game.

    You’ll get no spoilers from me but christ this is amazing fucking gaming right here.

  17. Ertard says:

    I played through the co-op with a friend today. It’s six hours long, feels very lengthy actually, and it’s with out a doubt the most fun we’ve had in a co-op game together since Saint’s Row 2, and we played that one for over 60 hours.

    One of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had, and my friend agreed fully. Towards the end it gets quite complex, and we both felt like geniuses as well as the best team players ever.

  18. The Goozeman says:

    There’s a hidden reference to HL3 about midway through the game, it’s devilish hard to find but it’s in your achievements if anyone would like to know vaguely what it is.

  19. Lusit says:

    Heh. Titular holes.

  20. Ziv says:

    I read this in my one break from playing portal today, my only thought was-“Oh my god, he’s so right”. Now I finished the game and these are my thought exactly, I loved the extra level of story in the second act, I loved how there is absolutely no way to tell anyone how the game goes w/o spoiling it. It is AMAZING.

  21. Confusatron says:

    Absolutely amazing game. Just finished it a while ago and, sure enough, restarted it immediately – this time with commentary! It’s Valve’s best work I think and just… gosh.. just incredible.

    I gotta say I disagree about the sagging second act, though. I didn’t experience any moment of frustration with the gels…
    I guess that might be why it didn’t turn up in their testing.

    • Confusatron says:

      Also, John, is there any way you can divulge – with MASSIVE spoiler warnings – what background story you referred to? It’s driving me nuts now. I know of some things in the background and I’ve done my best to explore but you’re talking about a pay-off at the end which I must’ve missed somehow.

      I’d really like to know what you meant, if that’s possible

    • Confusatron says:

      OK scratch that. I think I know what you meant….
      I guess. Hopefully another play through will make it clear.

    • Krimson says:

      Yeah, I’m not entirely sure what secondary story John was talking about either. It wasn’t…

      SPOILERS!

      ‘The other voice’, was it?

    • Premium User Badge

      adg1034 says:

      It sure seems like turrets. Maybe he’s referring to the little video loops that play in the elevator chambers? That’s where I first saw the Animal King turret. Hmm. I’m a tad stumped.

    • Confusatron says:

      It’s tough because we can’t really discuss it here. so..

      SPOILER
      SPOILER SPOILER FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T READ THIS POST IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED.

      I’ll be careful anyway… I think he meant what you actually do in the end… the way you know what to do because you heard CJ talking about it in the second chapter, kind of.
      OR he could be referring to Glados

      That’s what I figured. Or… turrets.

  22. Radiant says:

    I’M GOING TO SPOILER THE FUCK OUT OF YOU:

    The cripple is KEYSER SOZE.

    Also?

    Those two cowboys are GAY.

  23. Premium User Badge

    kavika says:

    Edit: Ignore this. Reply didn’t work

  24. Megadyptes says:

    I decided to ignore the internet until I finished it and now I Have I must say I agree with pretty much everything in this review. P2 is fucking awesome. That is all.

  25. kyrieee says:

    Seems like everyone is loving this game. Good for you guys =)
    I thought it was okay, I was expecting to enjoy it a lot more, expected much more from the puzzle design. Still haven’t done the co-op though.

  26. Phydaux says:

    So I’ve just finished Portal 2. Steam says 8 hours played.

    Portal 2 (for me) is:
    Funniest game, ever. I’ve laughed more at Portal 2 than any other game.
    Best voice acting in a game, ever. Even if I keep thinking of Barclays.
    Best storytelling in a game, ever.
    One of my favourite games. I can’t see me playing it for a long time but I’ll probably play it a few more times to hunt the Easter eggs down, and hopefully I’ll find someone to play co-op with.

    It also reminded me of the excellent levels towards the end of Prey.

  27. Beebop says:

    I do not believe nobody has mentioned this, so I shall: LOADING SCREENS?

    I bought the game today based on this review (when of course it would have made much more sense to pre-order given that Valve does not release duds, but I digress) and I have only one major gripe, because in general it is rather brilliant.

    BUT: the developer who brought us Half Life 2 with its huge vistas and long sections without a loading screen in sight have put them in Portal 2 not just slightly over-frequently but at one point in the middle of a rather excellent sequence. Screwed it right up, and I can’t believe that nobody knows which bit I mean. It’s unforgivable in flaw in immersion-storytelling. The story itself, sublime, the immersion in general, excellent, but I have to say that there have been a few moments where loading screens have brought me right out of the game.

    Otherwise though, wonderful, marvellous, sublime. Panels! Wheatley! Yay!

    Bee

    • daf says:

      Source engine games were always heavy on loading, ever since the original half-life althoguh maybe not as frequent (and in today’s systems they’re done in less then 5s), ofc some kind of streaming would have been preferable specialy since they tend to break the levels in elevators, but I’m not sure source arquitecture would allow such adiction easily, maybe one day…

    • Premium User Badge

      Hidden_7 says:

      The problem was absolutely that it took you out of the game and plastered a big loading screen on. HL2 and Portal and all the Source games had just as much loading, but it was just a little box in the corner and the game just paused momentarily while it loaded. It really seems to be a mistake to have done the full screen of loading for Portal 2 if they are going to be that frequent.

    • Phydaux says:

      I agree Beebop. For the most part the loading screens are unobtrusive. But there is one part where the music has kicked in and you are… doing things… and then BAM! loading screen right in the middle of it. To be fair, the game is so great I can forgive people for forgetting the bad parts, like this. Mr Walker should have alluded to them in his review, however.

  28. daf says:

    One of the screenshots show’s the finished solution to a chamber, might want to change that since it’s technically a spoiler.

  29. aDemandingPersona says:

    all i can say is.. press [space] to say apple.. awesome

  30. cekman says:

    Just finished the single-player mode, and it is just as terrific as advertised.

    My one tiny regret is that they didn’t include any advanced levels or special challenges as bonuses, as they did in the first one. But I suppose that wouldn’t suit this game nearly as well.

  31. Meat Circus says:

    I agree with John.

    It’s definitely true that there are a few places, mainly in the Cave Johnson act, where Valve’s normally handholdy signposting gets a little ropey round the edges, but it’s such a minor complaint in an otherwise superlatively wonderful package it seems churlish to consider it a flaw. Where *else* would I want to spend a little time a bit lost and confused than Aperture Science?

    There’s also the way that GLaDOS loses some of her funny after SPOILERS REDACTED, but that’s kind of inevitable given the narrative, and in any case, The Announcer, Wheatley, and Cave all make up for it by being splendidly chortlesome themselves.

    Also: the ending(s): What.

  32. Killer6 says:

    Found the whole game insanely easy to complete, I wish it was longer.

  33. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    Having just finished it, I’m going to give a special kudos to Stephen Merchant. While I think he sounded like he was attempting to channel the spirit of his comedy partner sometimes, he and the guys at Valve worked together to produce the funniest character I think I’ve ever seen in any game, ever.

    Some actors do video game gigs half-arsed. Everyone who voiced this game gave every single bit of talent they have to it. Amazing achievement of a game.

    • Wulf says:

      Yep. He had a number of great lines. Though I think my favourite skit of his was the one that involved “nanobot of my size”.

  34. Yor Fizzlebeef says:

    Just wanted to add my 2 cents.
    Just buy this game if you can afford it. This sort of well crafted, wonderful piece of media is not something that occurs very often. This kind of work needs to be rewarded by gamers.

  35. Premium User Badge

    mickiscoole says:

    Did anyone else find that the director’s commentary was a bit lacking in this game? I think that I got through an entire chapter of the game with only one commentary node (Chapter 4, The Surprise for those playing at home). Previous games had people like the voice actors giving commentary, but none of that was in this game.

    Which is a shame, because the rest of the game felt like all the effort in the world had gone into it.

  36. verdant says:

    I have yet to complete this game, but so far I am so thoroughly delighted with the experience thus far that I can only give it my most enthusiastic recommendation. Great writing, great acting and stunning visuals. It is the smartest, most rewarding gaming experience I’ve had.

    And now that I’ve exhausted my supply of superlatives, to bed (or finish portal 2?)

  37. jackoatmon says:

    This game is horribad.

  38. Kaira- says:

    I’m probably late to the party, but here’s my take of the game.
    tl;dr-version: it’s a good game with some noticable flaws, and especially the middle part’s are horrible level design-wise.

  39. henben says:

    What *is* the mysterious “whole other story” that’s supposed to be going on in the background? Since everyone who truly cares about this game has probably played it by now, I think we can discuss it openly and frankly, without shame, one bearded internet man to another. I’ll leave some spoiler space anyway:
    I SPOILED MYSELF IN SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE
    SPAAAAAACE
    Do you mean the various behind-the-scenes antics of the turrets? That seems to be the most obvious candidate: it’s a set of easter eggs that pay off in the closing sequence, but I’m not sure I’d call it a story.
    You can find some of the turrets rehearsing the closing operatic number, and the “animal king” turret is depicted in a between-level slide early on, and you see the fat turret a couple of times, but if there is a narrative arc to all this (beyond “the turrets rehearse and stage an opera and also one of them looks similar to a hypothetical animal king”), then I’m afraid it went right over my head.
    Oh, and the turret you can rescue from the redemption conveyor belt foreshadows Cave Johnson’s lemonade speech and GlaBOS’s potato-based travails. Does all this imply something about the turrets that I’m not getting?
    Or do you mean the background story about Chell being Caroline and Cave’s (possibly adoptive?) daughter? Or the way that Wheatley has found the two co-op robots in the last third of the game? I haven’t played any of the co-op; is the co-op story interwoven with the main game?
    Walker, this is a matter more in need of urgent clarification than yo’ Bangladeshi momma’s ghee (clarified butter).

  40. insignis says:

    I didn’t find Wheatley to be terribly amusing. Cheeky, smarmy, yes, funny, not so much. But that’s a personal preference; I just liked GLaDOS more.

    I actually arrived at this article from the RPS article that mentioned “falling short” to read that comment in context. That actually did happen to me but it was because I forgot to pick up SpudOS, which extended a bridge I couldn’t actually land on prior to that. I don’t know where you had the experience though.

    I also disagree with the point that Portal 2 was more difficult than Portal. I found this game’s puzzles to be much more linear, with more hand-holding and less sense of accomplishment for beating a test chamber, but all of that’s mentioned in the RPS article. There were several puzzles in Portal that required twitch aiming, and I don’t remember any of that in Portal 2 outside of co-op. Which is part of why co-op is more fun than SP.

    I recall them being called Excursion Funnels, not T-Beams in game. Also, your example of “awesome new tricks” involving the infinite fall and switching out portals to project yourself being “stuff you simply couldn’t do on your own” is just plain wrong. The first Portal required you to do this kind of thing, so it’s not new, and certainly not something that requires two players.

    The main problem I had with the article though, and the reason I registered, was to point out that you can explain the premise for co-op without spoilers. You learn within the opening minutes of single player that you’re the only test subject still alive. I believe it’s even mentioned somewhere later in SP that GLaDOS had created the Co-operative Testing Program (Initiative?) before you defeated her in the first game. At any rate, it makes sense that she would have done so upon waking up, if not before, because she literally has only one test subject left, when she’s used to having an unlimited supply of them. She’s never been one to go easy on test subjects, so you could die at any moment, and she’d have no one to run her through her tests. So there’s the premise of co-op, no spoilers required.