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The best moment of Portal 2: the part where he kills you

Oh, I do enjoy being threatened by a Bristolian robot

The chapter 9 title screen for Portal 2, showing Wheatley and a potato GLaDOS attached to your Portal gun, with the RPS 100 logo in the top right corner
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Valve

Portal 2 is obviously brilliant, in part because each of its chapters possesses a distinct charm. GLaDOS’ return, for instance, is a stretch of pure puzzling with just a dash of dread, while your first steps into the abandoned 1960s Aperture facility interrupt a fairly hopeless tone with an upbeat sense of discovery. For me, though, Portal 2 peaks late. So late that by the time it begins, your journey through the 'true' puzzle chambers are essentially over, leaving you as little more than a loose end in the big glowing eye of a former buddy. It’s Chapter 9: The Part Where He Kills You! Mmm, love that part.

TPWHKY begins wonderfully: by almost literally knocking you off balance. Walking into an apparently ready-to-go test chamber, it playfully upends expectations by having a customarily forward-facing jump pad instead send you flying off the side. A few more enforced bounces later, you land amid the mechanical crushers of spherical villain Wheatley’s deathtrap, ready for the delivery of one of Portal 2’s most committed-to bits. Yes, like much of the Portal mythos, this joke has been subsequently over-quoted, but any gag that requires a four-way collaboration between the writers, voice cast, UI designer, and achievement engineer earns an A for effort at the least.

An excursion funnel drags the player towards a mashy spike plate in Portal 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Valve

If we’re talking humour, your subsequent escape is accompanied by some arguably all-timer Wheatley lines, and the whole chapter’s heightened pace is kept up with multiple visual gags of a kind that previous chapters would have deployed more conservatively. It’s not pure farce, and some portalling is needed to shoo off turrets or dodge Wheatley’s favoured "mashy spike plates", but these puzzles are short and simple – as they should be, I say. Chapter 9 immediately follows some of the toughest, most multilayered test chambers in the game, and this hazard-heavy dash to the big bad’s lair does extremely well to balance the catharsis of solving some easy ones with the need to use at least some of your remaining unfried brain cells.

Wheatley appears on a screen while the player solves a puzzle in Portal 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Valve

In other words, it’s hardly a dumb action sequence, and there’s thought behind those spike plates. Wheatley’s murder attempts contrast nicely with those of GLaDOS, in the similarly climactic breakout portion of the original Portal. Whereas her efforts centered around strategic turret ambushes, only resorting to less surgical methods during the final battle, Wheatley is throwing shit at the wall to see what knocks it over and crushes you.

His attacks are improvised, slapdash, and usually destroy everything in the room besides the person (and potato) he’s trying to kill. His idea of an ambush is to spend several agonising seconds dragging a sports hall-sized and very literal killbox into your path before inviting you to jump in. The resulting calamity of screeching metal knocks important-looking supports from the walls and sends your catwalk halfway towards collapsing into the abyss.

It’s funny, and stupid, but also smart. For two games, you’ve been risking your life inside Aperture Science – with Wheatley in charge, it’s as if the walls and ceilings of Aperture Science itself want you dead. It is that part, I suppose.

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