Ten Years On: Portal 2

Portal didn’t want a sequel, it was mentioned, as a result of Portal is an ideal recreation. Certainly, few video games exhibit such watertight design as Valve’s experimental puzzler, which stole the present of the Orange Box when it launched in 2007. It had an revolutionary idea, puzzles that bent each area and your thoughts, a narrative that punched far above its weight, and a witty script that launched one in all gaming’s most iconic baddies. It even ended on a tune.

Making a sequel to Portal, it appeared, was like making a sequel to cake. Cake is okay as it’s. There’s no cause to mess with it. But Alien is an ideal horror movie and doesn’t want a sequel. And but it bought one anyway, which additionally turned out to be the most effective movies ever made. Sequels stand or fall on their very own advantage, and if there’s any developer that may make a sequel to a recreation that doesn’t want one, it’s Valve. The studio did it with Half-Life. It did it with Team Fortress. It did it with Left4Dead (which everybody thought was a horrible concept earlier than they performed it). Why the hell wouldn’t Valve do it with Portal?

I’ve performed each Portals quite a bit over the past couple of years, as a result of my daughter loves them, and I’m assured in saying what I used to be too cowardly to say again in 2011, that the second recreation is healthier. The major cause Portal is deemed good is as a result of it’s brief, making it appear a pristine little gem in a medium that so typically prioritises bigness. I agree that Portal is near flawless, a exactly packaged little field of a recreation. But the way in which Portal 2 unpacks that field with out breaking the content material makes it each bit pretty much as good as the sport it’s primarily based upon.

As a sequel, the largest hurdle Portal 2 faces is that whereas it options the very same mechanical magic as the primary recreation, it will probably’t make you’re feeling the way in which you probably did about it once you first related two factors in area with a gun that makes holes (not bullet holes, however, nicely, you’ll determine it out). Indeed, if Portal 2 has a flaw, it’s the shortcoming to conjure a mechanic that’s equally good. The lasers and the light-bridges and the gels are all glorious contributors to Portal 2’s extra superior puzzling, however that’s all they do. They serve the puzzles. They should not a brand new physics-defying software for the participant to freely wield.

That mentioned, criticising a recreation for failing to reinvent the wheel is fairly harsh. While Portal 2 can’t match the innovation of the unique, it does discover methods to enhance upon a few of its different options. The first of those is comedy. Portal is a humorous recreation, however Portal 2 is probably the funniest recreation ever made.

From the primary scene, the place Chell is awoken from enforced slumber to leap round a bit for “exercise” and “appreciate” some artwork, Portal 2 delivers a stable 10 hours of riotous comedy. This could be arduous sufficient in additional customary comedian varieties – there’s a cause why most stand-up routines clock in at 90 minutes. But we’re speaking a couple of recreation right here, a format the place you carry out immediately to 1 heckler who’s on stage with you and can in all probability attempt to wrestle you for the mic.

Portal 2 will get round this by usually retaining the mic out of attain, the intro/puzzle/outro construction highlighting pure locations to incorporate jokes so the participant can’t spoil them. Occasionally although, the sport enables you to maintain the mic for a number of seconds. One of my favorite jokes from your entire recreation is when Wheatley tries to get Chell to talk at, at which level Portal 2 prompts you to press the leap button. “Ok, what you’re doing there is jumping,” Wheatley replies. “You just…you just jumped.”

What actually makes the comedy tick, nonetheless, is the way it derives from the sport’s glorious characters. Wheatley’s benign and later malign stupidity, Cave Johnson’s disregard for each detrimental considering and office security, and naturally, GlaDOS’ psychopathic bullying, intensified now that she and Chell have a historical past. It’s a type of uncommon video games the place each the writers and the voice-actors are on absolute prime type, ensuing on this electrical vitality that Portal 2 by some means maintains for its complete operating time.

Yet whereas Portal 2’s comedy is excellent, it’s not the explanation that I nonetheless take pleasure in it after a dozen play-throughs. Neither is it the puzzles, which I do know off by coronary heart alongside the jokes. No, the explanation I like Portal 2, and assume it’s such a worthy sequel, is the way it opens up Aperture Science for the participant to discover, remodeling it from a sequence of pristine white chambers into this superbly not possible and but coherent area.

The Source engine has lengthy loved a passionate affair with industrial areas and concrete decay, of which Portal 2 is arguably the perfect instance. Specifically, I like how Portal 2 bakes time into its environments, first transporting gamers uncountable years into the longer term, the place nature slowly reclaims the gargantuan areas Aperture’s scientists and engineers took from it. Then, simply on the level the place GlaDOS rebuilds Aperture into a spot we recognise, Portal 2 plummets into the previous, with the voice of Cave Johnson guiding us by way of Aperture throughout the atomic age.

Here, we discover Aperture’s huge concrete underbelly, the place primitive, analogue test-chambers are locked away behind Fallout-style vault-doors. Yet even down right here amongst Aperture’s deepest secrets and techniques, time shouldn’t be static. As Chell explores, the a long time tick ahead, and as each the know-how and Aperture’s unseen rivals enhance, the tone of the areas switches from post-war optimism to grimly resisting actuality. If life offers you lemons, and so forth.

There’s one thing about the way in which Valve designs environments that I discover irresistible, and I feel the Aperture we see in Portal 2 is their most bold and achieved digital area. It is, finally, a fantasy world. But reasonably than being primarily based on western medievalism, Aperture science’s fantasy is grounded in American exceptionalism and nuclear nervousness. Much just like the Fallout sequence, though Portal 2 is subtler in its influences.

There’s a lot extra that contributes to Portal 2’s enduring brilliance. I utterly forgot to say the coop-mode, which together with Left4Dead is without doubt one of the greatest cooperative experiences ever produced, albeit far much less replayable. But the neighborhood has discovered an answer to that. Check Portal 2’s Steam workshop, and also you’ll discover lots of of 1000’s of Portal 2 maps each single-player and coop. Some of those are pretty much as good if not higher than the maps Valve themselves designed, with every thing from brain-melting chambers to comedy side-stories to complete new campaigns.

I feel it’s this neighborhood that’s Portal 2’s most vital legacy, as a result of regardless of being thought to be two of the perfect puzzles video games ever made, no different video games have tried to duplicate Portal’s explicit model of spatial puzzling. There are loads of video games influenced by Portal, however there’s nothing that attempted to take its mechanics and spin them out otherwise. If there hadn’t been a Portal 2, subsequently, that two-hour slice of puzzling packaged into The Orange Box might need been all we bought. But due to Portal 2, Aperture Science’s huge underbelly has been infinitely expanded, providing all of the space-warping puzzles and infrastructural exploration that you can probably need. Portal could not have wanted a sequel, however Aperture Science deserved one.

What do you think?

Written by Gideon


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