Sunday, May 8, 2011

Game Review: Portal 2

Blogger's note: Minor spoilers for the game.

Following the events of Portal 1, Chell ends up in stasis again, until she is awoken by Wheatley, a robot in charge of the other thousands of human test subjects trapped in stasis. Unfortunately, since Wheatley is an idiot, he manages to kill all of the other test subjects and, while helping Chell to escape, also awakens GLADOS, the main antagonist from the last game.

This game is much larger than the first game, since the original was a tacked-on expansion pack. So does bigger equal better? Eh, yes and no. Much of this review (and the player’s enjoyment) will depend on what the gamer is looking for. If the gamer is going into Portal 2 looking for a first-person shooter, they are going to be unpleasantly surprised. If they are going into this looking for challenging puzzles...they might be a little disappointed as well, since the casual gamer can pretty much solve almost every single puzzle without having to run to the nearest on-line walkthrough (yes, you know who you are!).That being said, there are a couple of new elements to make the tests more interesting, such as glowing bridges and vortex tunnels.

Even the storyline is pretty subjective. While the dialogue is fresh and humorous, much of it depends on the player itself. For example, Wheatley has some great lines, but he may be annoying to some people since he never stops talking for a nanosecond. GLADOS might appeal to the long-time fan, but her quest to discover who Caroline is might serve as an annoying distraction from her usual nail-biting sarcasm. Even new addition Cave Johnson might serve as another distraction from the puzzles themselves.
So who does it appeal to? Definitely the casual gamer, one who isn’t looking for perfection and able to let a few things slide. I personally found the puzzles fun, both in single player and multiplayer. The story is strong and the dialogue is original and made me burst out laughing several times. What I didn’t like about Portal 2, however, was the level design, especially in open areas. Most of it feels repetitive and kind of bland. There also a tone of hopelessness which I couldn’t help but experience. Ultimately, all of the characters are doing this to progress science...but why? Everyone has long since abandoned Aperture Science. Even if Glados manages to invent a device to change the world, no one is going to be there to pick it up.

However, there is an intentional note of sadness, especially towards the end. This came with very strong storytelling and characters we can enjoy.  So overall did I like the game? Yes. Is it a game everyone will like? Maybe not, particularly the hard-core fans who were expecting something more amazing than Portal 1. The problem was, Portal 1 only became amazing because no one saw it coming, and we were eagerly awaiting the sequel for some time.

FINAL GRADE: 3 ½ out of 5. A little repetitive, but strong voice actors, strong storytelling, and mostly decent puzzles.

So one group test gets to fight an army of half-men, half-mantis, and I get stuck firing portals into walls?

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