icemael's Portal 2 (PC) review

Superior to the first in every way.

Portal could have been great. The concept was ingenious: a gun that shoots portals is a very cool thing indeed, and allows for some amazing level design. Unfortunately Valve screwed up by making the puzzles way too simple – the whole game felt like a long tutorial for a set of harder, better puzzles that didn't actually exist. Enter Portal 2. It's got a plethora of new puzzle elements: tractor beams, cubes that redirect lasers, a gel that makes you bounce, a gel that lets you move at lightning speed – it goes on. The trailers make it look fast and complicated. It seems to have precisely what was missing from the first Portal: challenge.

Problem is, it doesn't. The new puzzle elements – the tractor beams and the gels? They're cool, but they're never combined in especially intricate ways. Even the most advanced of the puzzles are extremely simple (in practically every puzzle chamber, you can see the solution simply by taking a single look around the room) and like the original game the entire experience feels like one long tutorial for a harder, better game that is nowhere to be found.

Aesthetically, on the other hand, Portal 2 is a large step forward. The animations are very impressive indeed (to give some examples: GLaDOS and the new robot Wheatley are both extremely expressive despite having neither extremities nor facial features save for a single eye, and the way gel jiggles and deforms when caught in a tractor beam is incredibly cool). The environments, which were fairly boring in the first game, are now far more varied and interesting. The facility starts out ruined and overgrown and is restored as you move through it, and you get to visit a number of new areas including the oldest, most primitive parts of the Aperture Science complex.

The one aspect of the game that is truly exceptional, however, is the voice acting. It's absolutely amazing, and wouldn't seem out of place in a Pixar film. Regrettably, the characters' banter is ruined by strained writing – the game constantly tries to be funny, but for every good joke (and there are some great ones) you have to listen to dozens of lame, at times annoying ones.

Like its predecessor, Portal 2 could have been great. It's superior to the first in every way: it's got enhanced animation, more and better-looking environments, stellar acting and new, cool puzzle elements. Unfortunately, the parts that have been substantially upgraded – graphics and voice acting – are also the least important ones; the most critical component, the puzzle design, was only marginally improved. There is incredible potential in the Portal series (now more than ever, with all the newly introduced mechanics) and I would love to see it fulfilled, but as long as the developers remain incapable of or unwilling to create truly diabolical puzzles, there is simply no chance of that happening. 

5 Comments
Posted by Little_Socrates

I felt that the puzzles were quite difficult in Portal 2 once the gels started getting introduced, but that was more due to my tendency to overcomplicate the puzzle than to actually have come across something difficult. Your other criticisms are all valid, though; a big reason the banter fell flat was that the pacing of the story beats was wrong. Characters would have to repeat what was effectively the same line for far too long; that goes for EVERY MAJOR CHARACTER.

SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content.

This would probably be more acceptable if there were really a story in Portal 2, but there isn't; it's just a series of "twists" that happen in a sequence accentuated by interesting characters doing boring things for too long.
Posted by Icemael
@Little_Socrates: I can't open your spoiler tag, dude.

But I agree, there's very little in the way of story. There's just about enough there to support one of those 5-minute shorts Pixar display before their feature films, and yet it's drawn out over multiple hours. People would realize that if it wasn't for the jokes distracting them, I think.
Posted by Little_Socrates
Not to MENTION the conclusion of said story, for which I feel like the only person who didn't enjoy it very much.

As for the spoiler tag, neither can I. That sucks. Let me try it again.

Posted by Icemael
Posted by Little_Socrates

Other reviews for Portal 2 (PC)

    The cake is still a lie... let's have a slice. 0

      Bundling Portal with The Orange Box a few years back was a great move by Valve. Portal, while fun, was a short almost side game in the series, but felt complete and well tuned. When Portal 2 was first announced, my first concern was length, and how well the puzzle fun would translate if the game were longer. I’ll admit it: I was very skeptical a stand-alone title such as Portal would work. I was even more shocked when Gabe Newell of Valve announced the PlayStation 3 version was going to ...

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