Portal 2

E3 2010: Portal 2 First Impressions - Blinded By Science

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There aren’t many genuinely humorous titles these days. Sure, the veterans of the industry like Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert still possess this innate ability to keep us chuckling, but the new blood of the industry just can’t keep up with them. It’s true. Valve however are another company who possess such an ability and whilst they don’t get much chance to show off their full range of skills – there’s nothing funny about the zombie apocalypse, except maybe Coach’s singing – but that’s where Portal comes in. An interesting and totally unique concept, one that is bolstered by some clever and subtle humour that just gives it that edge that most games can’t provide.

Listen to me, I’ve rambled on enough, I guess my point is, Portal 2 is an amusing game, whether it’s the short quips from the returning GLaDOS – the intelligent AI from the original – or the musings of the British Personality Sphere, Wheatley, who you had the pleasure of meeting this morning.

I do have a purpose... and that’s to inform, and inform I shall. I could sit here all day talking about the humour in Portal 2, but you’re best off to experience it yourself. As far as the title goes though, how does one turn a relatively short arcade title into a retail title? Simple, throw in co-op and a ton of new puzzle mechanics and Portal 2 goes from a relatively simplistic puzzle game – a great one though – into a complex puzzle game. After seeing some of the new puzzle mechanics in action, I dread to think what the advanced puzzles will be like this time... So yeah, let’s get on to the meat and talk about these newly announced features – 6 of them to be precise:
  • The Excursion Funnel is like a translucent cylindrical tube that contains liquid asbestos and pushes whatever is in it, along in a specific direction. It’s almost like a globule paste and whatever falls into it suddenly loses its downward force and continues along the path of the tube. Throw a portal at the end of the funnel and then one somewhere else and you can reach platforms that were previously unreachable.
  • The Aerial Faith Plate is a pretty simple one to explain: it’s essentially a springboard that springs you or any object to a specific place or area. In the demo they were often aligned so that one Faith Plate leads to another and form part of a series of Faith Plates. Place a portal on one of the Faith Plates – or even combine it with the Excursion Funnel – and you have an interesting series of events that could unfold.
  • The Thermal Discouragement Beam is quite simply a powerful beam of death and destruction. It’s not necessarily a new mechanic – other games have very frequently used this – but it can be devastating against turrets. Combine that with one of the cubes and/or the Portal Gun that lie around the level and you can ping the laser off various surfaces to reach your intended target.
  • The Pneumatic Diversity Vent is Valve’s posh name for a suction tube. There was one delightful moment where they combined it with the Portal Gun to clear a room of all the turrets that lay in the way. A portal underneath the Pneumatic Diversity Vent + a portal in the middle of a room filled with turrets = a whirlwind of awesomeness as each and every turret gets sucked out the room. Be careful where they land after though, as the vents are often U-bend style pieces of pipe, meaning, what goes in, must come out.
  • The Repulsion Gel is new to the franchise; as are all the gels in fact – expect more to be announced though – and it changes the dynamic of the game incredibly. While you’re not able to shoot portals just anywhere, the gel has a mind of its own and can splatter all over surfaces as you see fit. The repulsion gel is a blue gel that you can spread across any surface to get it to act like a trampoline. Tigger would love this!
  • The Propulsion Gel is the direct opposite to the repulsion gel and creates a hugely slippery surface that you can slide on. Shower it over a long distance and you can pick up some incredible speeds – especially helpful if you have a large timed puzzle that has a series of spiked pads that crash together rather quickly. Timing is still key.

As you can imagine, combining all those with one another – and of course with the Portal gun – it’s looking like we might have something next year to really challenge the old grey matter. They definitely make some of the puzzles on offer complete genius that when you first see them, you have to take a step back and ask yourself, “I wonder how long it would have taken me to work that out?”

Offering two modes: a single player that will offer around 6-8 hours worth of gameplay, as well as a co-op mode that is roughly the same length; it’s clear that Valve are looking to offer as much content as possible to make the jump from experiment to full retail title. Clearly, at 12-16 hours, if they can offer that much content to chew up that much of your time, then they’ve pretty much done the unthinkable.

The only potential issue we see is balance: how can Valve offer you a learning curve that builds up to some really complex puzzles without standing still for too long? Is it possible to stretch the experience out without making them too complex or too long-winded? Those are really the only potential issues we see, but with more gameplay mechanics to come, those concerns will probably just become a fleeting moment of hesitancy. Based on the new gameplay mechanics shown at E3 alone, to quote Wheatley the Personality Sphere, “I know we’re in danger, but this is ammmmmaaaazing.” Yes, Wheatley, it is.

Portal 2 is scheduled for a 2011 release. Look out for the E3 demonstration video coming your way this week in bits and pieces.


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Game Info
Electronic Arts


US April 19, 2011
Europe April 22, 2011

HDD Space Required : 4.64 GB
Backward compatible on Xbox One: Yes
Price: $19.99USD
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