PAX 2010: Portal 2 Co-Op Preview - It Takes Two Baby, Just Me & You
Written Wednesday, September 08, 2010 By Nate Gillick
Portal turned heads and captured the attention and praise of the gaming industry back in 2007 with its physics-defying, puzzle solving gameplay and off-beat sense of humor. We’ve been eager since its announcement to see just how Valve would work that gameplay into a cooperative experience, and got our chance at this year’s PAX.
Based on player feedback, Valve felt the original Portal already was a co-op game as they had often heard numerous stories of gamers sitting down with their friends, sisters, or girlfriends and playing through the game together. This time around, Valve wanted to put a controller in that second player’s hand, to make Portal's puzzle solving antics an even more collaborative experience
Our hands-off demo opened with two robots held in glass tubes. One robot is tall and skinny, while the other is short and pudgy, that is if a robot can be described as such. Each is designed with an art style that harks back to the turrets from the original Portal, with smooth, rounded sheets of metal serving as a “skin” over most of their mechanical workings.
Glados instructs the pair to wave at each other, demonstrating the new gesturing system integrated into gameplay. Upon release from their prisons, the orange player makes her way down a hallway to pick up the iconic portal gun. After using the gun on a wall dead ahead, and another above and to the left to get to the next floor, Orange – or Mr Skinny if you want – reached a dead end, where we caught our first glimpse of the new ping ability.
A laser beam shooting its deadly red energy into the ground was the distinguishing feature of the next chamber. Also in the room was a new type of cube, called a reflector cube, which has the power to reflect lasers wherever players choose, though caution is needed, as the laser can damage your partner.
To escape this chamber, one player needed to reflect the laser’s beam at a nearby wall, and then create a pair of portals so the laser could pass through to trigger a switch. While this is going on, the second player needs to use their own portals to allow it to pass through another wall to activate a second switch. With this simple mission accomplished, both players were able to pass through a newly opened door toward elevators leading to a new test chamber.
“It’s not, though,” she continued, as the duo continues on their journey to the next chamber, which introduced a new gameplay mechanic: the light bridge. These light bridges can be projected through portals to create a walkway to previously inaccessible areas. After using portals to project the bridge to a new platform, the light bridge needed to be moved around a corner to allow safe passage over a room with lethal slime covering the floor.
In the process of trying to realign the bridge, Orange fell into the slime and suffered a timely death, which allowed us to see how failure is handled in Portal 2. Gamers will be happy to know that Portal 2's co-op is essentially penalty-free for failure. Instead of having to restart the test chamber, players simply respawn and can walk right back to where they were, making it possible to focus on puzzle solving and not stress over potential failure. Once Orange returned the light bridge, a simple redirection of Blue’s portals allowed the pair to cross over the slime and make their way into the final test chamber of the demo.
Wondering just how long the co-op in Portal 2 will last? “The co-op experience in Portal 2 is about double the length of the original Portal game,” said the Valve representative. “There’s a lot more content this time around,” and from what we’ve seen, Valve clearly aims to make co-op an integral part of the Portal 2 experience, with puzzles designed to be impossible to solve without the cooperation of both players.
Portal 2 is scheduled to be released on February 9th, 2011.