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Review: Portal 2

Few games resonate with players as much as the original Portal, released in 2007. The sequel takes what started as a short and relatively experimental concept and kicks it up several notches to a fully fleshed out game that tops its predecessor. Portal 2 expands the gameplay in just about every respect with more characters, a longer storyline, and additional new experimental technologies added to the large scale portal themed puzzles. The puzzles are much bigger and have more moving parts, but they're generally as easy to figure out as those from the first game, although one or two have some pretty tricky solutions.

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While Portal 2 features a significantly expanded plot continued from the first game, it only took us about eight hours to beat the game. We imagine that better puzzle solvers could probably finish the campaign in far less time. While the story may be short compared to other games, Portal 2 makes up for it by offering a satisfying story filled plenty of humor, memorable characters, and a cooperative multiplayer campaign. Without giving too much away, the main plot starts with waking up in a stasis chamber, many years after the conclusion of Portal, to find the vast underground Aperture Science facility in worse shape than ever before. With the guidance of an AI core named Wheatley, players make their way through darkened passages and accidentally bring GlaDOS back to life in full working order, and she's a little bitter about how you killed her all those years ago.

There are plenty of outrageous plot twists that follow, which leads players into the forgotten sections of Aperture, where the pre-recorded voice of Cave Johnson - owner and founder of the company - oversees a series of abandoned tests and experiments. Players are challenged to use the portal gun in addition to technologies like bouncing gel and speed gel to get around and overcome deadly obstacles like polite automated turrets, pools of acid, and bottomless pits. Beyond that, players get great insight into the history of Aperture, its founder and uncover a secret about GlaDOS.

The main story acts as a lead-in to the cooperative campaign, where players take the role of robotic testers to solve multiplayer puzzles. The major benefit is that robots can be rebuilt if they're destroyed, so there's no need to reload to checkpoints when trying a solution out. Additionally, being robotic doesn't stop GlaDOS from making snide remarks in the name of science. Since communication and teamwork are so important, multiplayer is best experienced with friends instead as opposed to being randomly teamed up with strangers. The game uses a series of pre-programmed gestures and icons for the typing and voice chat impaired, which work to a large degree, but there are certain cues that work best between people who know each other. There's also a chance of losing out on a sense of discovery by teaming up with someone who has already beaten the puzzles you're stepping into for the first time.

Some of the objectives are intentionally vague, so players will need to work off environmental cues in order to figure out how to complete a level. Regardless, most puzzles are generally easy to figure out, so skilled players can blow through them at a fairly swift pace. There were one or two occasions where we encountered some minor glitches, like a partner getting trapped in a room with no way out. However, these instances are few and there's always an option to reset to a central hub area to start over when stuck.

The bottom line is that Portal 2 provides a fantastic, often dizzying, and memorable experience. Whether it's running through the solo campaign or taking on an obstacle course with a partner for the joy of science.

Final Verdict


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John Callaham

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James Murff

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