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Nintendo's E3 Press Conference

Some of the biggest announcements of the Nintendo press conference are listed below: Pokedex: This is a new...

It is Time Again

This is it everybody. It is that time of year again. Next week is Christmas for us gamers. It is time for E3...

Microsoft E3 2011 Press Conference

Today is the first day of E3. The Microsoft team started off the day with their press conference. To start out the event, Microsoft showed off...

Sony's E3 Press Conference

Next up at the E3 press conference is Sony. Hopefully, Sony can give us some announcements that can make up for last months PSN outage. The first part of Sony’s press conference was...

E3 Update

Here are some of the major events that have happened at E3 over the past couple of days. The biggest event was the announcement of...

I might as well start this with a sweeping generality. Get this game. I seriously recommend it to everyone. I think any type of gamer should check this out, as it really is a cooling refresher from all the mindless violence in most games (not that there is anything wrong with violence in games).

Portal 2 has one hole (ha ha, get it?) in the plot. This is kind of a spoiler for the first game, so for those who haven’t played it yet, uh… eye muffs? Anyway, at the end of Portal, you escape the facility. Portal 2 picks up with you being in a sort of long-term hibernation chamber inside the wrecked, overgrown facility, but the game never explains how you get back inside. Besides that the plot is really good. Its more in-your-face than the original (meaning there are large portions of the game dedicated only to the plot, not the puzzle), but it twists unexpectedly multiple times and is hilarious. The characters are also fantastic. You (Chell) and Glados, the evil computer controlling the facility, are back, but they added a new robot helper, Wheately (one of my favorite characters in any game). You are also introduced to Cave Johnson, the late CEO of aperture laboratories (the facility you are trapped in), although he is only heard of through pre-recorded messages. All the characters are, well, characterized through dialogue. The only human, Cave, is never seen, and Chell never does anything. This calls for the need for great writing, and as usual, Valve delivers. Obviously it is funny, yet it does seem to be a slightly unfamiliar sense of humor, perhaps changed to appeal to the massive audience Portal attracted. 

As everyone knows, the gameplay in Portal 2 is centered on the Portal Gun. The gun allows you to shoot a blue and orange portal, and going through one puts you out the other with the same speed and direction you went in with. However, this is a puzzle game, so there are many other elements. Veterans will know the classic ones, such as turrets that lock onto you and cubes (sometimes friendly) that you place on buttons to activate things. There plenty of new ones as well, such as light bridges, tractor beams, lasers and cubes that re-direct them, and gels that propel or repel you. Valve has shown to be quite capable at putting puzzles together, as they never feel too hard, yet still challenging enough to be fun and create a sense of achievement. The later ones get a bit difficult, but most of them are really easy, sometimes too much so. However, a large portion of Portal 2 is spent wandering around large areas (mind-you, they look fantastic), occasionally having to use the Portal Gun to get somewhere. It’s not really a puzzle, and when the plot isn’t getting developed while one of these sections is occurring, they can seriously drag on. It just seemed like an unnecessary tactic for elongating the game. A final, general, complaint: puzzle games have little to no replay value, as there is no more challenge or sense of achievement left after beating them (unless it’s been a long time since the last play-through).   

But my biggest gameplay complaint comes with the @#!$% load times. Excuse my un-holy (ha, I did it again!) language, but there are just too many! They aren’t even that long (20-30 seconds) but there are just so many. After every single test chamber (or puzzle) you have to sit through another. It’s just so horribly pace-breaking, especially at two times. One is during the easier, tutorial-like levels (even though most of the Portal games is tutorial). Sometimes the load time was longer than the puzzle itself.  The second is during some of the plot/walking around sections. One of them involves a long fall (about a minute long) and before you reach the bottom the game fades out into a loading screen. It’s just extremely frustrating when you just want to get to the next puzzle or simply find out what happens next. 

However, one of the better aspects of Portal 2 was the addition of a co-op mode, and in true Valve tradition (Left 4 Dead anybody?) it is truly “cooperative.” Its plot is focused on two robots that are built by Glados in order to test the Portal Gun, taking place after the end of the single player campaign (I think the time is true, as it drops hints to the fact that it may be happening either at the same time as the single player campaign or after.) I used to think of Chell as a robot for showing no emotion, but I have to drop that because the robots in the co-op are awesome. Just through actions and mannerisms, they are characterized as being very different, yet they begin to bond as you and your real-life friend begin to get good at the puzzles.

The controls are also great, allowing for good communication and teamwork, such as being able to count down or mark where you think a portal should be put. But the true highlight of the interactivity comes with the silly, friendly gestures that you and your partner can do, such as waving, dancing, or playfully beating the crap out of each other. Everything is just so happy and friendly (even the deaths made me and my brother laugh), it suits all ages (assuming that they can handle the challenge). The puzzles are also much more complex than the single-player’s, yet they too never seem just plain impossible. Towards the end I simply became blown away by the tasks the game was asking of me and my partner, and even more so when we did it.  However, my original complaint about re-play still stands for the co-op as well (even more so).

Portal 2 is one of the best games this year, if not the best. However, it seems a little dragged out at times, and the long load times seriously break the pace. Portal (the original) didn’t waste anything. It was always business (testing Portal Guns business) all the time, with no wandering around parts. Portal 2 may be longer and have more stuff, but it can seem a little stretched out.

Portal
Visuals: 9.8 (really well done, with great aesthetics to match any changes in tone)
Performance: 10 (although I can’t say for the PC)
Story: 10 (introduced one hell of a bad guy, and was actually bigger than it seemed with
subtle Half Life tie-ins)
Gameplay: 10 (a purely original experience)
Multiplayer: n/a
Overall: 9.9

Portal 2
Visuals: 9.8 (source engine is still holding its own after all these years)
Performance: 10 (but yet again I can’t say for the PC)
Story: 10 (twisting, intriguing, with some hilarious characters)
Gameplay: 9 (no points for originality, but still fun and challenging, also load times!)
Multiplayer: 10 (promotes teamwork regardless of verbal limitations, and has the best silent characters I’ve ever seen in a game)
Overall: 9.8

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