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June 1, 2011
Portal 2 - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
21/4/2011EA GamesEA GamesValve1-21-2
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Portal 2 is a visually impressive title.
As someone who has never chased down FPSs I missed the original Portal game, which was released as part of The Orange Box. Despite missing the original Portal, I've been looking forward to playing Portal 2 because I've had a bunch of friends tell me exactly how good the original was. Hilarious, unique, taxing, and above all, fun, were the words they used to describe it. Then the review scores started rolling in and they suggested this game was something special. As I sat down to play the game for the first time my expectations were about as high as they can get - I wanted something that would knock my socks off. Have Valve Software delivered a game capable of doing just that?

Portal 2 picks up pretty much where the original left off. At the end of the original game your character, Chell, was placed in stasis inside the Aperture Science facility, and the sequel begins with her being woken up. At first everything seems normal enough but before long a buzzer sounds and an announcement states that an emergency evacuation is required. Next up there's a knock on the door and a talking robot in the shape of an eye attempts to evacuate you safely. The robotic-eye is named Wheatley, and after some humorous dialog and a rather shoddy escape you're sent to look for a gun that ‘makes holes', which you'll use to escape the Aperture Science facility.

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Wheatley is a fantastic character.
Portal 2 is accurately referred to as a first-person puzzle game rather than a first-person shooter. Although you do have a gun, the gun is used to make portals and solve puzzles rather than kill. There are still some deaths in the game, but these are usually self-inflicted (or directed at your co-op partner for cheap laughs). It won't take long to find a portal gun once Wheatley has set you free, and the game will then run you through some elementary tests to familarise you to the way things work. The portal gun works by letting you shoot two portals onto any white surface. The first portal is useless until the second portal has been set, but once both portals have been shot you can walk through the first portal and come out of the second. It's both simple and intuitive, but it's a concept that has remarkably deep puzzle applications, especially when handled as elegantly as by the people at Valve Software.

The opening few puzzles are simple, teaching you how to use the portal gun and introducing cube and button tests. Often if you wish to leave an area you have to hold a button down, and the best way to do that is to find a heavy cube to put on top of the button. Once you get a handle on those tests you're introduced to the concept of using velocity to help you reach otherwise inaccessible areas. For example, if you shoot a portal into the ground as you fall off a ledge you'll come out of your other portal at a much higher speed, sending you flying over large gaps. Next up you'll be introduced to lasers, and how to redirect them into switches. You can redirect lasers either with careful portal placement, or with a special cube that can reflect the laser beam in a whole new direction.

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One of the Portal 2 puzzles.
These first few tests take place in small rooms, and once you complete them you make your way to an elevator and head to the next room. At first the tests are unsupervised, though recorded messages will give advice on upcoming challenges when you first get out of the elevator (there is also a sign on the wall that has small pictures indicating the skills you'll need to implement in each test), as well as provide (back-handed) compliments when you complete them. Before long you'll run into Wheatley again and he'll continue to help you escape. Unfortunately, instead of getting you out of the building Wheatley resurrects the malevolent, vindictive and entirely disgruntled AI, GLaDOS, whom your character dispatched in the original Portal game. Now that she's awake again, she's going to put you back to testing – for the rest of your days.

Although it isn't unique to gaming, one cool feature in Portal 2 is that the co-op campaign is entirely different to the single-player game. For the first time on the PS3, PS3 gamers can partner up with their PC-gaming counterparts via Steam. To access this functionality you'll need to sign up for Steam but it's a simple process and the reward is a stack more players to partner up with. The co-op campaign can also be played locally in split-screen, and whichever option you choose you're bound to have a heap of fun. When playing co-op you and your friend control one of two robots; P-body (who has a tall ellipse-shaped body) or Atlas (who has a much rounder physique). The co-op campaign takes place after the events of the single-player game (GLaDOS makes a reference to it towards the end of the game) and builds on what you've learned there.

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PS3 version of Portal 2 is the best...
There isn't much in the way of a tutorial in the co-op campaign, so I don't suggest jumping straight into it if this is your first experience with Portal, though it can be done. You have a few unique actions in co-op play, some of which are useful (such as setting a countdown so that you can flick switches simultaneously or putting a marker in the spot you want your partner to put their portal), while others are entirely for show (waving, high-fiving, dancing and playing paper-scissors-rock). Solving even the simplest puzzles in the co-op campaign requires teamwork, so while the puzzles aren't necessarily more complex, they do require a bit of extra work to solve. Solving puzzles with a friend is heaps of fun, and that it is handled so well is another feather in Valve Software's cap.

As the game progresses you're introduced to, and required to master, many new concepts and objects. There are hard-light surfaces which can be used to create bridges over large gaps, as well as create a barrier between you and any turrets (which are only too happy to blast any human to smithereens). There are faith-plates, which are mini-catapults built into the ground that send you flying if you stand on them. There are three types of gel to come to grips with; repulsion gel (which is extremely bouncy), propulsion gel (you move at high speed any time you walk on it) and conversion gel (which transforms ordinary surfaces into a surface that can sustain portals). Lastly, there is something called an excursion funnel which is a beam that carries any object along its path, which can naturally be redirected with careful portal placement. Learning how to use these objects effectively is absolutely essential to your progress in Portal 2, and it's also a lot of fun.

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Another Portal 2 screenshot...
I've played a lot of Portal 2 since it landed on my desk and in all that time I can only think of one issue/complaint/grievance that I have with it. Initially all of the tests and the game in general, take place in contained environments, with all the elements needed to solve puzzles at your disposal. As you make your way through the game, the environments open up and become incredibly vast. When this happens you'll spend a fair bit of time looking for walls in the distance which you can sustain your portals. If you spot them, great, you can move on, but if you can't find them then your progress halts until you can. Much of the game proper is spend staring at walls trying to figure out how to place portals and objects in order to solve puzzles, but these are followed by moments of great satisfaction when you solve them. Looking for walls on the other hand, is not rewarding, nor particularly fun. While it's a natural progression to take the game from small-ish environments to something much more open-ended, I have to say that I felt the game worked best in the smaller, contained areas.

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We can't recommend Portal 2 highly enough!
The best words I can think of to describe the visuals are clinical and precise. The testing areas are rooms with clear and defined boundaries; lots of lines and edges. Portals can only be shot on white surfaces, reminiscent of the padded walls in insane asylums. It's all very neat and structured, like something you might see on an architect's drawing board. This structure is both necessary and suitable for the puzzles, and is by no means unappealing. When you break free of these smaller confines and head into more open areas you'll be blown away by the scale of the Aperture Science facility, if not the contents within. There aren't too many effects in the game, but the portals do provide some cool moments like when you can see yourself through the other portal, or when environments endlessly repeat (like reflecting one mirror into another in real life) that make your mind wander and wonder about the possibilities the portals offer up.

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Yet another strange room...
The sound is the highlight of the game thanks to fantastic voice-acting and an incredibly funny script. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, and a stack of others that will have you smiling. GLaDOS would be in a class of her own in any other game, but Wheatley is right up there with her in Portal 2. Later in the game you'll come across some recordings from Cave Johnson, founder of Aperture Science (and voiced by actor J.K Simmons), and he too is top-notch. It really is an all-round fantastic effort that ensures there is never a dull moment during the story-driven moments. The music plays a clear second-fiddle to the acting but it's pretty good overall. The sound effects are suitable enough.

In the end, Portal 2 went extremely close to knocking my socks off and living up the immense amount of hype I'd heard about it. The puzzles are taxing, and new elements are deftly thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. There is a definite feeling of satisfaction when you complete some of the trickier puzzles that may just border on euphoria. The voice-acting and script are top-notch, perhaps the best I've ever heard. The game does lose its way a little bit during the middle, but that aside it's hard to find fault with it. If you have any interest in puzzle games, or games that ooze humour Portal 2 comes highly recommended.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSClinical, precise, neat and tidy are all words I’d use to describe Portal 2. It may not be beautiful but it’s functional and effective, which is just as important.
SOUNDGLaDOS, Wheatley and Cave Johnson are all superbly voice-acted and hilarious. The music and sound effects play a distant second-fiddle, but they’re pretty good too.
GAMEPLAYTough but fair puzzles that reward you for your effort. New elements are added in often to keep things fresh. Great fun.
VALUESingle-player and co-op campaigns are entirely different, so you get plenty of value there. The script is funny enough to make you play through at least twice too.
OVERALLPortal 2 is a fantastic game featuring tricky but rewarding puzzles, and an often hilarious script. Highly recommended.

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