The Delayed, Post-Apocalyptic Yet Complete Portal 2 (XBox 360) Review: The Potato Is a Lie

P-Body and Atlas of the Co-Op Mode in Portal 2

This was an afterthought of a game Portal that was packed with Half-Life 2, Valve’s single player game, and Team Fortress 2, Valve’s multiplayer game, and it was relegated as one of the best and original games of 2007.  However, some video game players and Valve fans are still waiting on the forthcoming Half-Life 2: Episode 3 and perhaps Team Fortress 3.  Instead, Valve developed Portal 2, the full-fledged sequel to the original Portal with single-player mode and co-op mode packed into one package.  This game is incredibly good and humorous although generally not quite as difficult as the original Portal, even in the later levels.

Single Player Story [SPOILERS AHEAD]

Chell is forced to return to Aperture Laboratories after destroying GLaDos (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the evil feminine artificial intelligence construct, in the first Portal.  Some years have passed, and through assistance of Wheatley, a British male artificial intelligence construct, Chell escapes the destruction of her stasis chamber and early on, retrieves the portal gun that creates orange and blue portals.  Additionally, she finds the original pictorial scribbles of Ratman, an early test subject perhaps.  On a side note, there is a semi-hidden Ratman chamber early on whereby there are singing turrets which I found surprisingly entertaining.

As she progresses, Wheatley and GLaDos ultimately confront each other, and through Chell’s mistake and Wheatley’s suggestion, Wheatley takes over GLaDos and the Enrichment Center, and Chell and GLaDos are ejected to the old Aperture Laboratories below.  GLaDos artificial intelligence is unfortunately injected into a potato and an uneasy alliance is formed between GLaDos and Chell as GLaDos is escorted at the end of the portal gun.  Chell enters the original tests as performed from the 1950s to the 1980s whereby the original testees were given a whole $60 for completion of the tests.  Cave Johnson, the original owner and founder of Aperture Laboratories was funded by Black Mesa Research Facility, the research laboratories in Half-Life, whereby the testing with Experimental Gel caused Johnson to fall deathly ill.  This Experimental Gel, specifically the white Conversion Gel, created portal-friendly surfaces and was created with Lunar Dust. This Conversion Gel is the white “paint” that covers most of the testing chambers in Portal and Portal 2. Chell also finds out that Caroline, the assistant to former CEO Cave Johnson, was the personality core for GLaDos.  As a side note, Chell can find a portrait of Caroline in one of the later chambers.

After passing these tests, and progressing skyward through the elevator passageway and Experimental Gel machine rooms, Chell and GLaDos ultimately confronts Wheatley in the final testing chambers.  Chell finds out that these were the testing chambers originally conceived by GLaDos.  GLaDos asks Chell for a truce; in return for Chell returning GLaDos to her original body and her position as monitor for the Enrichment Center, she will let Chell go free.  And, as a first move toward defeating Wheatley, GLaDos initially attempts to outthink Wheatley by giving him a paradox of sorts, but Wheatley pursues to answer the question simply and directly thereby unwittingly outthinks GLaDos.  Ultimately, upon completion of the last test, GLaDos defeats Wheatley and replaced as head of Aperture Laboratories once again, and Chell is freed.

Co-Op Story [SPOILERS AHEAD]

This is a tale of two robots — P-Body, the Orange robot, and Atlas, the Blue robot.  Both of these robots are designed to accomplish tests that were originally designed for humans, according to GLaDos, and since these robots are immediately rebuilt upon their destruction, GLaDos perceived these two as mere automatons designed to serve her will.  In fact, upon completion of each series of tests, GLaDos requests that one of these robots place in a CD from an office, and unfortunately, she destroys them so she can reassemble them in the hub once again. After completion of the team-building chambers, where basic co-op portal techniques are introduced, the other puzzles are performed in separate chambers from a hub area. Throughout the test courses, GLaDos ultimately reveals that she wants this duo to open the hidden vault deep within Aperture Laboratories for her surprise for them.  However, GLaDos tricks the duo of robots into opening the vault whereby upon finding the contents inside,  she destroys them.  Inside the vault, she finds lots of humans, or test subjects as she puts it,  in stasis chambers, stacked in such a manner reminiscent of The Matrix.

Gameplay (Out of 10)

For the single-player, it involves placing two portals and sometimes involves using blue excursion tunnels, aerial faith plates, lasers and gels.  However, placing portals to funnel or otherwise transport things were done simply.  However, in co-op, both Atlas or P-Body are capable of emoting and gesturing far more than Chell as single-player can.  In fact, one could decisively say that Atlas and P-Body were more human than Chell is in the game.  Playing with a partner and four portals was infinitely more enjoyable than playing single-player in my honest opinion.  Whereby in single-player, accomplishing these puzzles served as the engine to move the story along, the co-op experience was an experience and an enjoyable one in of itself.  The communication during our resolution of these puzzles was fantastic as we both logically pursued each puzzle. For the single-player gameplay, it was a mere 7 out fo 10, but for co-op, it deserved an 8 out of 10.

Presentation/Immersion (Out of 10)

The presentation is remarkably similar to the original Portal, particularly during the beginning and the end in single-player and throughout co-op.  However, the humor has become darker and a bit funnier.  The fights that ensue between Wheatley and GLaDos are comical.  While Wheatley has absurd and sometimes British humor, GLaDos has more of a passive-aggressive touch to it.  However, the loading times between each test as Chell, P-Body and Atlas take elevators should be removed.  Although it does temporary reprieve for those players who may have difficulty resolving their puzzles, if there were no loading times, the game would be truly immersive for both single-player and co-op.

Sound Effects/Immersion (Out of 10)

The sound effects resembled the original Portal.  GLaDos and Wheatley’s conversations with Chell and between each other were often humorous.  Out of 10, the sound effects were a solid 10.

Test Complexity (Out of 10)

Majority of the single-player tests were not complicated at all.  Most were fairly logical.  Other than a non-test puzzle which I was perplexed where to go, these puzzles were easily solved.

The co-op tests were remarkably similar in their complexity.  My partner and I resolved these puzzles with relative ease, except for a couple of puzzles which we overthought.  Other than that, most of the co-op puzzles were not difficult at all.  However, a couple of co-op tests required some unexpected ingenuity, particularly later on.

Compared to the original Portal, these tests in both single-player and co-op deserved a mere 7 out of 10 in terms of complexity at best.  However, downloadable content, or DLC, is coming from Valve.  Hopefully, these downloadable packages will have advanced puzzles for single-player and co-op.

Overall (Out of 10)

This game has reached critical acclaim by several game magazines, and it does deserve such acclaim.  But this game still remains flawed — and short.  Although the 10 hour playtime in single player and comparable playtime in co-op were enjoyable, this game should have been longer at the cost of $60.  Overall, it was a near perfect masterpiece — an 8.7 out of 10 for me overall, including both single player and co-op.

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