Well I may as well say it: I love Valve. And so should you, particularly if your a PC gamer like me. The infamous Devil-CEO of Activision, Bobby Kotick, has stirred up yet another hornet's nest by dismissing every independent developer except Bungie as lacking in quality. This is most probably just a publicity stunt; after all, there's no such thing as bad publicity. Regardless, it made me sad, and in response to this I have decided to bring you a sneak peek at one of Valve's latest projects: Portal 2.
Portal 2 (Valve Software)
Release: February 9th 2011
Unsurprisingly, Portal 2 is a sequel and a sequel to one of my favourite games of this decade. The original Portal was released on the Orange Box, and I remember checking it out, expecting a decent puzzle game to keep me occupied when I took a break from Team Fortress 2 or Half Life 2: Episode 3. What I found was a stunning masterpiece in gaming design, a truly heroic effort from the folks at Valve. If you haven't played it, I suggest you look into it; if you're never going to play it, at least check out this song...
A quick rundown: The Portal series gives you control of a gun that fires... Portals! As in the first game, you control the silent protagonist Chell, who is once again tormented by the *SPOILERS* robotic A.I., GLaDOS, who it seems was not destroyed in the first game. *END SPOILERS* This may be attributed to the game's setting. Portal 2 takes place hundreds of years after the original, where Chell was placed in stasis. She finds a 'personality core' named Wheatley, who acts as an initial guide. I'll stop there to avoid revealing anymore of the plot; the story was surprisingly excellent in the first game, and I myself am intrigued as to how this game will play out.
You play as Chell from a first person perspective, with a portal gun capable of firing two portals to assist in completion of test chambers, which make a return. *SPOILERS* The test chambers are somewhat overgrown with flora however, as the facility damage in the original is still being attended to. *END SPOILERS* The portal gun is quite simply awesome, if not disorienting at times. Firing a blue portal at the ceiling, then an orange one underfoot, means you fall continuously, generating momentum and possibilities for extreme jumps, which are a lot of fun to play around with.
Portal 2 has a co-operative mode, something that did not feature in the original. It should be mentioned here that a lot of features in Portal 2 will not have appeared in the original; Valve has responded to the success of the first game by adding more features. The co-operative mode is separate to the singleplayer mode, with a unique setting and plot. The two portalists (probably not an official term, but hey) are a modified personality core and a modified gun turret, and each gun has two portals to fire, totalling four portals at any one time (light blue/blue, orange/red). See the above link in this paragraph for a demonstration.
The physics have been improved; portals can now manipulate air flow for example, and Chell can use reflective companion cubes on lasers, a special gel that increases speed or allows jumping off of surfaces. In fact, the list of changes is rather large, and it could prove to be too much. The magic of the original Portal lied in the apparent simplicity of the tools available, before a test chamber forced you to think about how to apply the portals to complete it. I can't help but see some heavy handed features being added, and while I have boundless faith in Valve, it could be a case of too much, too fast. What do you think?
Portal 2 is being released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 alongside the PC and MAC as well. Great news for you console gamers, but the PC side of me feels slighted somewhat. I always think of Valve as a PC company, and it stung to see this awesome series get developed on console. Whatever you do Valve; do NOT follow in the footsteps of Call of Duty. Please. Anyway, that's all for Portal 2. Keep February 9 open!