Portal 2 PlayStation 3
Published by Valve
Developed by Valve
The Orange Box, released back in 2007 by Valve, was packed to the brim with outstanding content, some games previously released, one highly anticipated and one largely unknown. Portal was the unknown game in the package and what a surprise it turned out to be. In short the game was a humorous, puzzle-based FPS where you played as a female test subject who had to make her way through a series of test chambers. She did this by making use of two portals that could be created by the use of a handheld portal device. In short Portal was unique and very impressive and it's no surprise that we now have a sequel.
Portal 2 sees us return to the Aperture Science Laboratories for even more fun with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. The game isn't simply just more of the same experience that could be found in Portal however. The single-player campaign, which lasts approximately eight hours, sees the return of GLaDOS, the evil AI behind Aperture Science in addition to an equally memorable robot called Wheatley. Without wishing to give anything away about the game's storyline, which does have a few twists here and there, it will have to suffice to say that the quality of the characters in the game and their dialogue is impressive and much more enjoyable than in most games that have been released in recent years.
Not long into the game you'll get your hands on the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (or Portal Gun for short) and at first the gameplay feels similar to what you will have encountered in Portal. You can make use of two portals and manoeuvre crates to activate switches just like you did in Portal. However, with the addition of a gelatinous substance which makes surfaces bouncy or enables you to move much more quickly, energy beams that need to be manipulated, light bridges and other things to contend with, the puzzles in each chamber are much more challenging in Portal 2 and you'll need to use a fair bit of thought in order to progress through the game. The single-player campaign never becomes frustrating however thanks to each of the game's concepts being introduced gradually. The difficulty is slowly increased preventing it from ever becoming irritating.
Once you're done with the single-player campaign you're probably going to want to jump into the co-operative campaign that's been designed for two players and supports both online and local split-screen play. Online you can either play with fellow PS3 gamers or with someone who has the PC or Mac version of Portal 2. The co-op campaign offers a different experience from the single-player campaign. Here you'll both play as robots that have to make their way through a series of test chambers. The chambers have been designed in such a way that you'll need to work together in order to progress. This campaign is very enjoyable and particularly satisfying if you can work as a team. The campaign, like the single-player campaign increases its difficulty in a gradual fashion allowing you to take on board all of the games nuances. I particularly like the way in which you'll communicate with each other through the use of icons which means that those who can't verbally communicate can still give and receive instructions for and from their partner. Some may be slightly disappointed that there's no competitive multiplayer here, but co-op lay is so enjoyable it's something that can easily be overlooked.
The Orange Box was impressive for every system apart from the PlayStation 3, where it suffered from an assortment of performance issues. Valve has clearly got to grips with the PlayStation 3 now however and I was very impressed with both how Portal 2 looked and performed on Sony's console. The only minor issue I would take is with the loading times which are rather on the long side and there are plenty of them but I suspect that's a limitation of the slow disk drive rather than a problem with the game itself.
Valve took a lot of criticism for failing to subtitle Half-Life for the PC but they really made amends with the excellent subtitling and captioning of Half-Life 2, which is to this day a benchmark for how a game should be captioned. Later Valve games have adopted the same system of subtitling and captioning and as a result Portal 2 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. Just take care to enable the full captioning before you start playing as it is turned off by default. The single-player campaign also offers a Developer Commentary mode which allows you to play through the parts of the campaign that you've previously cleared and listen to comments from the game's developers. These comments are thankfully subtitled.
Portal 2 is a great sequel to Portal and one that fans of the original game will enjoy immensely. The shooter-based puzzle experience is as addictive as ever. The superb puzzle-based gameplay combined with a quality storyline and memorable characters, in addition to a good dose of humour, make this without a doubt one of the best games of 2011. The ability to play the game co-operatively, both locally and online, is also very much appreciated and extends the longevity of Portal 2 considerably. Essentially then, Portal 2 is a top quality product from beginning to end and it's also a game that's just about as accessible as you could hope for.