Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Portal 2

Review: Portal 2

5:00 PM on 05.21.2011 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

08:57 - Default review scheduled to finish in 71:23:18
08:58 - Activating emergency distributed computing grid...
09:00 - GLaDOS@home starting...
09:01 - Recruiting cpus to force faster review publication...
21:26 - Calculations complete for Portal 2. Recalculating a new launch projection...
21:29 - Boot sequence complete
21:29 - Commence reviewing

Portal 2 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC [reviewed])
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve / Electronic Arts
Released: April 19, 2011
MSRP: $59.99 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) / $49.99 (PC)

The success of Portal has been a staggering achievement, to say the least. Starting life as a free independent game by a group of technology students, it became an underdog release in Valve's The Orange Box, yet grew to become one of the most critically-acclaimed, quoted, and beloved games of the generation. 

Portal 2 is the culmination of Portal's success, proof that its original concept and meme-spawning jocosity can stand on its own two feet. It helps that the game just so happens to be one of the most fantastic experiences ever presented as a piece of software. 

Aperture Science is in ruins following the events of Portal, but protagonist Chell is still trapped within its confines. That is, until she is discovered by Wheatley, a neurotic personality core responsible for the welfare of Aperture's human test subjects. He takes it upon himself to help Chell escape, but not before the demented GLaDOS reawakens and decides to exact revenge. You know ... after you murdered her?

If the writing in Portal was great, then the dialog and characterization in Portal 2 is unparalleled. Not only is Portal 2 perhaps the funniest game on the market, it's also home to some of the best character development I've ever seen in interactive entertainment. The way in which both Wheatley and GLaDOS grow during the course of the game is sublime, and the gradually unraveled history of Aperture Science makes for a compelling sub-story that's perfectly presented. 

Whereas Portal was much more of a straight puzzle game, the structure of Portal 2 makes it feel more like an adventure game wearing the clothes of a puzzler. It's littered with truly epic moments and thrilling chase sequences, enhanced by a deft use of incidental music that evokes some of Half-Life 2's most exciting moments. In many ways, Portal 2 is to Portal what Half-Life 2 was to Half-Life. Everything's bigger, there's so much more going on, and by the time you reach its majestic conclusion (and Portal 2 does end majestically), you'd have to be a sociopath to not feel completely satisfied. 

When it comes to gameplay, Portal 2 isn't so far removed from the original game, but it does add a lot more features. Yet again, the central focus is on solving puzzles using a gun that shoots two linked portals. Many of the challenges don't feel quite so unique this time around -- thanks in part to the fact that the central gimmick is no longer new -- but this is made up for by the various ways in which puzzles take place outside of test chambers and during the aforementioned chase scenes, which certainly makes them more lively, if not quite so innovative. 

That is not to say that Portal 2 is without its own fresh ideas. The biggest addition to the game is the use of various paint-like gels that play around with the physics of the game. The blue repulsion gel turns any surface into a glorified trampoline, with players able to jump to new heights, or cross large distances by bouncing off walls. The orange propulsion gel speeds up players who run along it, allowing them to build up significant momentum. Finally, there's the white conversion gel, which turns any surface it touches into something that can host a portal. 

There are some incredibly clever ideas using these gels, and bouncing or sliding around the levels can be quite amusing. Still, I can't say I enjoyed the predominantly gel-based puzzles as much as the more "traditional" ones. Gel puzzles aren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but once the levels focusing primarily on them were completed, I was glad to get back to more standard levels. The gels work far better in stages where they complement a puzzle, rather than act as the central theme of one. 

The more straightforward tests give you some extra toys to play with, too. Thermal discouragement cubes bend laser beams, allowing for some very complex puzzles. Aerial faith plates act like catapults, forcing the player across huge distances. Gravity beams trap objects and players and transport them slowly through the air, which leads to some of the most inventive puzzles in the game. My favorite new gimmick is the hard light bridge, however. These can cross gaps and act as shields, and there are some really clever ways in which they're implemented. 

My only gripe is the they're never used quite enough for my liking. The light bridge puzzles feel particularly brief, despite how brilliant they are. Perhaps their restricted use stops them from feeling as tired as the gel puzzles, but I still would have liked to see what more could be done with them. 

The main campaign takes between six and eight hours to beat, and from beginning to end, it's a thoroughly endearing experience that burrows inside one's head and refuses to leave. Beyond the witty dialog and the ingenious puzzles, Portal 2 is simply an engrossing overall experience. It presents a world that's beyond fascinating, a world that offers just enough information to make you feel compelled and curious, but never enough that you feel you've seen it all.

Aperture Science is, itself, an evolving character that you grow to love for its quirkiness and humor, yet despise for its sordid history and miserable end. So too, do we learn to adore GLaDOS in spite of reeling in horror over what she really is and the things she's done. As for Wheatley ... well, you have to just adore Wheatley. 

The single-player experience would have been enough for me, but the addition of co-op presents a series of levels perhaps more brilliant than anything that's been done before. Not only does it feature its own surprisingly dark narrative and two ridiculously charming new protagonists in Atlas and P-Body, the way in which four portals and two players have been integrated into the existing gameplay truly demonstrates the creative brilliance of the series. 

Co-op comes with some provisos -- you're going to want to find a player with a headset, preferably an actual friend as opposed to a random stranger. The best experience is found with two players who have not yet played any of the puzzles, as co-op's biggest strength lies in the mutual discovery of a solution. There's something infinitely more rewarding about solving a Portal puzzle when you've done it with somebody else. That moment when the answer hits you or your partner and you excitedly work together to make theory into practice leads to some of the most awesome moments in gaming. 

Valve has done a great job of making sure players can always communicate their feelings in the game. There's an in-game countdown timer, allowing Atlas and P-Body to synchronize their actions, and a pointer so players can clearly mark where in a level they'd like their friend to place a portal. In addition, the two robots can perform various adorable gestures, such as waving, hugging, and dancing. Not only is it cute to watch the little robots interact, the unimpressed commentary from GLaDOS makes it doubly rewarding. 

Portal 2 still uses Source, so some players may be displeased by somewhat dated graphics. Personally, I've always felt Source games still hold up thanks to an elegant simplicity that the visuals often bring. No, it's not as advanced as many modern games, but it still looks good enough to not be considered ugly. I find that the art direction -- with the juxtaposition of Aperture's clean, sterile look and the dilapidated, chaotic outside world that surrounds it -- makes up for the simpler aesthetic style. 

It's also worth noting that there are quite a few loading screens in the game. They never last too long and they're easily ignored, but their frequency helps to break some of the immersion of the game, which is a shame. 

It would be wrong to not mention the outstanding vocal performances put forth. Ellen McClain returns as GLaDOS and outdoes herself as a constant provider of dry, deadpan sarcasm. Stephen Merchant, a long-underrated actor, almost threatens to upstage McClain and effortlessly turns Wheatley into an affable, hilarious character who you can't help but like. It's rare to find one great actor in a videogame, let alone two, but the double act of McClain and Merchant is unrivaled by any other piece of entertainment software. 

Except maybe by J.K. Simmons as Cave Johnson ... in Portal 2

Portal 2 is, without a doubt, one of the best games ever made. It's a game that not only seamlessly blends puzzle and adventure elements together, but makes a name for itself as a true "comedy" game, where witty dialog and laugh-out-loud concepts have been given an equal billing with the gameplay itself. It's funny, it's challenging, it's inventive, and it boasts memorable moments that will stick in your mind and make your hair stand on end every time you think about them. 

Gaming simply does not get much better. 



THE VERDICT

10

Portal 2 - Reviewed by Jim Sterling
Editor's Choice Award - Is it legal to marry a videogame? Because I want to be with this game every day for the rest of my life. It completes me. It is my soul mate.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Portal 2


  Jan 31

Portal Stories: Mel mod gets a teaser, coming soon

Now THIS is my kind of downloadable content


  Apr 30

Behold, Portal 2's freakish Frankenturret brought to life

Wheatley's abomination is just as scary in real life


  Nov 01

Portal 2 In Motion DLC arrives on PSN next week

Time to dig out the ol' PS Move controller


  Oct 22

Steam Workshop's one-year anniversary has arrived!

How will you celebrate? With a TF2 hat or new Portal 2 level, perhaps?


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Friday Night Fights: War Never Changes Edition

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Review (Vita)

Waifu Wars: Loyalty-Tier

The Wii U's fate is not (entirely) Nintendo's fault

Musings on Firewatch (Spoilers)

My Gaming Landscape [February 9th, 2016]

The sexiest Senran Kagura character has been found!!

Room to Share: Why More People Playing Games Is a Good Thing

OVERWATCH SONG - This World Needs Heroes

Cblogs of 2/8/2016 + Face Petting in FE is a TERRIBLE Mechanic

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Off to the new job shortly. Dunno if it's something I want long term, but I can't complain about the money. New laptop, phone, and consoles could be weeks away :D
JohnSmith123 avatarJohnSmith123
http://destructivecreations.pl/isdefense/ /Hatred devs really like the controversy I guess.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Is it too late to write about the waifu wars? I don't really have one but there is a female character I have in mind that I want to talk about.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
Bayo has high execution barrier and largely unsafe moveset but Witch Time is a huge saving grace. I bet people are double bitter with Corrin being in the game and being pretty reliable in terms of skillset. Definitely a safer and stronger choice than Bayo
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Streaming some Unravel then perhaps some Firewatch. Don't not come. [url]http://twitch.tv/Jed05[/url]
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Just got my Wind up Ifrit minion. I couldn't sell it, it was too adorable.
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Just got my Wind up Ifrit minion. I couldn't sell it, it was too adorable.
Parismio avatarParismio
I was playing Third Strike on PS3 with my PS4 controller and I tried using the dpad for the first and noticed that it doesnt take corner directional inputs. Is this normal for ps4 controllers on ps3?
Larxinostic avatarLarxinostic
I swear, it makes sense in context..... Kinda. Hmmm. Okay, not so much. [img]http://i.imgur.com/YhIzmYN.png[/img]
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Almost done with my Waifu wars blog. pretty happy with how it turned out.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Time to scream and shout. It's Nanako cosplaying as her big bro! <3
Mike Wallace avatarMike Wallace
Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump is like Gandalf the White vs. Handsome Jack.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
Skellige is so cool! It's like the land of Valhalla Rising.
Torchman avatarTorchman
http://gonintendo.com/stories/251840-fire-emblem-fates-petting-mini-game-is-in-game-but-only-availa I THOUGHT THIS WAS GONE. MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MINDS PEOPLE
Shinta avatarShinta
God damn, Bernie Sanders is just killing it with this speech. Hitting basically every point. He even used the word "oligarchy." Probably the first time I've ever heard that word uttered on CNN. I think a lot of people in power are shitting their pants
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
In my haste to finally factory reset my tablet, I erased a blog I had worked on. Thankfully, it's fresh in my mind. It's another MGS blog, but it goes the opposite way of my last MGS blog. Pray this guy is not your husbando, for he is shit.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
Just ate a disgusting amount of sugary wonders in a Fat Tuesday blowout. Chocolate (birthday) cake, Oreos, brownies, cookie dough, and some creme brule thing. Satiation by way of eat-'til-you-puke is what Shenanigans says!
LaTerry avatarLaTerry
Is there any real difference between the PS3 and the PS4 versions of Valkyria Chronicles?
Shinta avatarShinta
KnickKnackMyWack avatarKnickKnackMyWack
Say whaaaaaat?
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -