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!


Wanna Bet? Fall 2015 Finale

Conquest of Elysium 4 - Review

The PlayStation Vita: Twice as Bright

Video Gaming Bits -- Magical Date: Doki Doki Kokuhaku Daisakusen

Cheat Codes Ep. 83: Shut Up

Comments of the Week - Love Love Love

Sonic Generations Mod Retrospective 2 - COLORS

The meaning of The Witness (Part 2 of 3)

Venture into the Borderlands - Epilogue

Pokémon X Review - Fairy Enough

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

TheAngriestCarp avatarTheAngriestCarp
Every time Nekro changes his avatar, God lets a child in a third-world country starve to death. When will the killing stop, Nekro?
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Undertale ending in anime version (don't watch it if you have not played it yet) !
ikiryou avatarikiryou
Pixie isn't my abfave demon, but this cosplay is hhnnggalicious
TheAngriestCarp avatarTheAngriestCarp
El Dango avatarEl Dango
What if the 'OOSE' thing in the new Bourne poster is deliberate? What if it's like the bad guy or something?
drmcscott avatardrmcscott
No more night Xcom. Cant sleep. No more night Xcom. Cant sleep. WOrk perofmence bad. No moe night Xconm. Nad. Cmat sleep. Hep me! HJkelp me!
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
SMT demons, huh? There's really only one choice.
Malthor avatarMalthor
One of my favourite demons from SMT is Samael, his death magic and Megido spell are always a great help( Megido especially made him the bane of golden hands in my last P4 playthrough). Plus he looks pretty badass.
FakePlasticTree avatarFakePlasticTree
Favorite demon in Shin Megami Tensei, eh? Oh, I got many but so I'll just pick one for now whom is a beast in the Persona series. Yoshitsune--Hassou Tobi, Heat Riser = Don't fear the REAPER!
Flegma avatarFlegma
Played half an hour of Last Story. Yay, British voices! But the absence of colours makes me want to play other games instead, especially in this greyscale season.
HeyItsDad avatarHeyItsDad
There's not even enough reviews out to give Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth a rating on Metacritic...what's up with this?
ooktar avatarooktar
Dat Booty.
ooktar avatarooktar
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
Just came across someone who tried to debate that people don't hate change - They hate BAD change - Ahahahahahahah!
Agent9 avatarAgent9
I miss Crash and Spyro. They had a fantastic trilogy on the ps1 and I loved every minute of it. Here's one of my favorite Spyro tracks, why not post one of your favorite tracks from wither of these great games.
Larxinostic avatarLarxinostic
Many thanks to a pal from time immemorial for his sneaky late birthday present to me of a digital Amazon gift card, which I promptly redeemed for this alluring beaut. Cheers! Viva la PS Vita~ [img]http://i.imgur.com/Cx3fPPb.png[/img]
Parismio avatarParismio
So I played xcom eu last night to get that xcom hype back. Half hour ago I already lost my brother, my best friends and my dog. Its been a stressful evening.
Nick R P Green avatarNick R P Green
Asides from a last proof read and any final edits, the script for my final 2015 reflection video is now complete. I will see this through to its conclusion. There'll be a blog version as always and once it's done and over with, I'll finally update my bio!
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Gore Magala set complete! That only took like 15 or 16 tries!
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
AT LAST, THE FOUL SEEDS OF RAGE BORN FROM THE WITHERED PLANT OF LOVE BREAK THROUGH THE EARTHS CRUST TO GIVE RISE TO A HARVEST OF RAGE. A NEW BLOG WILL BE THE GRAIN AND THE BREAD, TO FEED THE GNAWING HUNGER OF HATRED ALL VITA LOVERS HARBOR.
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 -