Most recent amongst my gamer sins is having not played Portal 2
with any due timeliness. Thankfully, the latest Steam Summer Sale coincided with at time I actually had a few pennies to spare, and I picked up what was reportedly one of the greatest games I'd been missing out on, only to blow through it less than a week after purchase. What follows are my long-overdue impressions of the game, which took me all of three different play sessions
thanks to how engrossing it was.
Spoilers bound to follow, for those of you who've been even more remiss than I in waiting on this game. For eff's sake, the game's on sale for $5 every other week. Get up to speed.
Also, this only applies to the single-player campaign; I've yet to find time and a partner to hit up the co-op, never mind explore the Perpetual Testing Initiative.
as a whole shares a rather strong affinity with the kinetic nature of its gameplay physics, throwing you into the metaphorical swimming pool after one of the quickest but most thorough run-throughs of basic mechanics I've ever encountered. Learning to "swim" before you "drown" comes almost naturally, though I may be somewhat more prepared than others, between experience with first-person games and the previous Portal
. After diving right in, Portal 2 never stops moving, to the point I spent 3 more hours than I thought I would or could working my way toward the ending, as the final battle felt right around the corner (and every corner after that first corner) once I began working my way through Wheatley's takes on test chambers.
I was delighted to find new element added to the puzzling pallette in the forms of the launch platforms, light bridges, and various shades of free goo, but despite fitting in well with the existing Portal mechanics, all of these new flavors felt a bit underutilized. It seemed like each new item only showed up enough times to count on one hand, and I would've liked a bit more in-game time to explore their uses and interactions with one another.
As was to be expected, Portal 2
had its fair share of nods to the prior game's story and events, but at no point did any of them feel forced or like overkill; even the iconic (and heinously overquoted) lie-encompassing cake only saw one mention, which was an enormous relief after putting up with it being referenced by every nerd and their mother's dog's uncle's roommate's brother's goldfish for who knows how long. Glad0S felt magnificently consistent with her previously established character, while still seeing a great deal of fleshing out over the course of the story.
New faces abound as well, and while I've would've liked to meet a few more or spend more time with the ones that did crop up, I can understand where such a move may have interfered with fairly minimalist Portal
sensibilities. Stephen Merchant's portrayal of Wheatley was incredibly hilarious, and an excellent depiction of a brilliant moron. To be honest, I had some reservations with GladOS' description of him as an interference sphere, as there seemed to be a glimmer of genius in Wheatley and his ideas; it just so happened he was completely inept at executing pretty much anything (in both common senses of the word).
In regards to meeting more faces, I got the impression from early previews that there were to be more personality spheres to interact with than just Wheatley, and I was a bit disappointed than, aside from brief flirtations with a few defective spheres, he was pretty much it. Again, I could see where adding more spheres could easily track into distracting territory, but if nothing else, I would've enjoyed more time with the spheres they did introduce towards the end.
While I mentioned earlier how the game kept things moving, and was great at making you feel like you were making progress and nearly done with things for the better part of the game's second half (after getting past the old Aperture testing domes), such a sense of motion lent the ending, when it did come, a feeling of abruptness. I wasn't disappointed, per se, by the final battle, but you're just kind of thrown into it and left wanting just a little bit more. I imagine that serves to entice the player to check out the co-op section, however, a task at which it certainly succeeds.
I remember hearing some buzz when it was revealed that The National had contributed a song to the game, but between it being incredibly easy to find the radio playing said song and the song itself not being anything mind-blowing or unique (The National are great, and so was the song, but that's exactly what I expected), I'm not sure what all the hubbub was about. Similarly, Portal 2
's ending theme, Want You Gone, was a nice return to form by Jonathan Coulton, but still didn't have quite the oomph or catchiness of the original Portal
's closer, Still Alive. To be fair, though, it's hard to make that kind of lightning strike twice.
Still, these are incredibly minor nitpicks on my part, and I was in love with every minute I spent playing Portal 2
. There weren't many laugh-out-loud moments, at least for me, but that was due to the consistently great writing keeping me chuckling almost constantly.
If the release-time assault of great reviews and widespread lovefest for Portal 2
haven't convinced you to try the game already, I doubt any of the above is likely to change your mind, but I felt I should share some of my feelings, and admit it was well worth the ill-advised wait it took between the game's debut and my experience of it. While we're sharing feelings, I'd like to say that if you are still completely uninterested in Portal
the second, you're part of the problem, not of any solution.
What problem? I'm not entirely sure. Modern-day, high seas piracy, perhaps. Or the West Nile virus. Childhood obesity? Pick your favorite horribility, and that's you now. Congratulations. I don't know how you live with yourself.
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