While none of the press – including us – got to actually play Portal 2 at E3, merely seeing the brief demo we did gave us more than enough of an idea of what the game was going to be all about and how the sequel is going to justify being a full-on, disc-based game rather than downloadable or part of a larger compilation.
People have been waiting to see this for a long time
While the first game has gained a cult status amongst the inhabitants of the internet as the game that launched a thousand crap ‘The Cake is a Lie’ jokes and t-shirts, Portal 2 seems to be going a long way to distance itself from some aspects of the first game, cleverly building on them with simplistic but substantial building blocks rather than rehashing the same old puzzle gameplay.
It’d be nigh-on impossible to make another fully-fledged Portal game with the only character aid being the now familiar Portal gun, so there’s a bunch of new items with increasingly ludicrous but fun names that can be used to solve some of the new tasks in the game.
We were shown a few in the demo, including the ‘Pneunatic Diversity Vent’ – essentially a massive vaccum that sucks everything in sight up within a certain radius. You can place a portal at one end of the vent and then place that portal facing a bunch of pesky gun turrets or other items and they’ll be sucked through the portal clean out of your way and deposited elsewhere or destroyed.
There’s also the ‘Aerial Faith Plate’ which functions as a massive catapult, sending you and any objects you place on it flying into the air and two ‘gels’ which can be directed onto the walls and floors of rooms. Floors and walls with gel on them will have different properties when you stand and move on them.
What madness will ensue?
We were shown more than these two, but those two examples alone should give a good idea of the kind of thing Valve are trying to achieve with Portal 2. When asked about its validity as a full game, Valve reiterated a point that has been made in the past – that the original Portal was little more than a tech demo, and Portal 2 is the full game that they would’ve made had they known that Portal would be so successful.
The puzzles we were shown were impressive and varied, and on the surface they looked a million times more difficult than the puzzles in the first game based on complexity alone. With more variables to manage everything becomes more intense and complex, though Valve promise that the new elements are easy to understand outside of the context of a whirlwind E3 demo.
Part of what made Portal so popular was its charm and wit, and while Valve aren’t intending to bask too much in some of the now-tired memes the original gave birth to they are, it seems, trying to give birth to some new ones.
As well as the returning GLaDOS there are new characters in the form of ‘Personality Cores’ – essentially distilled personality intended to be plugged into robots like GLaDOS to augment their attitude and personality. We met Wheatley in the demo, a British-accented personality core that is set to be something of your advisor or, to use a Zelda reference, Navi throughout the game. He was full of puns and jokes, as you’d expect, and the writing is as tight from Valve as ever.
If all this wasn’t enough, Portal 2 will also contain a cooperative campaign that is completely different from the main storyline. Instead of continuing Chell’s story like the single player, the co-op mode sees you play as two robots that can use Portal guns. It’ll have unique levels as well as a unique story, and the guns aren’t shared – there can be four portals on screen at once, upping the possibility of utter insane puzzles even further.
As well as four Portals on screen at once there are some tweaks for co-op gameplay, including the ability to ‘mark’ places to communicate that you want your partner to place a portal in one specific spot and so on – something that could’ve been easily forgotten but in hindsight is utterly vital.
There were rumours you could go 'outside'
While there are elements about Portal 2 Valve weren’t talking about at the show and we weren’t able to go hands-on, Portal 2 is already shaping up to be a worth sequel to the cult-hit original and seems to be going a long way to prove that it deserves to be a full retail game. It seems what Valve claim are true: This time round, it’s more than a tech demo.