Never before has a review embargo had us screaming inside so badly that our mind eventually goes hoarse. We've wanted to shout from the rooftops about how Portal 2 not only betters the original Portal, but completely annihilates it. Portal, once a Valve favourite, now seems like a prototype, a mere demo, compared to what its sequel has to offer. This isn't merely a case of expanding on the original concept - this is going far beyond the call of duty and back again, and one of the many reasons that Valve are so adored.
This game is really goo(d)! [You're fired - ED]
Now that we can finally let it all out, note that this is a spoiler-free review. We won't be going into depth regarding the story, the puzzles, or anything else that might spoil the many, many surprises in store for you. Instead, we'll babble lots about why you should really be grabbing a copy the moment you finish reading this review. Game of the Year material? Come on, don't ask silly questions.
Those expecting Portal 2 to simply build on the original, mixing up the puzzles slightly and adding some new environments, will be in for a lovely shock to the system. From the get-go, Portal 2 comes thick and fast with the new ideas. Sure, there's some tutorial action to ease you back into thinking with portals, but from the opening sequence to the bat-shit crazy ending, you'll constantly come up against concepts that are fresh and awe-inspiring.
In fact, what Portal 2 does so much better than the original game is making you think really, really hard. On numerous occasions during play, we seemingly exhausted all the available options, and felt like particular puzzles were entirely impossible. However, this is the kind of game for which you then have the following types of conversations with yourself about:
"So I need to put a portal there and there, but how could I possibly get one in that position without momentum first? And the only way to launch myself that fast is off that ledge, but then I'm not in the right position to fire the second portal. I mean, I guess it's possible that I could keep that momentum going by... ohhhhhh!" and boom, you feel like the cleverest human being on the planet.
Portal 2 never rests on its laurels either. Each new chapter brings entirely new concepts, not of which are gimmicky, and all of which made us say 'oh yes please' each time. It feels like you're constantly being punched in the face with a fistful of goodness and euphoria.
Don't trust Orange! He's unreliable that one
Not only that, but there is so much replay value it's untrue. There are secrets everywhere, many of which you'll be completely aware of, but you'll think 'I'll check that out on my second playthrough'. And you will play this through a second time, believe us. Clocking in at around eight hours for a once through the single player, there's plenty to see and do.
Portal 2's story is easily Valve's greatest achievement to date. Those who moaned that Stephen Merchant wouldn't be any good as the bumbling robot Wheatley will be feeling pretty silly as they take in a performance that is surely one of the highlights of his career. J.K. Simmons as Cave Johnson is also top notch, and provides a depth to the story that we couldn't have even dreamed of.
And then, of course, there's GLaDOS, back again to taunt and perhaps surprise you. The clever little twists and turns throughout play are always spot-on and provide numerous moments of realisation and intrigue. It sounds mental to say it, given how incredible the puzzles are in this game, but we'd honestly rank the storyline as the main reason to play this game. It's utterly fantastic.
It's not just the voice-work that pumps stacks of personality into Portal 2 - the soundtrack is impressively satisfying. During a large number of the rooms there's no music at all, but this simply works to emphasise how amazing the build-up is elsewhere. During fast-paced areas, for example, bleeps and bloops will begin to fade in, with samples crossing in as you fly through the air or come across something a little different. It's impossible to comprehend without hearing it in motion.
The single-player, then, is bloody perfect. In comparison, the co-op missions lack those subtle moments of pure excellence, opting instead for the more direct approach of the original game. There isn't really much story, and the puzzles feel a lot more contained.
"I see you"
And yet it's still one of the best two-player experiences we've had in ages. For six hours straight we sat, laughed, shouted, pointed, shouted some more, and marvelled at the kind of situations you can beat when four portals are involved. The co-op levels do things that the single-player can only dream of, with so much trust and reliance on each other necessary for pushing onwards.
There are numerous gestures that your robots can do, such as waving at each other, or pulling each other's heads off. They're completely pointless, but in a 'how brilliant is that!' sort of way. Like slapping each other in the face in LittleBigPlanet, these gestures can be used to lock your friend in place, annoy them greatly and even get them killed. We probably added an extra hour to play simply messing around with the silly animations.
PORTAL 2 VERDICT
Portal 2 is the best Valve release to date, and one of the most refreshing, exciting and innovative games we’ve ever played. There’s no doubt in our minds that numerous Game of the Year awards have now already been shotgunned, and with mighty good reason. If you thought the original Portal was a masterpiece, prepare to have your mind blown.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Oh jeez, there are too many to mention! There’s that bit where [SPOILER] and then the puzzle with the [SPOILER], oh! and [SNIP]