The market for video games has expanded exponentially over the last few years most of the games being simple rehashes of previously attempted games. The FPS (first person shooter) genre has become swamped with the same general mechanics of gameplay. They never challenge your intelligence, they challenge your twitch ability. In other words, how fast can you look at someone and kill them will determine how successful you are at the game. The Call of Duty series, the Battlefield series, and the now defunct Medal of Honor series are all carbon copies of each other while also claiming just enough difference to be true competitors. The single player campaign depended on your ability to follow a linear path and kill the right amount of enemies before you could advance. In some cases, such as Call of Duty, if you killed the enemies but did not advance your position, more enemies would respond for all eternity until you moved forward far enough to trigger an invisible switch that would stop the bad guys from infinitely respawning.
A New Kind of Logic
Portal 2 has none of the typical vices of a FPS. Yes, you play in first person. Yes, you have a gun, a portal gun. That’s where the similarities end. Portal 2 is a physics-based puzzle game. While a physics-based puzzle game is not necessarily an original idea, the implementation of the portal mechanic in the first person view certainly is unique. The main weapon you have to defeat the puzzles is the portal gun. You are able to create two portals that are connected and the resulting effects of gravity and momentum will propel you through the puzzles, also known as testing chambers. New mechanics, such as lasers, light bridges, gels, and force fields, are introduced in a gentle learning curve that makes sure you know and have all the necessary elements to pass the puzzle. The tricky part is making sure your brain can keep up with all the unusual ways that you can use the mechanics together.
As if the gameplay of the single player campaign wasn’t enough, Portal 2 also has a cooperative game mode. You can play with a buddy on the same TV or with someone on the other side of the world. The puzzles are different from the single player mode and require even more unusual thinking to use 4 portals in unison to pass the testing chambers.
The Humor, Oh the Humor
In addition to the fantastic gameplay, you have some of the best characters ever created. You have Glados, the robot in charge of the testing facility, that’s her in the picture above. She has dry humor accompanied by an eternal dead pan delivery that makes for consistent chuckles throughout the game. Meanwhile, there’s Wheatley, pictured below. He is also a robot but a robot that is insistent on helping you. He is the exact opposite of Glados with his physical antics and rambling that makes you feel as though he actually has a personality. Then there’s the disembodied voice of Cave Johnson, the man who founded the testing facility, Aperture Science. He guides you through some of the later puzzles and is a great companion and has a great sense of humor. All of the characters are supremely well done, even the little gun welding robots that try to kill you. They talk to you in innocent voices and when you do manage to destroy one of them, their screams will make you laugh and feel pity at the same time.
The Verdict: 10/10
Since this article is the beginning of a new series of reviews, I’m going to start using a 10 point rating scale and Portal 2 was the best option with which to start this series. A 10 out of 10 is what I give this game. The easy to learn yet mind stretching gameplay along with a great cast of characters that will keep you constantly entertained make this game worthy of the perfect score. On top of that, the price makes it an easy purchase. Go to Amazon and, if you wish, you can research the prices more fully but keep the Amazon prices as a standard. If you’re buying for a PS3 owner, it’ll cost you at most $22. PC is about $17 with Xbox 360 somewhere between the two. With the prices of brand new, unproven games being $60, you can’t go wrong with a proven game at less than half of that price.