The Plot. Portal 2 continues the story of Portal (2007), in which you you are a random test subject in a testing facility for Aperture Science Enrichment Center. In Portal 2, the story continues and the same test subject, after completing the first game, is woken in a strange room by a robot named Wheatley. He tells the protagonist, that she is the last surviving test subject after the facility has been shut down. She has been asleep for a very long time (you can see the state of the bed she was in) and the facility is collapsing. Wheatley then proceeds to assist the protagonist in her escape.
General thoughts. Ooh, I've been waiting for this for a long time and let me tell you - the wait was totally worth it. This game is really very good. Funny, interesting and sometimes a bit complicated. The whole Portal series introduced something completely different to the world of gaming. This is at the same time a story-driven first person adventure, an interesting puzzle and also a fascinating solution to thinking differently about the puzzles.
The main thing that differs this game from any other puzzle-oriented games is the portal gun. This is a device that is capable of firing up to two portals that are connected to each-other. As something passes through one of these, it comes out of the other. All of the game mechanics are pretty much related to this. However, to mix things up a bit, the portals can only be fired upon special white surfaces, so the placement possibilities are usually limited. To make things a little bit easier, the protagonist is wearing some sort of leg braces that allow her to fall from great heights and not get hurt. This means that you can focus on the puzzle and not worry about falling to your death. Unless there's nothing to stop your fall, of course.
As I mentioned, the story starts off many years after the first one and since there isn't anyone to take care of the place, it's in a really bad state. The producers of the game did an amazing job on visualizing a decaying modern facility. You are accompanied by a funny little robot called Wheatley (Stephen Merchant). With him you'll go through many of the testing rooms you saw in the first game and you'll see how broken and old it all looks. Don't worry, though, during the game some of it will be rebuilt. There's also a lighting and shadow demo, where Wheatley leads you through a dark place and you can see how pretty all the shadows are. This is more of a showoff than an important part of the game, but it's still nice.
In the first game, you are led and instructed by an artificial intelligence, a robot called GLADoS. This spoils the story for people who haven't played the first part so don't read the next part if you're planning to play the first Portal.
As you know, you, who played the first Portal, in the end you killed GLADoS and she wasn't too happy about it. Now in the beginning of Portal 2, you get instructed by a random robotic voice with some pre-recorded messages and I was honestly disappointed for a moment, that there was no GLADoS, with any sarcastic remarks, but worry not, GLADoS will return not too far into Portal 2. I've never been so happy to hear an angry robot voice before.
[end of spoiler]
Now, if you haven't played the first Portal, I'll assume that you've skipped ahead and haven't read the previous part. Don't read it. It'll totally spoil the experience of the first Portal.
A thing that makes Portal 2 really stand out is a great story. A really captivating story on a game is quite hard to come by these days and that is something Valve is really good at. I'm glad they didn't disappoint on this one either. When in the first game you really saw quite a small portion of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center with a few hints of it being a lot bigger, in the second game you actually get to see a huge part of the facility. Apparently it goes pretty far down. At one point you end up at the bottom of the facility and get to go through the very first testing facilities. You are led by a bunch of pre-recorded messages read by Cave Johnson (J.K. Simmons), the original creator and owner of Aperture. There you also get a sense of the history of Aperture and also how GLADoS came to be. There, at the lower part of the facility, at one point you can see that an old elevator shaft shows the depth of 4000 meters and that's not the very bottom. You also see a lot of impressive vistas of the underground and how huge it really is. However, while the story tells us a lot about the facility and GLADoS, it doesn't really tell us a lot about the test subject. GLADoS tells the protagonist that she's fat, adopted and a lot of other things. I think I even heard a hint of someone with the same last name. It could have been a husband or a brother of hers. I do wish there was a little bit more information on her.
While the basic gameplay mechanics are the same - portals, buttons and boxes - there are also a lot of changes. First of all, even when you are led through the original testing chambers, the elevators you use are nothing like the ones in the first game. There are also a lot of new things that are added as the game progresses. There is a blue repulsion gel, which pushes you back with the same force you hit it with and also pushes you upward a little bit (helpful on the walls), there's red propulsion gel, that gives you the ability to move very fast, there's a white gel that makes it possible to put portals on things that you normally can't put portals on and also a clear gel that cleans off any other gels. You can also cover an item in a gel, but other than the blue repulsion gel, there's no practical use in covering items in gels.
Besides gels, there is also a force field in which you float in one direction. You can sometimes reverse these with a button. There's also a light bridge thing that you can either walk on or use as a shield from turrets. Additionally there's a laser beam, which can hurt you. You can bend these beams with special blocks. The blue force field, the light bridge and the laser can also be projected through portals. There's also a bomb element, which you can lead through a portal and it explodes on contact.
In the first Portal there were two types of turret - a normal bullet turret, which could be knocked over, moved and restored, and there was a rocket turret, which was stationary. In Portal 2 the Rocket Turrets have been removed and just the normal turrets are used. In some places you see broken turrets, but all functional turrets are just the usual white, with the same funny voice-over as the first game. There were, however, hints of larger turrets and ultimately a huge weird-looking turret, but these were never seen in-game. There's also a weird combination of turret and cube, but it's story-related, so I won't dive into that one much.
Also, in the original Portal, there were a lot of hints on the walls and hidden compartments, that there have been others trapped in the facility, sometimes showing you where to go. In Portal 2, I only saw a few places where something was scribbled on the wall and nothing of it was actually anything interesting. That's a bit of a shame. I liked the 'the cake is a lie' conspiracy theory of the first Portal. Also, I could have used a few hints on how to continue, because in large areas I really spent a lot of time searching for the next spot I could place a portal on.
There was a problem with long loading times, but an update cleared that one right up. Also, at one point the game crashed as I dumped some repulsion gel on some turrets. The other time my game crashed, after the update, was right after all the end credits were done and the main menu should have popped up again. At least I saw the conclusion, which was really fun and nice. And yes, as in the first Portal, there is a song at the end of this one, too. Not as catchy, but still really cool.
All in all, this game is fantastic. I think I'll play it again soon. The game isn't short either, like the first one. I think the first Portal was more like an experiment, which people loved, so Valve sat down and made a proper second part. It took me about 8-9 hours to complete Portal 2, so it's quite lengthy, compared to most shooters and adventure types these days. Great job, Valve.
You can have my cake.