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Eric Bowman 06-29-2011 11:13 PM

Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
***Updated 7/12: Further addressed Sparky's criticisms.
**Updated 7/12: Addressed Sparky's criticisms.
*Updated 7/8: Addressed Richard's criticisms.


Portal 2 Third Opinion

There better be some cheese at the end of this maze.


HIGH Sabotaging a turret assembly line for hilarious results.

LOW A series of giant test rooms where the challenge stems from spotting the portal-able wall.

WTF How do you “freshen up” carbon dioxide, GLaDOS?


When it comes to the original Portal, the reception goes beyond simply having a fanbase. Portal is game that people deeply, genuinely, love, in a way almost completely exclusive to it. The reasons for this extreme fondness for the game are large in number, but the one at the forefront of my mind is the game's humble origins. It was released as essentially just a bonus for purchasing the Orange Box, with very little in the way of length or budget. What came out of it was much more than the sum of its parts, and a certain level of charm resonated from its simplicity.

Like many surprise hits, the creators sought to capitalize on the devotion of fans. Portal 2 doesn't seek to shatter boundaries or shock the player, and instead is content with being a celebration of the previous entry. While a rise in content is something to be appreciated, it's unfortunate that a lot of basic aspects that made the original break out so well have been dropped into an Aperature Science Emergency Intelligence Incinerator.

The original game wasn't just about puzzles. There was an incremental build-up to the realization of GLaDOS' true intentions. This eventually causes the player to use his/her training to fight back when the time arises, and not simply go by what GLaDOS says. The revelation that the guiding voice of GLaDOS wanted to kill the main character Chell felt like the basis of the entire game. Portal 2, on the other hand, is about Portal 1, in almost every way that it shouldn't be. So much of the game feels in line with the original's formula, it's hard to shake the feeling that Portal 2 only exists as an excessively fleshed out version of the first game.

Roughly the first three hours are composed entirely of test chambers, a form of progression I found all too familiar and all too boring. With the original game being such a strong jumping-off point for a larger-budget sequel, seeing Portal 2 rehash the same structure for a majority of the sequel seems like a waste of creativity. If the game had only brought them back at the end of the game, it would've had a much more positive, reminiscent, full-circle effect. As it stands, I don't think I could stare at another test chamber without losing my lunch.

It actually seemed like the developers were aware of the growing tedium caused by doing test chamber after test chamber, particularly when one of the characters says “Just hang in there for five more chambers!” I basically just interpreted the line as “Sorry we're making you repeat the first game's formula for several hours, but it'll end soon, we promise!” Not soon enough, I'm afraid.

Many of the sequences outside the testing areas fare much better. The absolute best part of the game for me was a puzzle based around sabotaging a turret assembly line. In addition to the lines uttered by the turrets confused by the sabotage's effects having me laugh out loud, the puzzle had an equally funny effect on the story at multiple points later on. It was great to see a puzzle based on more than simply locating the next elevator.

While there are a number of sequences that struck me as being very clever, some parts of the game absolutely crash and burn. If Portal 2 was split into three parts, the middle third of the game is undoubtedly the weakest. Most of it takes place in a foggy underground area filled with large scaffolding and broken catwalks. These massive, misty caves provided area after area where the only thing being tested was my ability to see a spec of wall that could have a portal shot onto it. There's no fun or challenge to be derived from this, so why it occurs so often is an enigma to me.

This is a prime example of what I like to call “a puzzle that isn't actually a puzzle”, something that serves to hold the player up without doing anything substantial. Whether I was taking too long to spot a box on top of a tall pillar or was forced to shoot a wall from an awkward angle, there was always something I wasn't seeing. Events like these are what made me conclude that Portal 2 is less about how the player thinks, and more about where the player looks. The size of the test chambers wasn't a problem in the first game, so making a large chunk of the sequel's testing areas five times larger is a strange decision that doesn't pay off.

On a more positive note, I am in total agreement with Richard's review on the humor in this game—it's fantastic. It could be argued that the humor in Portal 2 isn't really about anything, whereas the humor in the first game was tied directly to expressing GlaDOS' madness. The sequel's humor is really just there to make people laugh. While it does seem more artificial from that perspective, I didn't really care because it was so damn charming. The characters are incredibly strange while still being relatable, and the story does a good job of putting them in funny scenarios to expand on their best traits. The game's ending had me laughing as well, although that was more due to the fact that it made absolutely no sense at all. For all this talk of science, it certainly seemed to go out the window for the finale. I know Portal has never been about realism, but what happens at the end is like something from a cartoon.

Portal 2 serves as a clear example of why short games need to exist. Even with the many new uses for it in the game, the portal gun cannot remain fun for a full eleven hours. Moments of genius are eclipsed by hours of regurgitated content from Portal, and a sense of progression feels lacking. There are escape sequences late in the game based around avoiding a barrage of crushing walls and moving bridges thrust upon the player by the antagonist that have a great amount of excitement tied to them. If Portal 2 had been four or five hours long and composed primarily of events like this, I would've loved it. Instead, Portal 2 feels like an inflated shell of a much better game. The good bits are there, and I'm glad I got to see them. Having to abide the hours of boredom it took to get there? Now that was a test.


6.5 out of 10


Disclosures: This game was rented via GameFly for the Xbox 360. Approximately 12 hours were put into the story mode, and the game was completed. 30 minutes were put into the multiplayer, and it was not completed.

Parents: Portal 2 is rated E10 by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. The strongest language I heard was “damn,” and that was only once. There's a fair amount of talk about death, but nothing overly dark.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Portal 2 has some of the most clearly laid out subtitles I've ever seen in a game. In addition to the dialogue, there's an option to have sound effects subtitled.

Richard Naik 07-08-2011 12:06 AM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
Hey, sorry it's taken me so long to get to this. I must have missed the update email.

This is some really good stuff, and it's pretty damn close as-is. However, I think you could stand to elaborate a little bit more in the third paragraph about the differences between the two games. What is the first game about that the second one isn't? What is the second game about that it shouldn't be? You don't need anything too lengthy, but a sentence or two that sets up the rest of it will do.

Also, I'd *really* prefer if you could give the multiplayer at least a dry run. Normally it wouldn't be an issue, but with a big name title like this you want to make sure you have all your bases covered.

Eric Bowman 07-08-2011 06:36 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Naik (Post 197465)
Hey, sorry it's taken me so long to get to this. I must have missed the update email.

This is some really good stuff, and it's pretty damn close as-is. However, I think you could stand to elaborate a little bit more in the third paragraph about the differences between the two games. What is the first game about that the second one isn't? What is the second game about that it shouldn't be? You don't need anything too lengthy, but a sentence or two that sets up the rest of it will do.

Also, I'd *really* prefer if you could give the multiplayer at least a dry run. Normally it wouldn't be an issue, but with a big name title like this you want to make sure you have all your bases covered.

Hey Richard, thanks for the feedback. No worries about the delay, you're a busy man. :)

I added to the third paragraph in a couple places, here's it in its entirety. The bold represents newly added sentences.

Quote:

The original game wasn't just about puzzles. There was an incremental build-up to the realization of GLaDOS' true intentions. This eventually causes the player to use their training to fight back when the time arises, and not simply go by what GLaDOS says. The revelation that the guiding voice of GLaDOS wanted to kill the main character Chell felt like the basis of the entire game. Portal 2, on the other hand, is about Portal 1, in almost every way that it shouldn't be. So much of the game feels in line with the original's formula, it's hard to shake the feeling that Portal 2 only exists as a fleshed out version of the first game.

About the multiplayer, I did play about 30 minutes of it to get some easy achievements, but not enough to be noteworthy. I understand that it's very fleshed out and creative, but after completing the lengthy single player, I wasn't interested in doing more portal-based puzzles. I rented the game via GameFly, so as you might imagine I no longer have access to it, and I can't get it again since I cancelled my GameFly account a few days ago due to the lack of titles that interest me coming in July. I can certainly understand why you'd want to to dabble in it a bit more, but my interest in Portal 2 from the very beginning was seeing where the story and characters ended up in the single player. I edited my Disclosures to state that I played it for 30 minutes, just to be as accurate as possible.

Thanks!

Richard Naik 07-08-2011 11:59 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
30 minutes is just fine, and don't be afraid to list that in the disclosures.

Looks good to me. Green light. I believe that's 5, correct?

Eric Bowman 07-09-2011 12:38 AM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Naik (Post 197481)
30 minutes is just fine, and don't be afraid to list that in the disclosures.

Looks good to me. Green light. I believe that's 5, correct?

Thanks Richard! This is the fifth one you've greenlit, I just need someone else to look at this review and my Shadows of the Damned review.

SparkyClarkson 07-09-2011 03:59 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
The second paragraph starts out a little rough. "Case in point" seems an odd thing to say, since you're obviously talking about Portal 2. The sentence after that is a fragment. Try to be as clear as you can about what you're trying to say in that spot.

Paragraph 7 (about the old research area) needs some work. "To put it plainly" is just empty verbiage, and "I think there was literally four areas..." has a number of obvious problems grammatically and in style. "Literally" should be avoided because, if accurate, it's unnecessary, and if not, it's a lie.

The following paragraph is a catalog of examples that could be a bit better written and made into a more cohesive idea. The puzzles you're describing are mostly built around a trick of "seeing", rather than thinking. Perhaps build out from that idea.

Work on it a bit. It's close.

Eric Bowman 07-12-2011 01:05 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SparkyClarkson (Post 197492)
The second paragraph starts out a little rough. "Case in point" seems an odd thing to say, since you're obviously talking about Portal 2. The sentence after that is a fragment. Try to be as clear as you can about what you're trying to say in that spot.

Paragraph 7 (about the old research area) needs some work. "To put it plainly" is just empty verbiage, and "I think there was literally four areas..." has a number of obvious problems grammatically and in style. "Literally" should be avoided because, if accurate, it's unnecessary, and if not, it's a lie.

The following paragraph is a catalog of examples that could be a bit better written and made into a more cohesive idea. The puzzles you're describing are mostly built around a trick of "seeing", rather than thinking. Perhaps build out from that idea.

Work on it a bit. It's close.

Hey Sparky, thanks for the feedback. Here are the changes I made based on your criticisms.
  • The two sentences you mentioned have been merged into one, and "Case in point" has been removed entirely. The resulting sentence is, "Portal 2 doesn't seek to shatter boundaries or shock the player, and instead is content with being a celebration of the previous entry."
  • The second half of paragraph 7 has been largely rewritten. "Literally" and "To put it plainly" were both removed.
  • Paragraph 8 (The other one you mentioned) has also been changed. I took the focus off the examples, and put it more on the issues of thinking versus looking. This is mostly communicated through the sentence, "Portal 2 is less about how the player thinks, and more about where the player looks."

Thanks!

SparkyClarkson 07-12-2011 07:01 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
Great. Double-check the spelling (I think you have "fair" where you meant "fare" and a few other minor things) and it should be ready to go.

Eric Bowman 07-12-2011 08:58 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SparkyClarkson (Post 197534)
Great. Double-check the spelling (I think you have "fair" where you meant "fare" and a few other minor things) and it should be ready to go.

After looking over the review, I've fixed two things: I corrected the "fair" problem, and I also switched "their" to his/her in the third paragraph. I was unable to spot anything else.

Thanks for the feedback!

SparkyClarkson 07-12-2011 10:03 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
Great. Green light from me.

Eric Bowman 07-12-2011 10:32 PM

Re: Please Rate This Review: Portal 2 Third Opinion
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SparkyClarkson (Post 197536)
Great. Green light from me.

Thanks, Sparky.


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