Pounding Through Portal 2

Note: I play 2 video games a year, and I’m good at saying why they suck. Oddly, I can generally say why a movie is good but not why it’s bad.

I wanted to finish Portal 2 single player before leaving for Chicago and did… in under 6 hours. While the co-op may prove much better, I was underwhelmed by the single player version of the game to the point that I’m telling people to wait before buying until the game’s cheaper. Despite the awesome voice acting and humor of the game as well as the reasonably high level of visual polish, the flaws of the game were glaring.

My qualms:

  • UI Tweaks – Portal 2 has many more Aperture Science Material Emancipation Fields, so instead of the semi-circles around the reticule showing what can be targeted, it instead shows what portals are deployed. This made some areas a tedious case of “fire until it sticks” as the visual clue for Portal adhesion in the first game was flatness, here, it’s largely color (sometimes) and other times flatness.
  • Confusing Environments – HL2:E2 showcased the Source engine’s ability to render large scenes. Portal 2 also contained these elements but often in the vintage Aperture Science areas, I found this eye candy disorienting as sometimes those massive objects in the distance are where you’re going, or where you came from, or are just background effects. Puzzles required more footwork than I’d want as a solution often involved just walking around to find the right surface rather than the puzzle unfolding.
  • Embedded Test Sequence – My response to learning that Wheatley had generated test chambers was a sense of dread at the realization that the game had introduced another countdown.
  • Ending – Really? The moon? The portal beam moves as a finite speed that seems slow AND while the paste made of moon rocks makes something a portal-able service, I am skeptical that the portal would apply properly to lunar regolith.
  • Linear puzzles – Few puzzles seemed to have multiple good solutions and their spareness made solving them easy as one could pick out the game elements present and just figure out how to jam them together for victory. Kind of like how you can brute force a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Interactions with GlaDOS – The reasons why GLaDOS or Wheatley couldn’t interactive with you were stupidly forced. “I’m going to think about this” *silence for rest of test chamber*

Things I did like:

  • Voice acting and dialog – Awesome.  I hope that I can quote “if we’re going to explode, let’s explode with dignity” until I die.
  • Fluids in games usually suck.  This didn’t appear to.
  • Sound cues to new mechanics.
  • Introduction of mechanics without a formal explanation until later.
  • The portal aim-assist and magnetic falling where helpful.