E3 2010: Portal 2 (Impressions)

by: John -
Let me start off by saying I love Portal. It was such a refreshing game that was the perfect length. You are given simple task and each level expanded your knowledge of what you can accomplish with the tools and environments at hand. That said, I was pretty excited to get my eyes on Portal 2.

Valve considered three things when working in Portal 2. The story had to include the same characters such as Chell and GLaDOS. It had to be funny, which from the demo I saw had some great moments. Finally, it also had to be rewarding with surprises, like in the first game. The feeling of putting together all that you learned for the final level was pretty exhilarating for me as I maneuvered my way through the internals of the lab using all the knowledge that I had accumulated.

Portal 2’s got a tough road going ahead to try and outdo the popular first game but there are plenty of new things put into the game to accomplish this. GLaDOS is back and it’s been repairing the lab since you’ve been away. The demo showed the lab with some vegetation seeping in as well as the process that GLaDOS is taking in replacing damage panels and machinery.

This time around, you have a companion that looks like a blue eyeball that helps you out in some areas such as hacking and offering up advice. The comments he made when GLaDOS starts to repair itself in front you elicited a lot of laughs from the crowd. I think it’ll be a nice change to have a voice with you through some parts of the game that is both friendly and humorous.

So what are some of the new gameplay elements? First up, there are some tractor beams in some of the levels that slowly move and object from one place to another. They are visualized by this tunnel of blue spiraling light. Using the portals, you can extend the beams to other areas and you’ll need that ability to clear some puzzles. It looks like Chell can walk out of the beam at anytime but any other object will continue on the path until it hits a wall.

Another addition is these spring loaded plates that will fling you across the level. It’s similar to using the portals to build up momentum and then making an exit portal on an angled surface that shoots you across the map like in the first game.

Valve showed off some of the humor put giving some funny names to the new items such as the Thermal Discouragement Bea, which is a laser and the Pneumatic Diversity Vent, which incorporates a large vacuum tube that sucks things up and shoots them through the tube system in place. The humor carries over to the sentry guns again as they had some great lines in the demo. Using one of the new cubes that can redirect the laser, the demo showed Chell redirecting the laser into some of the sentries. As the sentries burn, some of the sentries cry out, “It burns.” In that high pitched voice that you hear from the first game.

The final additions shown were two sorts of gel, which we were told will probably be more types. The first gel called the repulsor gel makes any surface like a trampoline. You use the portals to direct where the gel gets poured and then proceed to jump onto the gel to bounce.

For the propulsion gel, Chell can gain some good quick speed running on the orange fluid. The puzzle shown consisted of these panels with spikes that closed in sequential order. Chell had to figure a way to direct the gel onto the surface across the spiked panels and time the running so that she built enough speed to get her through safely without being crushed. I’m interested to see what other gels Valve can come up with though as they seem to add an interesting dynamic to the game.

Portal 2 will be twice as long as Portal as well as an addition of a co-op (split screen or online) story separate from the main story, as well. Valve didn’t want to just make a bigger version of Portal though and from what I saw, it looks like they added some great stuff to the help achieve this. Look for Portal 2 next year on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and make as a simultaneous release on all platforms.
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