Sunday, July 17, 2011

Portal 2 - Week 1 reflections

It has roughly been a week since I purchased  Portal 2 and I thought I would take a few minutes and throw down some thoughts.

First off I'm not going to spend the time on a lengthy review, comparison to Portal (1) or any of that stuff.  There's plenty of professional reviews out there by now which articulate that kind of content much more eloquently than I can.

What I will say is that I am a HUGE, HUGE freaking fan of Portal and now P2 after logging about 16 and 5-6 hours respectively.  (even though Steam still reports 4.  I think the connection dropped out the other night)  Besides StarCraft, the Portal series has really captivated and intrigued me, which isn't something I can say very often. 


  I believe my last achievement was 'Stalemate Associate' and I'm currently somewhere in chapter 6 maybe one or two "chambers" completed with the blue repulsion gel.  I'm not exactly breaking any speed records, but like with the original I'm not trying to.  Zipping through either game for the sake of completion is really an injustice and I'd rather take as much time as I want to poke around, try different things and really savour the experience.

  Speaking of poking around, well, there's plenty of opportunities, but not very much for the sake of true exploration.  So far it's pretty linear and while it may take a bit to figure out what they want you to do, there is little room for variation.  With some chambers there's more than one way to skin a cat, but they are just variations to attain the same end result. Perhaps it could be slightly more open, though I have to wonder if we would just complain about that too.


   So far the difficulty has been mild to moderate and all very manageable.  I'd say it's on a slightly higher curve than the original, but they did a great job at tempering the difficulty in a way to not alienate new players.  Each new mechanic is presented in more or less a tutorial to isolate the feature which allows you expand and exploit it in future chambers. I'm sure things will get more difficult, which is good, as I haven't seen all the new features yet.  Although it's not nearly as daunting as some of the preview videos seemed to be at the time.

  While I enjoy the tight chamber-based puzzles, I like more of the "behind the scenes" and open areas that you experience towards the middle of the game.  Honestly the maintenance areas of the original Portal were my favorite as they gave you more of a feeling of adventure and exploration than the sterile chambers.  Though the dilapidated and dynamic chambers of P2 are a really nice touch that I think adds to the overall experience.


  While I know valve spends a good deal of effort in ensuring their source-based games scale well, I was surprised and very pleased that P2 ran as well as it did on my laptop.  It was a bit choppy and laggy on high settings, so I lowered the resolution from 1600x1200 to 1280x1024 and quality to medium.  (except for anti-aliasing which I bumped up one level)  Frankly I think it looks really good and while I know it could be better (if I had a real PC), I'm not hung up on getting Crysis-level graphics out of it.

  The sound effects and soundtrack are also superb and do a great job to add to the overall experience.  As before the voice acting is top notch with the return of Ellen McLain and the addition of Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmons.  (a favorite of mine)

  Valve's continuation and integration of the storyline (into the HL universe) has been fantastic.  While it may not open the door for huge HL2 Episode 3 integration, it's nevertheless interesting, well-crafted and makes for an enjoyable experience.  Perhaps we'll see more story meshing in Episode 3 and/or if there is a Portal 3.


  I've looked at the options, but haven't had a chance to try any at this point.  Honestly it looks like it could be really awesome if you find the right players and kind of a pain if you don't.  It's also a shame that 360 owners can't co-op with PC or PS3.  I think I have one person on my short friend list with P2, but feel free to contact me via email or Steam if you want to try some.  (Steam: HateTheDrake)

The Bad:

  It's difficult for me to say much of anything bad about the game without sounding like a complete lunatic.  While no game is perfect I'd say that both in the series come alarmingly close and much more so than most out there.

Loading Screens:
  With all the spiffy graphics and features involved I'm sure it takes much more umph to deliver the experience.  I'm not necessarily annoyed or even miffed about all the loading screens, but given the choice I'd certainly opt for a seamless experience.

 In general I'm not a fan of in-game micro-transactions.  Depending on the game it can feel like they've delivered a product with less content in order to hook you and bolster the sale with these additional transactions.  MegaMan 9 (WiiWare) was an example where even though it seems like they have a good amount of bone-crushing levels there are various extras to buy.  Really Capcom?  There is another game (on iOS i think) where it's filled with MT's that make the experience 'better' (faster building, more options), but are really designed to take your money.

  Luckily though the MT's I've seen in P2 are fairly benign and essentially amount to co-op skins, hats and gestures.  All of which I have no intention of buying and couldn't care less about.  Hopefully this is all they amount to and they don't start to include any upgrades that affect gameplay.  For now I'll just plop on my free scuba gear and leave it as that.  :)

Game Length:
  Ah, sure, the first game was pretty short and even with P2 being twice (?) as long, maybe there could be more.  Honestly the length is not an issue for me especially with co-op and the talk of DLC in the future.


  Obviously I'm a gushing Portal fan, maybe fanboy at this point.  Being that Portal was the first game I completed in 2010 I suspect P2 will be my first completion of 2011.  I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute of gameplay and look forward to many more hours.  Anything extra in the way of DLC or co-op is just icing on the cake (haha, get it?  oh boy, that meme is so overplayed).

  Have you played Portal or Portal 2 and what do you think?


  1. "Have you played Portal or Portal 2 and what do you think?"
    Nope, haven't played it.

    I owned the original, Portal, as part of The Orange Box on the PS3, but have only played it for about 5 minutes...if that.

    I purchased The Orange Box because of Half-Life 2, and all the good things I had heard about HL2, but I didn't really enjoy it all that much.
    I didn't think it was terrible, but I didn't see why it was so great...then again playing it a few years after it originally released could be why.

  2. Like I may have said before, I would certainly recommend giving Portal a try when you get a chance. I'm sure that's going to be tough these days. :) The original game doesn't really get rolling until about chamber 10 so it can be a very slow start.

    One thing that I don't know is how the controls feel on a console as far as aiming. For me, it's still all about the kb/mouse for a FPS (even with my time with GoldenEye) and the same holds true for portal.

    As for HL2 I can't blame you. I picked it up maybe in 2005, never played much, then installed it last summer. I put in about two hours, but got a little bored and moved onto other things. Honestly I think I like the multi-player aspects of HL/HL2 better than the games themselves. (deathmatch, counterstrike, TFC, DoD, etc..)

  3. Good morning. Good impressions - I have been playing it, but on the 360 with my son. I'd agree with pretty much everything you've said in the article. We had the Orange Box bouncing around our house for about a year now too, and while I never quite got into the shooters the way I had hoped, Portal was a pleasant surprise. Now, I've only been borrowing a friend's 360 version of P2 - I haven't ruled out eventually picking it up for the PC or the PS3 really cheap eventually for myself.

  4. Maybe it will be even lower than 66% during the winter sale. :) I've emailed a guy I know on my friends list that has it on PC so we'll see if I can pickup any co-op.

    Oh, and I finished it late Sunday night/Monday morning if you couldn't tell by all the new screeshots on steam. Really awesome stuff too. Will have to post about that soon.