This was submitted to us by listener and forum fan, Darth Paxis. It’s featured in the upcoming Episode 61 of Blue Yonder…
When I confronted GlaDOS in the first Portal game, it was the end of the game, a final boss fight to give the story a solid conclusion. When I faced GlaDOS in Portal 2, I was roughly a third of the way through the story. This is a good way of summing up the difference between the two games. Portal 2 has a distinct story consisting of three parts, each introducing new story and gameplay elements. I personally found the game impossible to play in one sitting, which is what the game needs. Portal 1 ended up being the game that I would speed-run every now and then (my best time is around 50 minutes), but Portal 2 is most definitely not a speed running game, at least in single player. I’ll get to the co-op in just a second.
Like in Portal 1, Chell, the protagonist, is the only human present in the game, and like many other video game protagonists before her, she isn’t very talkative. Thus the dialogue is left up to GlaDOS, a bumbling robot named Wheatley, and the recordings of Aperture Science’s long dead CEO, Cave Johnson, voiced by Ellen Mclain, Stephen Merchant, and J.K. Simmons respectively (Mclain also voices Johnson’s assistant Caroline), and it is spot on. Every line, from GlaDOS’ continued guilt tripping, to Wheatley’s bumbling incompetence, to Johnson’s slow descent into madness, showing just how screwed up Aperture Science became under his leadership, is amusing and witty. The Achievements show the same sort of wit. For instance the end to the final boss fight has to be seen to believed and the Achievement that goes with it “Lunacy” has the description “That just happened”. The only problem is the loading screens, because there’s one after almost every challenge, but even they showcase the care Valve put into the story (pay attention to the logos and you’ll understand.)
The co-op mode tells the story of two robots, Atlas and P-body, who GlaDOS has selected for the ‘cooperative initiative”. These two robots also have a couple of cameos in the single player story. This mode shows great promise, but it takes the right partner to be able to reach it. While there is a matchmaking feature, I recommend that you avoid it as much as possible. This mode is meant to be shared with friends, not random strangers on the internet. Also make sure that you and your “partner in science” both have a healthy understanding of how portals work, and of the new elements introduced in the single player. I have done some of the co-op with both a random stranger and a friend who had played Portal 1 but not Portal 2, and I can honestly say that both experiences took away from my enjoyment of the mode, due to inability to communicate in the first instance (the icons make non verbal communication possible, but it’s hard to communicate multistep plans this way), and babysitting my friend through the new features to be found in Portal 2 in the second.
Overall, Portal 2 is an improvement over the original, managing to be challenging without being impossible, while keeping the idea of “thinking with portals” fresh and interesting in this long awaited sequel.
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