Portal and Portal 2, as well as the lore and Eastereggs AND its relation to the Half-Life franchise, have always been near and dear to me. I loved both games, particularly Portal 2, and I can’t wait to review it. Before I do, however, I have to say that this game isn’t perfect just because it’s developed by Valve under our lord and savior, praise be his name, Gabe Newel. You won’t find any circle-jerky crap in this review. I’m going to rate and critique this game as fairly as possible, while still letting you know that, in the end, it’s a great game.
Even though this game was released on a previous generation of consoles and is nearing the half-decade mark, I will not implement the nostalgia tax since, for reasons covered in my review, it is still a modern game.
What’s the lifespan? [How many times did I step away from the game and come back to play that game again instead of a different one? How long will it last as a playable title in the future?]
This game, at least for me, is a game on which I binge for hours, but then I don’t play it again for a long while, sometimes weeks. I have plenty of games in my library, but I never think to myself ‘you know, I should try to make time for this one because I really enjoy it vastly more than others’, it’s more along the lines where I play it to see what new crazy creations the community has made for the chambers. That last statement really describes the new heart and soul of this game: the community chambers. You can really only play through the story-mode of this game so many times before you either start to be in speedrunner territory, or get bored of it.
As for how long I think that Portal 2 will last into the future…it depends. Portal 2 will last as long as the community keeps making new chambers for it, and I’m sure that the production will slow more and more over the next coming years and it will fade away like a beloved king in old age. I think that would be the best way for things to end, at least in my opinion. Is the game dying? Yes, but it is a slow, calm, and relatively happy death (for a game, that is).
How long did I play the game in total at the time of making this review?
Total Hours Played – Score: 80/80
Even though this game doesn’t have as much in terms of a story (playtime, not substance), I still have 25 hours in the game. For me, considering how many titles that I own, that’s pretty substantial considering that the campaign of the game only took me about 3 hours.
Hours Per Session – Score: 20/20
Each time that I play it, I usually can’t put it down unless something happens, be it a problem with the game or the fact that I need to go to bed. Of course, I’m a strange individual where I just don’t quit a puzzle unless I believe it’s poorly designed or impossible to solve (I’m confronted with many of those when I’m just scrolling through the workshop on steam). A single puzzle has taken me an hour of me just trying to figure out how to do it before I solved it and moved to a different one.
How much content is there? Did it feel like a complete, undivided experience? Did it have depth? [Hours of playtime/things to do and ways to do them, etc.]
This category gave me some internal conflict about grading the game, mostly because, at this point, the game relies on its community to keep people playing it. If this game was structured like the first iteration of the series, it would be just as dead. In many respects, I’m still torn up about how I rate this game, because I’m rating this game for you, the player, but critiquing how it was given to us by the developers. Like I said, the story won’t take up much of your time, and the co-op campaign won’t either if your partner in science understands the mechanics as well as you do (poking fun at you, boobear). With co-op and singleplayer and challenges accounted for, you’re looking at maybe 10 hours (at least in my case).
I don’t want to say that giving the tools for your community to go above and beyond what you put in your game is lazy, but considering how deep the pockets of Valve are and were when this game was released, 3 hours really isn’t that much for a single-player focused game. What, are you gonna create puzzles them solve them yourself? Still, I have to give credit where credit is due which is why I didn’t dock this game more points than what I did. The chamber creation tool is very, very good and has allowed me to enjoy this game past my initial expectation of its released lifespan.
How engaged did I become? How much of an impact did it have on me?
This game had me thoroughly invested in the story while I was playing it. ‘I thought I was really there’ is a popular expression that fits well with me while I played this game. In terms of impact, it really shaped a lot of what I expect from voice acting and gameplay mechanics within the FPS Puzzle genre. The only part of the game that really took me out of it was when Wheatley suggested something in the beginning of the game (ugh, no spoilers). To me, it was obvious what would happen after that.
How well were things explained? [Was the story captivating and the mechanics understandable?]
Mechanics – Score: 35/35
Everything is done excellently and fluidly. There was nothing that took me out of the experience, and there weren’t any unfair puzzles with too many timing elements in them. This game weens you into it and teaches you things one at a time before throwing everything at you, which is crucial to make sure that you aren’t confused as you progress through the game.
Story/Lore – Score: 60/65
It’s too bad that you have to go outside the game to get the full context of it. If you didn’t read the comics that were published by Valve before Portal 2 was released, you didn’t really know what was happening or why. At the end of the first Portal game, you blacked out on the surface…only to reawaken in an extended relaxation vault? Except for the fact that you’re back in Aperture Laboratories, everything else makes complete sense as you play the game and all of it is believable.
How was the gameplay?
From the front to the back and on the side, this game is really good at what it does. It doesn’t try to be anything else than what it is, which is a FPS Puzzle Platformer using teleportation. Every puzzle developed by Valve is great and makes you really think the first time that you do it, taking minutes to hours for some people to solve, but none of it is unfair or ‘too hard’ for people that are playing it the first time. I’m always satisfied with the game when I play it.
How much were my senses tickled?
SFX – Score: 10/10
Everything sounds great and fulfilling. I have an attention to detail that many others have, but I really make sure that I take note of everything. Everyone might notice the footsteps a person makes, but it rarely, for me, falls into background noise. The sound your footsteps make change when walking on different surfaces, and they make sense and sound believable. Setting a portal in place just feels nice when you do it, and the sounds it makes are believable.
Soundtrack – Score: 18/20
The soundtrack was perfect for the game, but at the same time, nothing about it was memorable. There are pretty much two tones of the game, and two tones of music. I love EDM and I can tell you the difference between vaporwave, big room house, dubstep, dirtystep, etc. Besides 9999999 and Cara Mia Addio on the soundtrack, I couldn’t listen to the soundtrack and remember precisely where I was in the game at the time that song was playing. Is it good? Yes, of course, but it just didn’t quite get me the way that I would want a soundtrack to do so in a game like this.
Voice Acting – Score: 20/20
Valve hires the perfect people for the job as always. Believable acting makes a believable story makes a compelling game. Good job, everyone involved. Also, JK Simmons is awesome.
Graphics – Score: 19/20
To me, the graphics aren’t quite realistic, nor are they completely stylized. It’s a weird mix of the two that make me somewhat uncomfortable. When the game was released, it already looked somewhat dated. I will say, however, that the wildlife and foliage looked amazing.
Controllability -Score: 30/30
Quick, responsive, tight, and intuitive controls are necessary in any game, and this game definitely has them.
How few bugs were there? [Any glitches in the game negatively impact the score based on how much they ‘broke’ the game or ruined my experience. After first week only.]
When it comes to quality control and assurance, I can’t think of a company that does it better than Valve. Be it on the XBox or PC, I never experienced any bugs while I was playing on my own. But wait…there is something…I can’t quite remember…oh yea. It crashes my damn computer almost every time I play it if I’m running OBS and streaming to Twitch.tv. No other game does this besides CS:GO, but at least its only the game that crashes. It’s been five years, Volvo. GabeN pls.
Availability and diversity of settings?
You want settings? You got settings. The sad thing is, is that it’s sometimes difficult to tell just what kind of changes one actually made when you mess around in the menu. I consider that a limitation of the Source engine, though.
How was the optimization? [ Size of files, ability to run smoothly, etc.]
Sizes – Score: 30/30
I thought that this game would be much larger than what it is at 11.4GB. I thought it would be at least 15GB, but I suppose that is one of the perks of the Source engine, the fact that it is very compressed and well-managed. I hear Source2 is going to kill Source in every way, though. That’s exciting.
Performance – Score: 68/70
By myself, great. Doing anything else at the same time like Alt-Tabbing or streaming? Huge issues for me.
Performance At Launch [First week only.] – Score: -0/20
DLC/Microtransaction – Score: -0/20
Customizability – Score: -0/20
Community Correspondence – Score -0/20
Promises – Score: -0/20
Performance At Launch [First week only.] – Score: 20/20
In my opinion, the performance at launch was better than what it is now. I honestly think most of it has to do with new compatibility errors as the game ages but new programs are released, so I’m not too mad about it. I don’t like not being able to stream the game, though.
DLC/Microtransaction – Score: 20/20
Free story DLC and non-invasive Microtransactions that are purely cosmetic? I’m happy about that, actually.
Customizability – Score: 0/20
There is very little outside of what you can buy, and the nicest/coolest ones are things for which you have to pay. I don’t have a problem with this, but you won’t get extra credit for it.
Cross-Platform – Score: 20/20
Released on PS3, XB360, PC, Mac, and Linux all nearly simultaneously? Sweet.
Promises – Score: 0/20
For better or worse, Valve is extremely private about their IPs and their evolution and continuation. They don’t get extra-credit because they didn’t really make any promises, thus they couldn’t really lie about anything. It’s an okay business practice…it’s better than lying, but I would prefer companies make promises then keep them versus release a game without much prefacing.
~~~~~Final Score: 1,014 / 1,000~~~~~
This game is wonderful. If studies are correct, it even raises your IQ and boost performance in logic-based courses in academia. Just play it for yourself, mang. I love this game, and I have loved this game for a long time. Why wouldn’t I want to share it? Yes, it has flaws, but it truly does shine as a game that is FPS that doesn’t need you to shoot baddies or blow up objectives to keep you entertained. It’s fun by yourself, it’s fun with a friend, and it will (if you like puzzles, that is) keep you busy and full of enjoyment for hours at a time if you let it.