"It's been a looong time..." Those are not the first words spoken in the game "Portal 2", thanks to Wheatley the blue personality core that we all know since Valve announced Portal 2 in last years E3, no, but those are the first words spoken by Aperture Science' Enrichment Center inhabitant GlaDOS who (which? What is the correct term for an artificial, female intelligence?) got blown to pieces by us, the player, in Portal part 1, followed by the iconic Jonathan Coulton song "Still Alive" which now prooves to be true. GlaDOS indeed is still alive, and she seems pretty insulted because of what we did to her.
But from the start. Chell, the player character from part 1, has been dragged away by the Party Escort Bot which was patched into the original game last year a few weeks before the huge announcement of Portal 2. It turns out Chell was being put into hypersleep for an unspecified ammount of time, maybe centuries, maybe less or more... it is not explained.
As we get woken up by Wheatley, the slightly annoying personality core voiced by british actor Stephen Merchant, we are being told that he wants to help us escape. So we follow the cores directions and finally land in GlaDOS's old chamber. Plants have grown in there, even some birds now live in the Enrichment Center which gives the whole game a totally different look from part one, where the environment was clinical. It is a slightly different and more lively Enrichment Center we are in here, with moving pistons and wallplates. As GlaDOS awakes (we know that part from the trailers already so it is no spoiler) she celebrates the return of Chell by throwing her back into the testing area with the thought of doing some testing and then finish what did not work out the last time. But it would be pretty boring if that did work out for her so easily and things go different then planned...
This is most of what I can tell about the story without spoiling some very huge surprises that lay before the player so I will stop here, but it is gonna be a rollercoaster ride that takes us to the beginnings of Aperture Science and back. We learn a lot of history about the company, their founder Cave Johnson and other things that might make one or another person stare at the screen. What i like most with the game is the environment. Instead of the clean laboratory look we see the facility more from his other side, a giant, breathing complex deep beneath the surface of the earth. I am fascinated by such facilities since I saw my first James Bond movie and this game totally caters to this fascination. Valve really outdid themselves this time with the building design.
There are several new game elements which cleverly have been introduced by several videos over the last months, so the player knows what to expect and they do not need to be explained in the game that much anymore. Lightbridges provide cover and passage, lasers can be used for disposal or activating sensors and the gels (blue for jumping, orange for speed) add a cartoonish feel to the game... ever wondered what it is to step on soap like in a Tom & Jerry cartoon? Use orange gel to find out. And there is the mysterious white gel which I won't speak too much of as it kind of is a very vital part to the whole story.
The dialogues are very good, the whole voicecast does outstanding work starting with Ellen McLain as GlaDOS ofcourse, though the real star is J.K Simmons (who played J.J. Jameson in Spider Man) who voiced the mysterious founder of Aperture Science: Cave Johnson! How they implement his voice? Sorry, you need to play to hear it. Stephen Merchant who dubs Wheatley also does a great job though many fans would have preferred the "original" voice Valve quickly used for the E3 presentation which was done by Valve employee Richard Lord. However, Merchant does a very good job and his british accent really adds to the comedy value. (Not to say british people are funny because of their accent! No honestly. But british humor is popular for a reason... All good? ^_~)
The game is very motivating but a bit short maybe, I took roughly 10 hours to go through it but mainly it was short because it only took me 2 days. How I did that? Once you are in the story you wanna know what is next, so I sat six hours on one day to finish it. I am not usually a person who does that but yes, that is how it goes with Portal 2. The coop has roughly the same ammount of gameplay so if you have a friend you can double the fun, controlling Atlas and P-Body the two lovable robots GlaDOS built exclusively for testing. Lets hope for some good coop mods in the future!
Downsides? Well there are some. Apart of the relative short game there are loading screens between the stages which mainly consist of the Aperture Science logo that changes fitting to the part you are playing. I personally would have preferred the traditional Valve approach of freezing the game for a moment or two and loading but that is personal taste. Apart of that I did not really see many bad things in the game. The sounddesign and music are good, the graphics look very nice and its overall a "Do not miss!" game.
Portal 2 is available on PC, XBox 360 and PS3... oh wait! I almost forgot to mention the very unique ability of the PS3 version. It is the first game on a console to include Steamcloud so the theory is that you can play for example coop with a friend on a PC. I was not able to actually check this though because all people I know play the PC version, which really is good and presumably easier to control because of the old Mouse and Keyboard advantage.