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Portal (PC) artwork

Portal (PC) review


"A woman fires an obtuse, pale weapon in to a pit, jumps down roughly two stories, pops through a hole in her original level, and is propelled to an elevated platform. In the android supervisor’s Microsoft Sam-esc voice, “fast stuff goes in, fast stuff comes out.” Such is Valve’s new game, Portal, part of their Half-Life 2 Orange Box compilation. "



A woman fires an obtuse, pale weapon in to a pit, jumps down roughly two stories, pops through a hole in her original level, and is propelled to an elevated platform. In the android supervisor’s Microsoft Sam-esc voice, “fast stuff goes in, fast stuff comes out.” Such is Valve’s new game, Portal, part of their Half-Life 2 Orange Box compilation.

Without giving away any spoilers, I’m going to say that near everything about this game is hilarious. From the dialogue to the hidden graffiti found in several levels, Portal delivers a large number of genuine laugh out loud moments- not to mention the musical bit sung during the end credits (don’t skip it). The supervisor’s innocent comments and names for clearly deadly materials are golden, not to mention how it thinks the ultimate reward or reparation for any hardship humans undergo is cake.

In the short span of playtime (3-5 hours), the player controls a generic, unnamed test subject in Black Mesa’s (Half-Life, Half-Life 2) rival facility, Aperture Labs. You’re testing out a portal gun. A portal gun is a dully named weapon that opens a hole in one surface and dispenses whatever is put through out a second hole in another. The player makes their way through the Aperture Labs facility, navigating over what’s essentially the classic “don’t fall in” pit by activating a series of moving platforms or propelling themselves over high barriers (as mentioned in the first paragraph). The player activates switches by either pressing buttons or dropping crates on large targets on the floor, skirting turrets all the way. That doesn’t sound at all fun, but really, it is.

Portal’s downfall is that the obstacles encountered are simply too generic. Yes, the developers did great things by making the turrets talk to themselves (“Hello? Are you out there?”, or when deactivated, “No hard feelings”), but a pit of toxic waste has been pretty overused in most video games. Also, though the length is near perfect (3-5 hours for most, 12 for the president of EA when demoing it), I’d have liked maybe a half an hour more – any longer and it’d get dull, quick. Valve makes up for this by offering bonus maps and levels. On the subject of time, it would be nice if the levels lengths time-wise were a little closer together. The last two take up over an hour, while the previous ones in total take up around two. The other issue with the game is that sometimes you just can’t aim quick enough (I think this will crop up a lot more in console versions), making it pretty damned hard at some parts.

As a PC game, Portal is a fantastic addition to the Orange Box. As an Xbox 360 or PS3 game, though, you’ll have to wait and see. I’m not sure how well the WASD and mouse combo will translate onto controllers. There were some times in the last two levels where I got pretty frustrated about not being able to turn or aim quick enough.

On a scale of 1-10, a 5-6.5 being average, this game gets a 9.5.

Rating: 9/10

JEFFARGH's avatar
Community review by JEFFARGH (October 12, 2007)

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