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Portal 2 (Xbox 360) artwork

Portal 2 (Xbox 360) review


"So, if Portal is the equivalent to a Pixar short that pops up before a lame Disney movie, then Portal 2 is the full-length Pixar follow-up. "



The video game, Portal, was a short, but unique title that was first introduced by many on The Orange Box, released back in 2007. In a market saturated with a million first-person shooters, Portal provided a different experience in the genre: a puzzle game where you need to figure out solutions with the help of two portals, created by your portal gun. Though, you couldn't just place portals anywhere, as that would create more problems, so you would have to work with the limited, white, flat surfaces that are carefully placed within each room. The puzzles themselves aren't really headache-inducing, but Valve made sure they were designed in such a creative manner, ways in which made the short journey through the game quite a pleasant one. Like you were at some kind of obscure amusement park. Rounding off the product was an entertaining, simple plot of a mute woman (you), being forced through test chambers by a robot with an incredible ego, the unforgettable GLaDOS. This AI alone was responsible for most of the game's charming, albeit demented humor, as she would mess with your mind constantly and say absurd and silly things in such a straight manner.

So, if Portal is the equivalent to a Pixar short that pops up before a lame Disney movie, then Portal 2 is the full-length Pixar follow-up. The sequel's single-player mode is pretty huge when compared to the original, but the intent to tell a much bigger story is the driving force behind this successor. In fact, the plot takes such a high-priority, that it's really hard to tell much without ruining the entire thing. Portal 2 is like a rollercoaster ride, based almost exclusively around twists and turns, and you would only truly, genuinely get the full shebang if you don't read anything concerning the story beforehand. The only aspect I can mention is the same avatar, the mute Chell, returns for another go, but this time accompanied by a hilarious and endearing robot by the name of Wheatley. The thing is a bumbling idiot, but no matter what it does, it's hard to hate that metallic eyeball. In fact, if you really, really enjoyed the plot and characters from the first, you're going to get a kick out of the second game's expansion of that universe.

I wish I can say the puzzles don't take a back seat to the story, but... they actually do. That's not to say they've been toned down, but if you've played the predecessor, especially right before diving into this sequel, then a lot of the puzzles have very similar situations. There were rare times I had brain farts, and they mostly occurred mid-way through the game, when new elements were introduced, elements that are able to manipulate the functionality of surfaces. However, for the most part, you have typical Portal puzzles to contend with. At least in Portal 1, you were given Advanced and Challenge modes which rearranged puzzles and forced you to complete them in as few steps as possible. It gave Xbox 360 gamers a valid excuse to go back and replay the game right after completion.

In Portal 2's single-player mode, those two modes are sadly absent, which severely cuts the replay value down to a bare minimum. Only if you had a major hard-on for the story, would you ever replay it so soon.

That leaves the new co-op mode with the daunting task of carrying this weight. Now, considering the nature of Portal's play mechanics, having the ability to solve puzzles with another gamer could have been a catastrophe. With all the possible ways it could've turned out, Valve actually did a competent job with this mode. And you know how they pulled it off? B... by changing nothing, really. You get more of the trademark puzzle-solving the franchise is known for with, of course, an extra hand, and with the help of simple-to-use markers and commands, you can help your partner if they seem lost and confused. The only way this would ever be super hard is if you're playing with a complete idiot or griefer, which is bound to happen with a random matchup.

Interesting note about that, though: Valve has made playing with randoms the very last option in the co-op menus, and even has an extra disclaimer advising against such an action if you select it. I just find it funny they would include such an option, yet do everything in their power to persuade you to play with friends only.

Unfortunately, co-op has the exact same issue as the single-player mode: once you know all the solutions, you know all the solutions. The one and only time you'll be truly engrossed is when you're playing for the first time, along with another first-timer. After that, it's not as thrilling... unless you get your kicks screwing with your partners. I enjoyed Portal 2, I really did, because it's an adventure filled with witty humor, colorful characters, and clever moments; however, it reminds me of the type of movies that are fun to watch once in a blue moon, because constant, immediate viewings diminish the experience. To put it more bluntly, it's basically the Doom 3 of puzzle games.

Rating: 6/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (April 24, 2011)

After reviews about Gradius, Salamander, Parodius, and Otomedius games, PickHut attempted a Scramble review. The idea never materialized into writing...

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Feedback

If you enjoyed this Portal 2 review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Masters posted April 24, 2011:

You got this up very quickly, Pickhut. I'm almost finished the single player campaign, and was really interested to see what you'd say about the game... You must have prepared yourself for some backlash considering the whole of the known world says this game is the best thing since pizza.

I don't have an issue with your score, per se, but your review seems pretty complimentary to end up with a 6. I actually expected to see an 8 before I got to the bottom. It is an expensive purchase, and so replay seems especially important... but that's an awful lot of marks to deduct.

Personally, while I enjoyed the expansion of the character universe as you put it, part of me feels that Portal worked better as the small slice of puzzley fun that it was originally. Now it's bigger and bolder, but not necessarily better; some of the areas in the middle (marked by Cave's commentary) are dull and decidedly unfun.

Anyway, I liked your review, and agreed with your take on most things. Because you're right: there was no reason to omit the advanced levels which added so much to the experience.
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Suskie posted April 24, 2011:

6/10 because it doesn't have any replay value? Good lord.
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pickhut posted April 24, 2011:

To answer both your reactions to the rating, I was originally going to give it a 7/10, but it ultimately did end up as a 6, because replay value is such an important aspect for me. I had a blast playing Portal 2, and was really satisfied with the final moments of the game, but when I went back to get some of the achievements, I did find it pretty shocking how quickly I blazed through some of the sections just to find one chamber. I realized it was going to be one of those games that I probably won't replay again for a very long time because I knew its ins and outs so well. If I'd replay it again right now, I'd probably get through the whole thing in 2/3 hours max, minus the satisfaction of figuring out solutions and enjoying the story.

Those Advanced and Challenge modes would have made such a difference, since then, I would be replaying the game again, however, the satisfaction of trying to figure out puzzles, harder puzzles, would still be there, instead of just breezing through the same puzzles that aren't even that hard and will never change.

Thanks for reading, btw!
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TerrifiedConsequence posted April 24, 2011:

I don't believe what i'm reading. What is the point of a game ? Where does the sense of being rewarded come from ?

If you look at even the simplest game such as Backgammon, the joy of playing it is that you lose a lot of matches in the beginning,but you learn from those losses. You began to iterate a simple guideline of playing the game , a norm of action, in videogames mostly this experience is empirical ,as opposed to Chess, Go or bridge or sports games, which is more theoritical. That is mainly the biggest saling point of games. Every match or situation provides you with a very different set of condition raised by the emergence. This applies to combat-based games (Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta, etc) ,where the enemies react differently every time you encounter them, or your position and that of your opponents differ from each scenario and demands your resourcefullness and flexibility while still remainig within the empirical guidelines you've iterated, to puzzle games (Tetris , Bejeweled), to sports games, to plattformers, to RTS etc. Online games are a testament as to why the resourcefullness within the confinement of a certain guideline despite of the emergence and the vast difference of each match-situation is the most satisfying aspect in gaming. It doesn't have to be competitive to begin with, with Bejeweled and Tetris as prime examples, but the dynamic, the emergence has to be there.

Portal does not have any emergence whatsoever. The environement is still. The one that is moving is your alter-ego. The environement does not 'compete' against you. It does not try to hinder your progress ,and you don't try to hinder the environement's progress. There is not dynamic , no emergence to speak of. There is no gathering experience from each loss that can be used for future situations, You are not asked to be resourceful in the face of any unpredictable condition, because THERE IS NO UNPREDICTABILITY WHATSOEVER.

That is why Portal has no 'replay value', which every flash Backgammon game out-there has, due to its lack of dynamic ,lack of input demand from the player.
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Suskie posted April 24, 2011:

I see you haven't even bothered to change your avatar this time. What are you, some kind of noob?
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TerrifiedConsequence posted April 24, 2011:

Nice cop-out . Who are you ?
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Suskie posted April 24, 2011:

Shin Megami Tensei sucks.
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TerrifiedConsequence posted April 24, 2011:

Hmm, i'll try to decipher that later, but for now, i just put your replay-value argument and you in your place.

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Suskie posted April 24, 2011:

You know what has replay value? BioWare games.
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TerrifiedConsequence posted April 24, 2011:

What do BioWare games have to do with Portal 2?Stop crying like a little bitch.
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True posted April 24, 2011:

I was here like 20 minutes ago and there were three comments. Then I saw there were 11 and I was thinking How the hell did that happen? Now I know why. Ha ha. I hate to say it, but I kind of missed him. And by missing I mean I've not had a dose of utter hatred for some weeks now, and it's like my morning coffee.

It amuses me, but this forum has a point and that isn't it.

So, if Portal is the equivalent to a Pixar short that pops up before a lame Disney movie, then Portal 2 is the full-length Pixar follow-up.

One of the most descriptive lines I've read in a long time. Good work.
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Suskie posted April 24, 2011:

I knew I could bring him out.
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TerrifiedConsequence posted April 24, 2011:

Like the last time you brought out something relevant to a discussion ?
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 24, 2011:

Yeah, but his trolling technique is getting a bit old. It's funnier when you don't know the person is a troll, but you find out later and you feel like a dumbass for getting so fired up.
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True posted April 24, 2011:

I have a pretty long list of things I've got fired up about that maybe I shouldn't have. The RunningFree troll thing is pretty low on there.
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Halon posted April 24, 2011:

I'll give my opinion some other time but I didn't think the game was as short as everyone is making it out to be. Singleplayer is 6-10 hours depending on how quickly you solve the puzzles, coop is 3-6 hours, that's 9-16 hours which is pretty standard for a non-RPG game nowdays. The price tag might be high for the amount of gameplay present, but then again the price tag is quite high for the majority of games on the market.

Hopefully Valve adds challenge maps and/or more coop maps to the PC/PS3 versions. I have a feeling there will be future updates to the game since they made a big deal about the PS3 version being so great and all.
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TerrifiedConsequence posted April 24, 2011:

Oh, so you're reserving your opinion for an article you'll publish for the New York Times that will earn you a Pullitzer Prize in Criticism ?

Just tell us what you think, and don't be so pathetic by thinking your opinion has more value than that of ordinary posters here by restraining it.
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True posted April 24, 2011:

As long as it's entertaining, 16 hours is actually a decent amount of time. Record Of Agarest War was some 50+ hours but it was mostly redundant battles and long, drawn out dialogue.

In my opinion, the most beneficial thing a developer can do is some form of online play since it's constantly changing and greatly extends the life of a game without dragging it out with useless levels.
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pickhut posted April 24, 2011:

I'm gone for a few hours, come back, and see 18 comments, the hell.

Oh, and thanks, True. It was pretty hard not making any Pixar connections when I was playing through the game. The short film and full-length thing just kinda clicked.
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zigfried posted April 25, 2011:

If you look at even the simplest game such as Backgammon, the joy of playing it is that you lose a lot of matches in the beginning,but you learn from those losses. You began to iterate a simple guideline of playing the game , a norm of action, in videogames mostly this experience is empirical ,as opposed to Chess, Go or bridge or sports games, which is more theoritical.

Stop using words you don't understand, you poser.

It doesn't have to be competitive to begin with, with Bejeweled and Tetris as prime examples, but the dynamic, the emergence has to be there.

Hahahahahaha, "emergence"? You mean the concept that was so poorly defined that mere days after Icycalm DESTROYED the concept of "emergent gameplay", the Wikipidiots actually went back and changed the definition instead of just giving up on their stupid word?

There is no "emergence" in videogaming -- not even in flash Backgammon games. There's a big difference between videogame Backgammon and normal Backgammon, and you'd best think long and hard about that before you ever talk about "emergence" again. Everything you said about Portal's lack of "emergence" -- in an effort to contrast it against other videogames -- was stupid.

//Zig
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hmd posted April 25, 2011:

Pseudo-intellectual trolling and now referencing Kierkegaard.

This is the worst thread.
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MalevolentDecree posted April 25, 2011:

If Pat Floyd didn't spend most of the time playing garbage games like Fist Of The North Star and then still had the gall to give it an 8 and thereby fooling consumers into buying that garbage , and play challenging games like FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer, than he'd understand how counter-attacks, offside trap, through passes ,dribbling are all adjusted to the situation on the pitch. Even the slightest difference of the amount of players defending a certain area and their positions play a crucial part in how the defensive action sequences and attacking sequences will be commenced. I was able to replicate this goal on Pro Evo 2007, through training (iterating a certain action guideline and intuition) and observation of the situation on the pitch. Same goes for Backgammon. You'll be able to play it in real life against real people after playing the flash game,if you master the guideline and possess the intuitive instinct.
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True posted April 25, 2011:

Meh.

I'm editing this, because now that I think about it, getting into a spam war with you is not the best idea, regardless of how funny my comment was. But you obviously don't respond to being deleted, blocked or ignored. You just keep coming back.

So as surprising as a lot of people may find this, I'm actually just going to be an adult and give it to you honestly.

You're an extremist. While you may have valid and intelligent points to make, no one is able to look passed your insane manner of expressing them and your bully tactics. I'm not trying to give you any advice, or making suggestions. I'm just saying that no one cares, simply because of the methods you've used so far.

That's all I'm going to say on the matter I advise everyone do the same.
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zigfried posted April 25, 2011:

I would hope that we could still see valid and intelligent points as being valid and intelligent, even if they come from an "extremist" (aka, someone whose opinions and/or approach differ from the site's norms).

This guy's points aren't valid or intelligent. He would have us believe that videogames can be unpredictable -- in ways other than novices simply not understanding the game -- but in the next post cite an example (to supposedly prove his point, I assume) where he practiced and successfully replicated an event.

//Zig
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True posted April 26, 2011:

I would hope that we could still see valid and intelligent points as being valid and intelligent, even if they come from an "extremist" (aka, someone whose opinions and/or approach differ from the site's norms).

You cross a line at some point. I imagine many see me and some others in the same light, but there isn't one that disregards anyone entirely, especially if we make a valid point or decent criticism. And that is because this site is comprised mostly of intelligent, balanced individuals who don't always agree but share that one common passion. We argue and bicker, but I can't remember a time where we've written anyone off for good.

You ever see that episode of South Park where they all stopped talking to Cartman and he thought he was dead? This whole situation reminds me of that.

And I just felt the need, however futile its outcome may be, to give him one last warning and maybe inspire other users to take that step. I really don't see any other way of stopping it.

I just feel bad for Pickhut that he has to weed through this fool's crap in hopes that he's going to get some feedback.
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RemindMe posted April 26, 2011:

Replicating a predictable event happens in real life all the time. It's called exploiting weakness.
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wolfqueen001 posted April 26, 2011:

*sigh* Look at all the creative names that have to be banned now. How sad. Someone more important and useful could have used those accounts...
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 26, 2011:

I want to say something witty and D&Dish about trolls and their ability to regenerate, but I just woke up.
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Leroux posted April 26, 2011:

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
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overdrive posted April 26, 2011:

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Very appropriate to this situation. Definitely more so than the "exploiting weakness" deal, as that would require more than:

1. A completely subjective "argument" based upon (a) a reviewer reviewing a game this person doesn't deem worthy of coverage AND/OR (b) a reviewer either discussing aspects of a game this person doesn't view important or taking an opinion this person disagrees with.

2. A reaction that can best be summed up as "*yawn*...guess who's back...".

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