One weapon. How could a game possibly be good with just one weapon? Certainly it would get old in no time flat? That's what some wondered about the original "Portal." But that game lasted less than three hours? Could having just a single weapon sustain an entire, $60 game with over 10 hours of gameplay? As it turns out, yes. Just ask "Portal 2," one of the best games I've played in years.
"Portal 2" comes in two discrete parts. The first is a single-player campaign which continues the events of the original game. You're once again playing Chell, a voiceless test subject deep in the bowels of Aperture Science. Her weapon of choice? A portal gun which is capable of linking two points in space, allowing her to walk from one point to the next instantly.
The second part is a cooperative campaign which lets you and a buddy play as test subject robots, both equipped with portal guns. The co-op campaign is entirely separate from the main story and features its own mini story, puzzles and challenges.
The History of Aperture Science
The original "Portal" was about as light on story as you could get. You were in a facility with a maniac AI, you had to solve test chambers to escape, bing bang boom. In "Portal 2," there's much more story to digest...but it goes down smooth. Throughout the course of the game, you learn about the origins of the facility you're attempting to escape, why it was created, and who its inhabitants are. Personal revelations are less important than environmental revelations. It's a fascinating journey.
There's a tiny handful of voice actors in this game, and yet each one does such a magnificent job with the roles they were given and the brilliant dialog that you can't help but want to hear more from them...even when they're talking about trying to kill you.
I was genuinely concerned that the "Portal" formula wouldn't work over the course of a 6-8 hour game. I worried for naught. While you're only using a portal gun, Valve has introduced a variety of gels, gadgets and laser beams to keep the puzzles fresh and interesting. The game's learning curve is deviously smooth, as well, with each element introduced slowly before ramping up in complexity. Towards the end of the game, everything is thrown at the player, but their earlier experienced has primed them well. A perfect balance of challenge without frustration.
Valve could've easily sold this game without co-op, but its addition makes a must-have game even more desirable. The co-op challenges are as entertaining to solve as the solo campaign challenges, but the addition of another player (either online or in split-screen) makes for mandatory coordination and shared enthusiasm at figuring out a puzzle.
Co-Op Lag Issues
There were times when I ran into strange lag issues when in co-op that seemed to persist, no matter what connection I was using. It was generally consistent, but every once in a while I'd have to redo certain co-op challenges because the lag would warp me backwards. Not much fun, but rare enough to not hinder the gameplay experience.
This review was intentionally vague, as the experience of "Portal 2" should be enjoyed with as little preface as possible. If you haven't played the first game, I'd definitely recommend that first. Once that's out of the way, let nothing get in your way of playing through "Portal 2." It's a masterpiece.