So there I was standing in this dark appointment room, about to take part in my most anticipated meeting of E3 when I am almost crushed by a legion of…. writers who want to snag a Portal 2 t-shirt. Yes ladies and gentlemen that was my attempt at a clever hook to talk about what I saw with portal 2.
So I know I speak for most people when I say that the title that you wanted to see from Valve after Left 4 Dead 2 wasn’t Portal 2, but after getting to see what they have cooking for this sequel it’s very clear that we’re in for a treat.
They outlined some of their main focuses for the game, with three of them being the major focuses. The first was story, which meant bringing the same level of quality and comedy that we were introduced to in the first Portal. Something that we were told was that fans wanted more of the original Portal and Valve took that as meaning that people wanted to be surprised again, they wanted to feel the same magic that we all felt when we booted up Portal.
At this point we were introduced to a new character, an inept computer who was housed in a small orb body reminiscent of Guilty Spark named Wheatly. This little fellow spoke with a classic British accent and was easily the funniest element shown throughout the preview. His attempt at hacking the network by typing in the password in sequence order was classic. “1,1,1,1,1,1,1″ Error noise, “oh that didn’t work ok, 1,1,1,1,1,1,2.” Error noise “Ok that didn’t work, do you have a piece of paper that I can write these down on?” Glados is also back and her sterile voice and humor return and work even better than before. One major character from the first game was missing, and I am not talking about Chell, she is making her return as she finally tries to escape, no sadly I am speaking of the fan favorite, the companion cube. From what we saw and heard it doesn’t look like it’s making a return.
The second big element they wanted to improve on was gameplay, which of course if you think about it is a bit of a no brainer. Portal was all about the puzzles so I was curious to see what they were cooking up. Now while the basic concept hasn’t been changed, e.g. you using a two way portal gun to complete test rooms, Valve has added a slew of new elements to work with.
One of the first that you’ll noticed is the facility is a bit… broken down from all the time that had elapsed. So instead of just dealing with the inside of the complex you’ll also have to traverse the depths of the jungle outside.
In addition we were introduced to some of the new testing features being added, one of the first was a giant vacuum that turned any exit point of the portal gun into a little black hole that would suck everything in. This little contraption was called the Pneumatic Diversity Vent. In addition you can now feed a tractor beam through one end of the portal allowing you move objects out of the way, or make a bridge/path for yourself over deadly parts of a test room. Lastly they showed us some of the Gel’s known as the Repulsion and Propulsion Gel. As you can guess the Repulsion one pushes you away or in this case launch you away, while the Propulsion Gel accelerates your speed.
Seeing these new elements in action shows that there is going to be no shortage of new and crazy puzzles to figure out, but Valve is extremely focused to make sure that the puzzles don’t become overwhelming.
In terms of length there isn’t a solid number etched in stone yet but we were promised that it would be at least double the length of the original title. In addition there will be a standalone co-op mode that will feature its own set of maps for you and a friend.
The finally major element is music, however we weren’t shown what Valve was doing with that element yet, but I am more than confident that it will be just as good as the other improved areas.
By the end of the preview my take was that this wasn’t just Portal with more puzzles, they were taking the soul of the original and creating something fresh and new, taking all the elements that made it a classic and taking it to the next level. So while it isn’t Half-Life, it sure is one of my most anticipated games of next year.