Portal 2

Portal 2 Review for PC

On: PCXbox 360PS3

Full-fledged follow-up to the first-person puzzle game.

Review Verdict Read Review
10Out of 10
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Portal 2 screenshot
Portal 2 screenshot

The following review is spoiler-free.

Fear not: this review has been the subject of endless scrutinisation to ensure that you, our cherished reader, do not have one of the best experiences of 2011 - nay, of recent years - ruined for you in any way, shape or form. To that end, there are no plot spoilers, no dialogue quotes, no references to cake or lies, no lyrics from Still Alive used as cheesy puns and no explanations of what happened at the end of the first game (for those that weren't intellectually on the ball enough to finish it). All of which has made this a right bugger to write.

It begins in what appears to be a motel room; a quaint little cubicle furnished with a bed, desk and the odd decorative object. You've been asleep for some time, hauled out of a mammoth slumber by an energetic banging on the door and a familiar voice. It's that Bristolian chap from the Barclays adverts, Ricky Gervais' pal - Stephen Merchant. Only here he's a spherical robot with a blinking blue eye - something known as a Personality Sphere. Despite the simplicity of his design - a lack of any distinguishing features at all, really - Wheatley possesses more personality than the cast of most other games put together.

I think he might be my favourite video game character of all time.

Valve has an uncanny knack for bringing life and colour to even the most mundane of objects. Remember the Weighted Companion Cube? An inanimate block that was little more than six uniform faces decorated with love hearts? Of course you do, because you became inexplicably attached to it, then ashamed of the cruel, cruel thing GLaDOS forced you to do to it. Such is the power of Erik Wolpaw's script-writing talents, which are of an even higher calibre the second time around. Portal 2 raises the bar for dialogue delivery, presenting a continuous stream of hilarious chatter, witty insults and comical references to past antics. All of which I can't talk about.

It's a distressing situation to be in as a games journalist, because all the best bits in the game - the bits that justify the hefty score at the end of this review - are all closely intertwined with the narrative. You'll just have to take my word for it: the characters, dialogue, and twists and turns of the plot are Portal 2's shining accomplishment.

Portal 2 screenshot

I assume you'd like something in the way of contextualisation, however, so here's the horrendously vague gist of it all. That motel room I mentioned at the start of my review? You break out of it and soon find yourself back in Aperture Science labs. It isn't long before you're the subject of a familiar testing regime once again, a plaything for GLaDOS, the potty AI from the first game. And that's all I'll say on the matter.

So, let's talk puzzles - the test chambers designed to put your ability at thinking with wormholes to the test. Armed with your trusty portal gun - blue portal on the right trigger, orange on the left - you'll need to get from a starting point to a designated exit, with the space in between stitched together with all manner of button-pressing, bottomless-pit-crossing, laser-redirecting and killer-turret-avoiding. In order to succeed, you'll need to set up your portals in the right places at precisely the right time. This requires an out-of-the-box approach to thinking and a relaxed attitude to abstract concepts. Even after four years, I still find it totally bewildering to walk through one portal and emerge from the other in a completely different location.

The first Portal was undeniably brilliant, but most of its puzzles were variants of the same handful of concepts. Portal 2 is a far more diverse experience in this respect, introducing a host of new mechanics and subsequent applications of your portals.

Surface modifiers are the most notable example of this, which give new properties to a wall or floor. Blue Repulsion Gel, for example, lets you bounce to lofty new heights, while the orange Propulsion Gel boosts your speed, letting you zip through one portal and emerge from the other with enough pace to cross otherwise impassable chasms. Conversion Gel is slightly different, allowing you to paint over a surface so that it can support wormholes. Latter puzzles bring together all three gels, which turns a test chamber into a scene from an infant school art lesson.

Light Bridges allow the creation of tangible walkways across test chambers. Pop a portal on a wall at the destination of a light bridge (they flow from a source, kind of like a river), and the walkway will continue to beam out of your second portal, wherever that may be. Excursion Fans work in a similar fashion, although they lack the same tangibility. They're best imagined as air vents, magically carrying anything caught in the stream until something blocks its path.

Portal 2 doesn't just welcome diversity in terms of its inner mechanics. Where the original game maintained a clean and clinical feel from start to finish, Portal 2 presents imperfect and structurally deformed test chambers, areas overrun with vegetation, and others tainted by human hands. Subsequently, the adventure feels far more grandiose, with the weight of the narrative supported by a range of impressive environments and settings. Obviously I can't talk about where things head towards the end of the game, but OH MY GOD.

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User Comments

SexyJams's Avatar


Of course it's a ten out of ten :)
Can't wait to play it. One day.
Posted 19:13 on 19 April 2011


8.40 AM? Are you crazy?!

Good review, I was quite looking forward to reading it. Glad to see it got a ten, but I'd be suprised if it didn't. My copy's been dispatched and so, I'll be up nice and early tommorow to play it.

Also, was this the 360 version you played? And if not does the SteamWorks integration make any significant sifference?
Posted 12:53 on 19 April 2011
scaz2244's Avatar


damn it another great valve game that i must buy i bet portal thinker is jizzing himself over this score
Posted 12:52 on 19 April 2011
draytone's Avatar


Not sure how much shipping will cost? http://www.teefury.com/ maybe portal_thinker will get one of these? :D
Posted 12:20 on 19 April 2011
Wido's Avatar


Nice read and especially being spoiler free! I give Jamin major kudos there as I haven't finished Portal 1 yet.

I'm going to play devil's advocate here but my view will heavily focus on Portal 1. I definitely see where the appeal is within Portal but with the harder puzzles coming right at the end (I presuming I am at the end), because I have told people where I am and they say I am not from the end. Anyhoo... I'm on test chamber 17 or 18 either one of them, and starting to make me think more than compared to 15, which was a little brain thinker but wasn't difficult.

Portal just isn't ticking the boxes for me personally what people have been saying about it. Maybe my view will change when I finish Portal and try the master challenges, is it called that?

Looks like I may have to get Portal 2 at a later date when it drops down in price. So many good titles out this year I haven't even thought of Portal 2 at all to be quite frank.

Once again, good read Jamin and thanks for making it spoiler free! Made it a even better read in my position as I haven't finished Portal 1. Bravo! 10+ TU's from me! :D
Posted 12:18 on 19 April 2011
thompo555's Avatar

thompo555@ draytone

Well its mine!

I haven't played it yet - I'm almost crying with anticipation! I'm also not reading any more reviews, for one I only trust Jamin not to spoil it. If I did read others I may get a little over excited!
Posted 11:48 on 19 April 2011
draytone's Avatar


Yep, 95 on metacritic for the 360 and higher on PS3... GOTY? :p
Posted 11:41 on 19 April 2011
EverTheOptimist's Avatar


Looks like other critics agree too - almost top marks across the board from the sites I've had a quick look at.
Posted 11:36 on 19 April 2011
Stegosaurus-Guy-II's Avatar


Mine hasn't even been posted yet.

Maybe digital distribution really is the better option.
Posted 11:30 on 19 April 2011
squidman's Avatar


Played Jamin's copy in one sitting last night. Incredible game - hard to see ANYTHING topping it this year, and that includes Mass Effect 3. Hoping my own copy arrives by Thursday so I can spend the bank holiday playing it a second time with director's commentary.
Posted 11:23 on 19 April 2011
thompo555's Avatar



Jamin, you're half god and half envy of my life. Brilliant review, I only wish I could have played it already!

Soo.. Who wants co-op, my PS3, Mac and PC freinds?
Posted 11:23 on 19 April 2011
EverTheOptimist's Avatar


I did half-expect this to get a full 10/10, but I'm so glad to see it has. Fingers crossed mine turns up Thursday morning - I don't think I've been this excited to play a game :D
Posted 10:53 on 19 April 2011
African_Woolf's Avatar


Steam! You unwieldy behemoth, work damn you WORK! I want MOAR PORTAL 2!!!!

South African internet - the leading cause of violence.
Posted 10:49 on 19 April 2011
87Sarah's Avatar


I can't wait!! :)
Posted 10:36 on 19 April 2011
draytone's Avatar


OMG OMG OMG OMG! Portal 2 is amazing!
Posted 09:27 on 19 April 2011

Game Stats

System Requirements
Portal 2
Out of 10
Portal 2
  • Co-op is fantastic
  • Incredibly well-written
  • Great diversity to puzzles
  • Genuinely hilarious
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 21/04/2011
Platforms: PC , Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Valve
Genre: Puzzle
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 440 18
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