Few titles have influenced the gaming scene as thoroughly as Portal. From humble beginnings as indie game developers, the Narbacular Drop team were snapped up by Valve and given free rein to create a three-hour singleplayer experience that came bundled with the Orange Box – alongside heavy hitters like TF2 and HL2: E2. Neither Valve nor the gaming community were quite prepared for Portal’s almost ubiquitous success; but Valve haven’t been resting on their laurels. Portal’s team was hurriedly expanded, and development of Portal 2 enthusiastically thrown into high gear.
Like all Valve titles Portal 2 was delayed by two months, suffering from serious Valve Time (http://goo.gl/MEuS4), but its eventual launch was made all the sweeter by 10-20% preorder discounts on top of a wildly discounted selection of 13 indie games, dubbed “The Potato Sack.” Portal 2 hype was burning through both ends of a short candle with acetylene torches, and when time came to decrypt the game files and finally launch, our expectations had inflated to gargantuan proportions. Could Valve expand on what made the original so great, or was it all just a lie?
Are you still there?
After a brief loading screen we’re dumped into the body of Chell, the protagonist from the original game. Chell’s mute, effectively an empty shell for the player to be poured into. We look around. It’s a hotel room of sorts. We’re awakened by a sprightly computerised voice that could easily double as a golf commentator, who declares that we’re entombed in the “Aperture Science Extended Relaxation Centre.”
Sounds warm and inviting already.
We’re put through some amusing tests that double as tutorials, such as looking at the floor and interacting with objects, before sleeping in a big comfy bed. Already this is a very confusing start to the game. However, It doesn’t take long for everything to go to shit, and we’re awakened to the same computerised voice – strained and somewhat malfunctioning – that announces we’ve been asleep for “9…9….9…9….9”… and so on. It’s certainly been a long while: there’s an imprint of a body embedded in the mattress!
Clearly something bad has happened, and our hotel room has fallen into serious disrepair. A voice comes into the room; there’s someone at the door. We approach and it bursts open, and we s- HEY, THAT’S NOT A PERSON!
Instead we’re presented with a brand-new companion, a computing core hanging from a rail. His name is Wheatley, his accent is somewhere south of London, his IQ barely grazes room temperature and you’ll either love him to bits or hate his guts. His cold, metallic guts. Thankfully we think he’s hilarious, even when he is condescending and a serious liability. Wheatley provides narration for an impressively-animated opening sequence, where Valve dumps us in a holding pen that’s been carbon-copied from Portal 1. It’s exactly the same…well, aside from all the plants.