Aperture Science--manufacturer of fine shower curtains, developer of portal technology, creator of a sentient AI that is none too fond of humans, and the setting for the follow-up to Valve's incredibly popular first-person puzzle game Portal. While Portal 2 features the core portal-hopping gameplay of its predecessor, the sequel expands on the original game in just about every conceivable way, with separate single-player and cooperative modes, new characters, and new mechanics. We've rounded up details on these features and other key information to get you up to speed on Portal 2.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
Portal 2: The Characters
The original ending to Portal gave no clear indication of what happened to the game's silent protagonist, only that she managed to make it outside the Aperture Science Enrichment Center facility. However, Valve introduced a new ending to Portal last year that added the sounds of mechanical footsteps and a voice that stated, "Thank you for assuming the party escort position." It was later revealed in the Portal 2: Lab Rat comic that the party escort bot dragged an unconscious Chell back into the testing facility where she was placed into a cryo-chamber.
Atlas and P-body
These Aperture Science robots are the stars of Portal 2's cooperative campaign, which is completely separate from the single-player campaign featuring Chell. As denoted by his spherical shape, Atlas was built from the remnants of an Aperture Science personality core, while P-body's elongated structure reveals his origins as a sentry turret, but they were both given human traits to make the tests (and GLaDOS' observations) more useful. Both robots are equipped with portal guns, and they will have to use them in creative ways to help each other progress from one area to the next.
The graffiti left on various walls in the Enrichment Center--including "The Cake is a lie"--were left by a scientist named Rattmann, who managed to avoid capture. As revealed in the Portal 2 comic, Rattmann was responsible for selecting Chell as an optimal test subject capable of defeating GLaDOS because of her stubbornness. Rattmann eventually discovered that Chell was successful in defeating GLaDOS but that she was subsequently captured and taken to a "long-term relaxation" facility. Along with his talking companion cube, Rattmann set out to save Chell by restoring life support systems that were damaged by explosions so she could survive indefinitely. Though he was successful in doing so, Rattmann was shot by a sentry turret and gravely injured. The final panels of the comic show him crawling into a stasis bed similar to the one found at the beginning of the original Portal
A personality core, voiced by Stephen Merchant, Wheatley is responsible for waking Chell from her cryogenic sleep. He also provides commentary and functions as a guide of sorts in the single-player campaign. While we could go into greater detail about Wheatley's personality, it's best to just watch the video below.
Aperture Science's eccentric founder, CEO, and shower curtain visionary received mercury poisoning while attempting to develop poisonous shower curtains to be sent to members of the Naval Appropriations Committee as revenge for the Navy not being included in the military shower curtain contract. While suffering from its effects, Johnson comes up with a three-tier plan to guarantee the future success of Aperture Science--one of the plans involves what becomes portal technology. It was revealed in the Portal Web-based augmented reality game that Cave Johnson was dead but that he was capable of writing memos from the grave, implying that his mind had been transferred to a computer in some form and that he would have greater involvement in Portal 2.
Despite her "defeat" at the end of the original game, the devious AI from Portal returns in the sequel. GLaDOS takes an opportunity to recoup and reassume control of Aperture Science where, yet again, she decides to use Chell as a test subject. GLaDOS was originally designed to help speed up research into Aperture Science's portal project and beat Black Mesa (the competing company from the Half-Life series) to the punch. Unfortunately, every time GLaDOS was activated, the scientists found that she would immediately try to kill them. After making some changes, GLaDOS was activated once again, but within picoseconds, she took full control of the Enrichment Facility and entered into a constant testing phase for portal technology, killing test subjects in the process.
The main tool in Portal 2 is still the portal gun. It's not functionally different from the same item in the original game since it can still shoot two portals that Chell (in the single-player campaign) or Atlas and P-body (in the cooperative mode) can leap through. However, you can now use portals in conjunction with various objects, such as the pneumatic diversity tubes and excursion funnels that can pull objects (or even Chell and the bots) through portals. Also, entering portals is a little easier this time around thanks to some tweaks.
Gels change the physical properties of surfaces and objects in the game. Repulsion gel transforms basic surfaces into a trampoline, allowing Chell to jump high into the air after making contact with that surface--similarly, using repulsion gel on objects causes them to bounce. Another type of gel, called propulsion pudding, can be used to give Chell speed boosts when necessary. Obviously, it won't always be easy to use these items. In some cases, you have to carefully guide globules through a series of portals to the proper location.
Portal wouldn't be Portal without cubes, both of the standard and companion variety. But Portal 2 also features a new object called the weighted pivot cube. These special cubes are capable of being rotated so that they can properly reflect energy beams or what is known at Aperture Science as thermal discouragement beams.
While playing in Portal 2's cooperative mode, you can make use of this context sensitive tagging option to communicate more efficiently with your buddy. You can specifically point out where to place portals, where to walk, or what button to press instead of yelling things like, "Put the portal on the right side! No, the other right side!"
The game content in all versions will be identical upon release, but there are some differences worth pointing out. The PC version will have access to mod tools, but the content created with those tools isn't PC specific and could theoretically come to the console versions in some form. Additionally, the PlayStation 3 version of Portal 2 features Steam functionality and grants a free copy of the PC version to users who link their Steam accounts. This functionality also means that the PS3 version will receive updates as fast and as frequently as the PC/Mac versions of the game, whereas the Xbox 360 version will have to wait a little longer for such updates.
Portal in Other Games
- "The Cake is a lie" reference has appeared in a couple of games, including Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and Dragon Age: Origins.
- Darksiders makes extensive use of a similar portal weapon in later areas.
- The games included in Valve's Potato Sack Bundle on Steam have all been "infected" by Portal 2. Super Meat Boy has five new levels that feature the use of portals, GLaDOS makes an appearance in Bit.Trip Beat, and other games in the bundle feature Portal-style levels or the appearance of companion cubes.
- The game Narbacular Drop was developed by the Portal team when they were students at DigiPen. The game contains many of the same gameplay characteristics as Portal, albeit in a much different setting.