Portal 2 Impressions - First Look

We take our first look at the sequel to Valve Software's quirky and memorable 2007 action puzzle game.

Giant booths at the Los Angeles Convention Center? Check. Giant crowds of people aimlessly shuffling through the halls of the LACC? Check. It must be E3 2010. And Portal 2 must be one of the most anticipated PC games of the show. As you probably recall, the original Portal first debuted as part of one of the best deals of 2007 in The Orange Box, a compilation that also included Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2. While those games were great, the all-too-brief Portal (which clocked in at only two to three hours of gameplay) quickly became something of a cult classic, and this was partially because of the mind-bending puzzles built around the game's "portal gun," which opened a two-way gateway through space and time practically anywhere you wanted it to. However, the main reasons so many people remember Portal so fondly are its eccentric sense of humor and its equally charming villain, the coldly robotic but strangely catty artificial intelligence GlaDOS, caretaker of the Aperture Science Facility, which the game's protagonist, the young woman Chell, struggled to escape from. Chell eventually destroyed GlaDOS on her way to freedom, after which the memorable song Still Alive played over the game's ending credits.

In Portal 2, both Chell and GlaDOS return to Aperture after the company was destroyed. For reasons that haven't yet been revealed, Chell apparently returns to the scene of the crime after a brief fly-through video that reveals a handful of the first game's deadly, gun-mounted sentry-bots rusting away and the beloved Companion Cube trapped in a ruined glass cell. Shortly afterward, she meets Wheatley, a new "personality sphere" companion that inhabits a glowing blue sensor eye and has a voice and demeanor that recall Monty Python alumnus Eric Idle's role as the bumbling and cowardly Sir Robin the Chicken-Hearted of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You first meet Wheatley suspended above the wreckage of Aperture blathering on about how he has finally achieved his freedom and can't wait to descend from the guardrail to which he's attached. He asks you to catch him and then reconsiders because he's suspended a few feet too high above Chell, and then he reconsiders again and begs Chell to catch him as he drops, and then he lands flat on his eye sensor, because why would Chell try to catch a giant robot eye sensor, anyway.

Wheatley was then shown lifted by Chell and inserted into a circuit panel to hack open a secret door in the wall, through which the duo pass and ride a conveyor belt past another derelict sentry bot, which, in its typically cutesy falsetto female voice, politely asks for help (which Wheatley stiffly refuses) and which politely thanks you anyway as you ride past. The scene then cut to an outdoor view of the compound in the middle of the jungle, showing the ruins of GlaDOS reassembling itself as Wheatley nonchalantly tries to stop the process by hacking into the nearest terminal, only to find that his supersecret password of "A-A-A-A" doesn't work. As your archenemy once again takes shape, Wheatley curtly advises you that "plan B" is "stay still and don't make eye contact," but the malevolent GlaDOS easily spots the two of you, casually stating that she has been "very busy being dead after you killed [her]" and then uttering the line that got so many laughs at the E3 2010 Sony Press Conference, "I think we can put our differences behind us, for science. You monster."

The hands-off session then cut to several video demonstrations of some of the new gameplay mechanics that are being added to the game to add new variety and, in the words of project manager Erik Johnson, "resurprise people"--that is, to give players the same sensation of fun discovery they first experienced when messing with the first game's portal gun. These include a tractor beam, a glowing blue stream of particles that slowly pulls people and objects in a single direction and flows right through the portals created by your trusty portal gun. The demonstration showed a room full of sentry bots peeking around corners with a continuous tractor beam off to the side. Careful placement of portals redirected the tractor beam next to and below several of the sentries, and then connecting the tractor beam back to the source created an infinite loop that kept the screaming sentries flying from right to left, letting us get to the exit. The next gameplay element is the "aerial faith plate," a hydraulic launch pad that sends anyone, or anything, on it flying. The demonstration video showed skillful use of the plates (on the lowest level of the complex) to get rid of pesky sentry bots--opening portals beneath them to send them tumbling onto the plates, and then opening another portal against the wall toward which they were flying, and then connecting that portal to the edge of a nearby precipice, sending them hurtling to their demise.

We then watched a video of the "thermal discouragement beam," a constantly cutting laser beam that refracts through white plastic cubes (and also travels through portals). By strategically relocating a few cubes and then opening portals through the walls, we were able to kill off the nearby sentry bots and then hop over the beams themselves to get to the exit. This video was followed by a demonstration of the "pneumatic diversification vent," a gigantic version of the plexiglas pneumatic tubes that are occasionally still used to deliver documents inside large office buildings. The tube has a powerful vacuum that, when placed properly, can suck up a handful of sentry bots standing on a level floor. Next up was "repulsion gel," which is blue goop that appears in barrels and can be spilled on the floor to make it extra springy and let Chell jump slightly higher. It can also, in its liquid form, be transported from place to place via portals. The last new gameplay mechanic we were shown was "propulsion gel," an orange goop that makes any surface extremely slippery. We watched a demonstration in a level that had a long corridor between us and the exit, and two rows of spike traps on either side that periodically clamped in and would surely kill us. By knocking over a barrel of propulsion gel on a lower level and creatively shunting the flow of the stuff through several portals, we managed to slick the floor of the long corridor and, after a running start, made a quick slide through both sets of death traps for the exit.

These new gameplay elements all seem like they'll open up lots of possibilities. And considering that the single-player game will be, according to Valve, "significantly longer" than in the first game, and considering also that Portal 2 will have two-player cooperative play, it seems like the sequel will have plenty to keep veterans busy for at least a little while. However, Johnson quickly pointed out that the team's goal is to make sure that none of the new features make the sequel any more difficult than the first game--in fact, development on Portal 2's content and levels is mostly done, and the studio is already conducting rigorous focus testing with a wide variety of different players of varying skill levels to determine which puzzles should be made a bit more lenient or a bit more challenging.

Johnson also explains that in any case, the sequel will also attempt to provide music as catchy and memorable as that in the first game--composer Jonathan Coulton (who wrote Still Alive) has already been tapped for the project, for instance. And when asked about the recently announced functionality of Steamworks in the PS3 version of Portal 2, Johnson suggested only that Steamworks' product update and matchmaking features are currently confirmed--exactly how the platform will be integrated with the PS3's functionality is otherwise still to be determined. Portal 2 will be released next year.

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Discussion

255 comments
kingsi7e
kingsi7e

PC gets the best version, just like any Valve game. But where the hell is HL2:E3?

DarkAngeles
DarkAngeles

@punktsterdaddy The 360 and PS3 didn't get The Orange Box any cheaper at launch even though the PC version was clearly superior. I don't see how the price would vary except for console licenses.

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

ps3 get the best version? does that mean all other gamers get it cheaper then?

hellpolice
hellpolice

I love Portal and I know I will love the second Portal.

Madbane
Madbane

First game was a fast good trip for me, I can't wait for second one also.

jjmonster2006
jjmonster2006

I love this game 0----------------0 I love this game

fire-afro
fire-afro

@DirtyJoe: nah, I think that was just one of GLaDOS's sphere's, it didn't have the same voice as wheatley. Wheatley is on a rail in aperture too, he isn't merged with GLaDOS. I'd hazard a guess that wheatley is a different personality sphere. Btw, i think the recipe the blue orb was mumbling was for cake, the computers you find with the yellow font when you're on your way to GLaDOS have ingredients and a recipe to cake. mmmmmmmcakecakecakecakecake

xxxDirtyJoexxx
xxxDirtyJoexxx

Didn't Wheatley get burned at final battle with GlaDOS? Wasn't he that blue orb that mumbled cooking recipes?

Dragonclaws1191
Dragonclaws1191

I want this so badly. "Well, I can't do et while yer lookin'!" *Chell turns away* "Alroight, ye can look now."

yoshi_3_6_0
yoshi_3_6_0

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

johnfoks
johnfoks

really great experience!

DDERME
DDERME

thx to portal we can acctually say "hey look,video games are acctually getting mature"

desauce
desauce

I cant wait to play this game I absolutely loved the first one. Valve needs to make more games. Can you say Half Life 3?

Topperfalkon
Topperfalkon

Erm...Isn't Chell still at Aperture Science because she was dragged back in at the revised ending of Portal?

ztg360
ztg360

@jstur14 yea the same thing was true for fallout 3 the ps3 version was buggier then 360 or pc versions which im sure was annoying for ps3 owners

Jstur14
Jstur14

@ztg360 - People will go fanboy no matter what but I do agree that I hate when they have a superior copy of the game for a certain system... Just get the bugs out and make sure they all run the same compared to the system ( You shouldn't have 1 million bugs on one and 3 on another)

ztg360
ztg360

hopefully the guy that said about ps3 beign the best is wrong because i want it to be equal on all including pc,360 and ps3 because if one is superior for this game people will go all fanboy

cayne_phoenix
cayne_phoenix

Excuse you?!? im the MONSTER??? WHERES THE CAKE??!!!!

johny52
johny52

I thought the suprise for the E3 video was going to be cake not the guy who's dealing with his stage fright. lol

MuffintopX
MuffintopX

Happy this is coming to PS3. I hope console and PC gamers can put our differences behind us, for science. You monster.

david2daniel
david2daniel

It's been a really long time indeed, finally Valve people are moving there buts, and I bet they hired some students again for this job, like for the first Portal game. And where is Half Life 2: Episode 3, I'm waiting for that game, for last two year's I'm just listening an empty promises. Sadly, it's always like that with Valve. Hope for the best.

Elite39
Elite39

This game better be good!

Noclippin
Noclippin

screw the consoles, stick with the only true platform valve!

Crystal_Helix
Crystal_Helix

This looks freakin awesome~ can't wait for the co-op! Guess the Source engine will always look great :D

fiend116
fiend116

ampature science im making a note here, portal 2. its hard to overstate my satisaction.

SquigleyG
SquigleyG

OK, Wheatley is one adorable ass robot. I approve.

icekids
icekids

@johny300 alright XD

johny300
johny300

@icekids Yeah i heard about that kojima is going for something big for the ps3. and sorry my internets speed is kind of slow as soon as i fix this problem i will send you a message to tell you (i have youre messages in my inbox) XD

johny300
johny300

@sliperywhenwet6 sorry for the fanboy stuff. and i wish we all could play l4d.

Suzy_Q_Kazoo
Suzy_Q_Kazoo

This looks like it's going to be an awesome sequel!

powley
powley

Game looks great. Lovin the Source Engine. Looks very realistic.

McLoven92
McLoven92

this is going to be an instant game of the year nomination! can't wait to get this one

BrUnOdeFeNiX
BrUnOdeFeNiX

The second video is better... you can see all stuff out of the cube!=D! Very nice!I want it now!

hurricaner
hurricaner

I'm gonna get this for the PC... Why? you ask. because, with all the new gameplay elements being presented in Portal 2; it'll be nice seeing what modders can come up with using these new gameplay elements

Nekromenos
Nekromenos

At the end everyone was like: *silence* "...Wait, is it over already? Anyway, let's clap before he has a nervous breakdown" *clap* *clap* *cheer* *clap* *whistle*

IceJester45
IceJester45

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

ubpoker123
ubpoker123

I've seen some other gameplay videos of Portal 2, and it looks BEYOND amazing. Crushes anything at E3 that comes to my mind.

evilpilli
evilpilli

@Psychokillaz At what grounds could you possibly be saying this? the ps3 uses a single core system... while the xbox uses multi core.... therefore the ps3 will normally have "prettier" graphics, while the xbox will be able to have more going on at the screen and view further distances... so in theory the xbox is the most powerful system... but damned nosy ;) oh yeah... allot is at stake here... if they don't nail portal 2.... so many will be disappointed... because the first was just magic

IceJester45
IceJester45

@Pyschokillaz, The PS3 really isn't all that powerful (or free) compared to a gaming PC, which is the platform on which Valve usually focuses. The fact is the developers already were smart by going with the true power and freedom of the PC all these years. Unfortunately, I suspect "Portal 2" will actually get dumbed down because it has to run on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Also, I'm not sure where most people are getting this "the PS3 is only using X amount of its power" stuff, but I'm pretty sure it's bogus.

Yakuz-A
Yakuz-A

"arbrooks28 Posted Jun 22, 2010 1:45 am CET actually yes, there has been other valve games on the PS3, but they were handled by other publishers." And other developers, the PS3 ports of HL2/Orange Box were ported by EA rather than Valve, Valve did the PC versions and the 360 ports.

Yakuz-A
Yakuz-A

Psychokillaz, you're a naive fanboy if there ever was one. The freedom is definitely true however, since the PS3 has a far more open network system than the X-Box 360, but power? Give me a break, all I've heard is that the physical advantage is very small when it comes to the PS3 v 360, it's mainly just in the theoretical area where it excells.

Psychokillaz
Psychokillaz

The dev got smart and realized this game can be so much better with the power & freedom of the ps3. Most ps3 games only use 50% of the ps3's power like Killzone 2 was 55% when 360 games are maxed out at 85%-95% already. Can't wait for this.