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News

Portal 2 Review – Mac Game Review

Get some more mind-bending, physics-defying action with the sequel to the brilliant Portal.

In 2007, Valve released Portal as part of its Orange Box, a collection of console games which included Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2.
Portal, which was almost an add-on to the main events in the box, turned out to be one of the biggest successes of the year and won a whole array of awards. In May last year, with the launch of Steam for Mac, Portal was offered as a free download, and now the sequel to one of the most original games ever made is hitting the Mac again, this time alongside other consoles.

The premise for Portal 2 is the same as the last game – you have a ‘gun’ that can fire two portals at walls, one orange and one blue. When you step through the first portal, you come out through the second, allowing you to travel around levels at high speed. Momentum is maintained through these portals, so if you shoot a portal in the floor and one in a wall, then fall into the first from a height, you will come flying out of the wall at the same speed as you entered the first portal.

It’s a simple enough idea, executed beautifully. If you haven’t played the first game, you really should try it now; not only is it a fantastic game, it will also lead you perfectly into this one. If you don’t want us to spoil the plot, you may want to skip the next paragraph…

You are in control of a woman named Chell, who in the first game woke up in a facility and was forced through a number of tests by the robot in charge, called GLaDOS. As you played through the game, it became clear that GLaDOS had killed every other test subject before you, and so it was up to you to get out of the facility and destroy the computer. At the end of Portal, GLaDOS lay in pieces, and you managed to get to the surface.

However, when Portal 2 starts, you wake up back in the facility. You’re accompanied by Wheatley, a small robotic sphere who works with you to help you escape again. It is here that you get the first indication of the scale of the game; the room you are in starts to move and wall falls off, showing you an immense factory with hundreds of rooms just like yours. Shards of wreckage fly around you and the impact of rooms clashing is tangible.

The other thing you immediately notice is the quite frankly stunning voice acting. Wheatley is voiced by Ricky Gervais’s writing partner Stephen Merchant, and the comments from both him and GLaDOS (who it turns out wasn’t quite dead) are both incredibly funny and brilliantly acted. It truly makes the game stand out when you feel more for a spherical robot in Portal 2 than you do about many human companions in other games. The graphics are impressive and while we played on a brand new iMac, even with anti-aliasing on maximum there were very few drops in the frame rate. The facility from the first game is here again, but it’s been neglected; the once white walls are now falling apart and plants dangle through ceiling panels. As the game progresses you’ll move through underground passages, vast caverns, clinically white rooms and warehouse-like areas, giving plenty of variety, and the puzzles get progressively harder as you play. The learning curve is smooth, slowly introducing you to new ideas and ways to place portals, and once you’ve mastered this, more elements will be introduced. In the end you’ll be redirecting lasers and bridges made from light, using catapults to fling yourself over gaps and using the newly added gels to help you reach the exits.

This certainly isn’t an out-and-out action game (Chell has no weapons or health bar), and you’ll spend time standing looking around at the levels trying to work out where you need to go. The puzzles really ramp up as you play, and they become really challenging in the end.

Multiplayer has been added for Portal 2, allowing you to connect with friends and play through an entirely new storyline, complete with new levels specifically designed for two players. Communication is key; if you don’t have a headset, there are a series of signals you can send to your friend to organise yourselves. It

works surprisingly well; with two people, puzzles are even more challenging but incredibly fun, and dumping your friend into a spike pit by popping a portal underneath them is a great way to get back at them if they killed you in an earlier level.

This game is truly one of the best puzzle/action games we’ve ever seen. It’s brilliantly designed, has some absolutely incredible voice acting, a thoroughly engaging storyline and a great multiplayer mode. We cannot recommend this game more highly.

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