Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: "Portal 2"

Short version of the review:
Portal 2 rocked!

Long version:

More Gameplay Elements
We shall observe Portal 2 as a consumer, a game designer and a game developer. There are so many things done right that I could not possibly list them all out. But first, we must talk about what are we to expect from a sequel of a game which revolves around one and ONLY one mechanic: Shooting Enter and Exit portals. From a game designer perspective, one mechanic can only entertain for so long. The question is not how to find new ways to use the mechanic (it's nigh impossible, too much effort for possibly a dead end), but how to make the mechanic act on other gameplay elements (the easy, fun way out).

So rightfully, as a consumer, one should not expect new ways of using the portal gun as it is. One should look forward to more elements to use the portal gun on. As far as this aspect is concerned, the Portal 2 team came up just enough to entertain us. From the gravity beam, the 3 different gels to the catapult thingies, it's more than enough to mix and match and come up with puzzles that will entertain us.

But of course, just having elements is not enough. Elements are just that: elements. Once an engine is up, elements are easy to implement. In fact, only the level designers and possibly the QAs are having headaches over it. So much more can be done and the team indeed delivered.

The team proceeded to create a more engaging storytelling. Back in Portal 1, it's basically no different from a flash puzzle game only that it is in 3D FPS-style with Glados randomly talking crap at the background. There's no character development at all. Now, in Portal 2, the characters you interact are more alive. Glados suddenly had a history, developed over time and her speeches are more engaging to the character. Same for the new Wheatley character, whose role provided an interesting twist to the game (alright I will not spoil). Even your character received some kind of background.

The team also broke away from just going room to room. There are quite a number of areas that are outside of the testing chambers. Basically, from a designer point of view, the consumer was given another environment to play with. This might seem to be a small change, but it affects the player in a huuuuge way. For one, he does feel that he was given more freedom, and more freedom, fake or not, in any designer or consumer's books, is a bloody good thing.

Anyways, I'll go as far as to say that Bioware has a thing or two...maybe A LOT to learn from these guys.

The final thing to note is the graphics. Again, there isn't much I can type about graphics in the blog, but I can say that Portal 2's graphics is amazing. Seriously when you get the game, before every room just look at the surroundings. Dynamic soft shadows, shattered glass, water dynamics, the gel mechanic's decals on different surfaces, light, etc. The best thing is that they wasted no time in showing off their graphics. Right from the start of the game, you get to observe how light and shadow changes around you when things fall apart. It's no joke man.

Overall, Portal 2 is a great game. I can't wait to actually try to co-op mode, which is a brilliant add-on and another ball game by itself. It's really nice to see a novel idea go this far in the games industry. It gives me, and possibly other aspiring developers out there comfort that such novelty is Still Alive, that the game industry isn't just filled with the same old FPS, RPGs and Facebook games.

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