Portal 2, About Fucking Time!

Last week a new update to the classic Valve title Portal was released. For those who don’t know, Portal was a first-person puzzler, A unique genre, that revolved around the concept of Portals and was first released two-and-a-half years ago. For those of you who have never played Portal, I suggest you do so, or at the very least play the free demo available on Steam, or play the game that kinda sorta inspired Portal, Narbacular Drop. It maintains the same game play mechanics and was made by the same people but has a completely different story.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of Portal for one major reason: I wish it was real. I know that sounds odd, but it’s true, and that is why I think the best games are ones that people wish were real, that’s why I love Myst so much, because I wish I could visit other worlds that easily, and why I wish someone could come up with a really good game involving time travel, because time travel is awesome, and why I wish I had a Portal gun. Though one must use it responsibly.

There are other reasons I love Portal, but really, they come secondary.

Anyway, the new update to one of my favourite games contains a couple new features. I’ll start with the radios. Now, every level has at least one radio playing the samba remix of Still Alive, before only a few levels had these, and now, when you carry the radio to a specific location on the map, the music stops and a cryptic series of beeps or tones start playing…pretty cryptic…and once you find all 26 radios, some hidden quite well, and bring them to their special hotspots, also hidden quite well, some in the ceiling which means you have to be pretty clever with the use of portals, you get a special “achievement,” which has absolutely no purpose in gameplay and only exists for losers with too much time on their hand to say, “look what I did!” So yes, I did go through the trouble of getting that achievement. I achieved the achievement.

As an aside I don’t really understand why the achievements exist, other than, as I said, for losers to say, “look what I did!” I guess it adds a bit of replay value, a list of things to do before you are able to actually finish the game, 100 per cent. But what doesn’t make sense are the ones you get for simply playing through the game. That’s just playing the game, that’s not an achievement.

So enough digressions, the radios. There is another point to them and that is the codes. Four of the radios, once placed in the sweet spots, send out Morse code, and the remaining 22 send out something a little more cryptic, SSTV signals which can be translated into still images. These have already been translated by people who care more then I. They have found a BBS service, accessible through a phone number, which means you can only access it if you have a land line phone, which I don’t, and they found clues relating to the upcoming video game, Portal 2. This search for clues has been kind of redundant. Especially considering the biggest revelation was there will be a Portal 2, something that was first revealed in developer’s commentary for Portal two and a half years ago. Some elements of the plot were hinted at, such as GLaDOS being restored from a backup, which we already knew from the finale song Still Alive, and Cave Johnson, Aperture Science CEO, making a return from the grave in the form of an AI System, as was reflected in an old press release. So in reality this has given us nothing.

Also, there’s a new feature with the radios. In the past, when they were destroyed by an Emancipation Grid, they would simply go silent. Now, the most disconcerting noise ever emanates from them. It sounds like a robot raping a velociraptor. I don’t know why they included it.

Then, two days later, Valve releases another update to Portal, this time making one little change…the ending.

Are you kidding? For those of you who don’t know, in the original ending a robot doesn’t drag you away. Anyway, this feels like they just wanted to tie the upcoming sequel to the original, and it seems cheap and unnecessary. The ending was ambiguous enough as it was to allow that event to happen without inserting it in as a type of retcon. I liked the ambiguous nature of the ending, it allowed us to continue the story in our own minds and come up with our own theories regarding what happened instead of setting anything in stone until the next sequel comes out. Not only that, I have newer heard of a game publisher doing this before, releasing a game, then, two-and-a-half years later, changing part of the plot of the game through a patch or any other method, so they can retroactively open the door for a sequel. It’s ridiculous, and only serves to aggravate the fans.

Next I want to talk about the sequel itself, get a head start on this because we already got some information on it from GameImformer, who is doing a cover story on it, and I’d like to share what I think about it.

Now as with any sequel, I would hate for them to release it for no other reason then because they can and they like money, and if they are just going to continue the story they could easily release an expansion pack instead. So for Portal 2 I want to see new, more creative game play mechanics so I have a reason to buy it.

Well it seems my wish is going to come true. First, there is going to be a co-op mode. Really? I thought multiplayer portal would be “less fun than you’d think.” I mean I don’t expect it to involve guns or anything, and a Portal Deathmatch sounds like it wouldn’t work out well. No matter what those guys at NewGrounds would say.

(better link) See that was awesome. But if you look closely, the portals seem to be generated by the character’s Portalkinesis, and I’m not sure if fist-fighting is the best way to go about it. But co-op puzzling sounds like a great idea, assuming you have a friend who’s willing to play co-op Portal with you. I don’t have any friends period, so it would be difficult finding that. But here’s something interesting about the co-op mode: you’ll be playing as one of two robots. Obviously they couldn’t be more creative, like there were two other people in stasis and they were released while Chell was in stasis. Why? FOR SCIENCE!! Having us play as robots just seems lazy to me.

But there’s more to Portal 2 then a co-op mode, thankfully, new gameplay mechanics include using portals to direct air currents, alter tractor beams and move paint. All of which appear interesting. Then there are the new items, such as the Redirection Cubes, Aerial Faith Plates, and Weighted Storage Balls which apparently are going to be placed in buckets. They seem interesting,

But my biggest complaint is the plot. It’s supposed to take place centuries later…CENTURIES! We know it takes place in the same world as Half-Life 2, where an alien invasion is going on, so I guess that means we can lose all hope of Chell and Gordon Freeman meeting face to face and it also means the Half-Life series will end with the planet Earth still mostly intact with all it’s vegetation, because in Portal 2 vegetation has invaded the Enrichment Centre. It seems the plot might end up being a lot more complicated than in Portal, which had a simple and coherent storyline, and it seems Portal 2 might be significantly longer than Portal, probably around the length Half-Life 2…significantly longer. Whether all this is a good or bad thing is unknown at this point. I guess we’ll have to wait until it is released at the end of 2010.

Which brings me to my next point. Really? We will have to wait until the end of the year after already waiting two-and-a-half years? I understand it takes a long time to develop a game, and if they rushed development the game might end up being sub-par. I want them to make the game good, and take their time with it, but releasing other crap like Team Fortress 2 add-ons, which is like adding features to a device after someone has already bought it, and Left 4 Dead 2 which could have simply been added as an expansion to the original, it seems they are trying to put it off and put it off, due to a phenomenal fear of money and women. Also, why haven’t we heard anything about Half-Life 2 Episode Three? All we know about that game is there is going to be a deaf character…it’s kind of pissing me off.

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