Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Review: Portal 2

I am.

Shift technician one three six, audio diary day seventy four, notes for test pass four oh niner. Add drop light highlighting sealed liquid outflow. Test subjects four through six spent mean of 16.3 seconds in room interval transition - increase marketing screen size 3.2%. Widen conveniently fallen metal trellis work cross section by 2^40 picometers. Still waiting on results for next test subject.

I am test.

Amusing anecdote three needs to be moved to 32s from game start to allow reviewer to mention without spoiling. Test subject two was able to deviate by 0.2 radians from part one climax reveal - need to reduce prisoner pod yaw by 1 hammer unit. Come on people - we need ARG in-joke to be tangentially referred to in 68% of reviews. And where's the results for that test subject?

I am test subject.

Digipen spray unit four still malfunctioning due to Kimistry interferance: dropping this feature. 'A short game is a good game' - enlarge this sign in development team bay three and increase psych profiling to flush out deviation. Zombie search teams reporting remaining test subject for this pass lost in level 14 due to misaligned seam in pipe cross section. Need to recruit new test subject.

I am test subject seven.

Following remaining instructions from voice over: Forget Amnesia. Confiscate The Ball. Suppress Research & Development. Instead reuse nameless generic industrial facility we have been leasing for last thirteen years, refurbished with retro-trendy overtones. There is no such thing as over design. Cutting technician easter egg from final release.

I am test subject seven. Where did this Valve spit me out? Shivering in the rain, listening to the howl of mutant dogs, in a zone, somewhere, near Pripyat.


Andrew Doull said...

I had written this earlier today, but held back from posting it for a number of reasons. Until I read this article on Portal 2 and realised I wasn't the only person with this reaction.

BrettW said...

Very interesting take on it and nicely written. I really enjoyed Portal 2 but got a hint of what (I think) you're alluding to. It feels like an uncanny valley equivalent for gameplay - things were a little too clean so you could sense the artifice.

However I don't take it quite the way you do. While a lot of the signposting was super-obvious, it reminded me of issues with the recent map release for L4D2, Cold Stream. It was created by a community mapper, so they didn't have the clean flow that Valve maps do. In fact, the path forward was so often obscured, unobvious or just plain weird to get to that it frustrated me no end. In the few occasions where the way forward in Portal 2 wasn't obvious, it irritated me. I don't know if wanting clear guidance makes me a good Valve lab rat, or if it's just about good level design.

Some of the rhythm of the game was a little too inorganic - solve puzzle, get funny line. Corridor, corridor, open vista, corridor. But there were enough twists to show they weren't as robotic as you suggest. Moreover, they lampshade this on a few occasions (GLaDOS' trap, for example), so they are aware of what they're doing. Parts of it felt like a deconstruction of their own game development practices, especially in Portal 1.

I disagree with the ARG/marketing angle, the fact that they cut gels for simplistic philosophies, that the levels were the same thing they've had for the last 13 years, and that they cut the technician for any reason (it's quite obvious he died a long time ago). Nevertheless I think these are valid concerns and interestingly presented. Thanks.

William said...

I felt like I was on rails the whole time, too. For the test, this was pretty much expected. The non-test areas were even worse, though. At least let me take a wrong turn once in a while.

Being able to complete tests in multiple ways would have been nice, too.

Having said that, I beat the game yesterday, and played a ton of co-op, and I'm still super hyper about the game. At my age, I don't often get hyper any more. It was absolutely amazing.