Portal 2: Co-op demo impressions from PAX 2010

One of the longest lines at PAX 2010 wasn't to play anything, but to see a live demo of Portal 2’s co-op mode. Valve only showed a few of the mode’s puzzles, but we can say pretty assuredly that it’ll be another beloved addition to Portal's universe. You'll probably see fan-made plushies of the adorable co-op robots before the game even releases.

Valve’s decision to include co-op was based on feedback from the first game. As often happens with puzzle games, players sat together and helped each other unravel Portal’s elaborate puzzles, or passed controllers back and forth. Now they can work together in the game’s world, rather than outside of it. The new mode, of course, doesn't replace or interfere with the main campaign we already love. The in-game reasoning is as simple as it ought to be - GLaDOS needs to run some cooperative tests, and humans are incapable of cooperation, so: robots.

What we most wanted to see in the mode was character. A vanilla, “okay, fine, this is two player now” mode which lacked Valve’s sense of humor and character design genius would have been merely passable. Valve, of course, delivers.

The two robot characters (“Orange” and “Blue”) are adorably in love, and remind us a little of Wall-E and Eve. GLaDOS is her typical sociopathic self, and passive-aggressively berates the players with comments like, “If this were a contest, Orange would be winning. It’s not though,” and “History will only remember one of you.” And it's not just to be cute - it's clear that Valve knows that all of this chatter generates camaraderie between the players, sucking them into Portal 2's world.

Upon beginning, the robotic duo is instructed to high-five each other to form a bond. That in-game interaction sweeps away any notion that these robots are mere avatars whose actions don’t affect each other. It forms a bond between the players and each other, and the players and their robotic bodies. The most endearing moment occurs when one of the players is destroyed - a replacement robot pops out, and its clueless cohort stops grieving and gives it a big, sincere hug, unaware that they’re both disposable.

So the Valve touch of awesome is there, but what of the actual puzzles? Oh, the puzzles! Valve showed us a few basic maneuvers, like using both sets of portals to direct a "Thermal Discouragement Beam" through two walls to activate two receptors. Getting a bit more advanced, the duo directed a light bridge over toxic goo, using both sets of portals to redirect it around corners without losing their footing. But the coolest thing we saw was the infinite fall maneuver.

Remember putting a portal above and below you in the first game? You fall forever and maybe puke (and an Achievement if you walk away for a while). Well, with two players, that motion-sickness distraction becomes a useful tool. One player sets up the fall with two portals, and the other enters the infinite loop. Then, when the falling player has built up some momentum, the originator of the portals can launch him out of an angled wall with a well-timed portal shot.

The maneuver is a clever use of two players, but we imagine its far from the cleverest thing Valve has designed. At the end of the co-op trailer we saw before the demo, GLaDOS mentions the team's "real purpose," which appears to be a terrifying gauntlet of death. We have a lot more to see.

Portal 2 is out February 9th, 2011, so you still have a while to wait, and Valve surely has more surprises.

Sep 5, 2010


PAX 2010


  • CAPST3R - September 10, 2010 8:37 p.m.

    Co-op? Puzzles? PS3? SOLD! Well, since it's the unshakable Valve making this, I'm putting Portal 2 on my list of games to buy. Very few games get onto this list. It's a real list, too.
  • Bitmun - September 7, 2010 12:39 a.m.

    Test preview complete. Congratulations, displayers at Pax. If this were a contest, Valve would be winning. It's not though.
  • Toastie - September 6, 2010 7:05 p.m.

    Teamwork! Haha, considering I am a big sucker for co-op I'm going to love this game :D
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - September 6, 2010 5:35 p.m.

    The white box - portal 2 and half life 2 ep 3 plzzz
  • Alroos13 - September 6, 2010 7:38 a.m.

    Great work as usual Mr. Wilde. I'm making a note here: "Huge success"
  • JohnnyMaverik - September 6, 2010 1:55 a.m.

    The Source engine is looking superb as well, well done Valve.
  • MaxxamusTime - September 6, 2010 12:30 a.m.

    I <3 robots
  • Sobriquet - September 5, 2010 10:12 p.m.

    I was thinking to myself "I sure hope there's online co-op, none of my friends play video games". Then I realized that you can't exactly have a hotseat FPS with a computer. D'oh!
  • Ded - September 5, 2010 10:12 p.m.

    Wonder how long it'll be until pornographic fanart comes out with these two.. didn't take long with GLaDOS *shudder* I expect Orange will be the girl. :/
  • CoktorBloktopus - September 5, 2010 9:59 p.m.

    god i dont know if valve is able to disapoint people with there games
  • stephendoyle80 - September 5, 2010 9:38 p.m.

    Those two robots remind me of Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc.
  • GangsterJew92 - September 5, 2010 9:24 p.m.

    I can't wait for this awesome new mode! And Blue would totally kick Orange's ass if it were a contest.
  • Dark-Nemisis - September 5, 2010 9:22 p.m.

    Really cant wait for this game!
  • Oden - September 5, 2010 9:12 p.m.

    this co-op mode sounds awesome
  • oufour - September 5, 2010 9:09 p.m.

  • CH3BURASHKA - September 5, 2010 8:29 p.m.

    Rule 34 on Orange and Blue, please.
  • Tymiegie - September 5, 2010 7:55 p.m.

    Gonna be so badass!!!
  • wormytables - September 5, 2010 7:52 p.m.

    i know very little - is this split screen? system link? or plain old internet coop? i hope there are fewer internet memes spawned this time.
  • Littleyoshi4 - September 5, 2010 7:49 p.m.

    I can't wait!!! Only a few more months!!
  • magemaster - September 5, 2010 7:44 p.m.

    They look so cute together. ^_^

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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