The original Portal was a pretty solitary experience. Pitting a mute woman/glorified lab rat called Chell against an increasingly unhinged supercomputer called GLaDOS, it remains a deliberately lonely, but brilliantly offbeat puzzler. Suffice to say, with its comedy metal men shaking their bionic booty at each other almost every time you overcome an obstacle, Portal 2’s co-op is anything but solitary. As we discovered in our recent hands-on at an EA event, it’s also every bit as ingenious as Valve’s original brain-scratching masterpiece. Although sadly, there wasn’t a slice of cake in sight.
Above: Laser cubes are definitely better than delicious cake, yeah?
After all, how many titles have you teaming up with a fellow cartoon robot as you try to make your way through a series of lab experiments set up by an evil AI system? Cooperation really is key, too. You simply can’t complete puzzles without working together.
Above: Awwww, young robot lovin'. Brings a tear to our eye holes, so it does
Pressing LB/LT and RB/RT on the 360 and PS3 pads respectively fires your portal gun. You shoot the first portal at a section of wall you want to walk through, while you fire the second dimensional hole at where you want to end up. Cleverly, most of the puzzles in our 20 minute playthrough require four separate portals to work. Meaning you and your mechanical mate have to use your guns in tandem if you’re to succeed.
The words ‘bat’ and ‘shit’ quickly come to mind. First we have our two new artificial heroes. They’re like the original odd couple. One’s an uptight workaholic; the other’s a dangerous rebel with nothing to lose… that, or they’re just two robots who move around like they’ve been hitting the sauce all night.
Above: Johnny Orange on the left is a modified turret gun called Atlas, while Ted Blue is named P-body
The demo starts with both bots locked in containment chambers. To break free from your glass prison, you and your co-op partner have to prove you’re compatible. Sadly, that doesn’t mean getting bladdered over a steak dinner with a few bottles of Chardonnay. Instead, GLaDOS forces you to wave at each other using the D-pad… eh, then makes you choose your favourite critter out of a series of animal pictures, including giraffes, elephants and baboons (naturally we lean towards the latter).
GLaDOS then makes your partner pick their favourite chemical from a cut-down periodic table (ours plumped for Hs, which is apparently Hassium – cheers, Wiki). These little moments really help set up Portal 2's disarmingly daft tone, and that's before you even get to the dimension-ripping, companion-cube carrying, puzzle-solving meat of the game.
Partly because most of the puzzles you face are twice as complex than those in the first game. With the droid duo packing double the portals of Chell, challenges have been designed to incorporate some pretty demanding teamwork. Whether it's taking turns moving a companion cube through a series of obstacles or coordinating your efforts to fire a laser that'll fry other robots; there's always a "Eureka!" moment to share with your pal when you firgure out the solution to a problem.
Above: Admittedly, the solution usually doesn't involve taking an inpromptu dip in the drink
Near the end of the demo, we have to use our guns to direct lasers to activate switches on different sides of a room. This not only requires you rip holes in reality with your weapon, but you also have to stand on switches to coordinate your efforts. Luckily, the game seems to do a good job of gradually escalating the difficulty and introducing new mechanics to prevent you and your partner from getting stumped from the get go.
And that’s before we even factor in the single-player portion of Portal 2, which will continue Chell's story as she takes on a newly restored GLaDOS in the Aperture Science Labs. According to Valve, single-player will last even longer than co-op, meaning we’re probably looking at around over 20 hours to finish the entire package. So if anyone was worrying about getting value for their moolah after the brief original, don't sweat it.
Above: Expect to spend 10+ hours in the company of Atlas and P-body
Albeit one we’re totally in love with. Her sardonic, biting remarks are as awesome as ever. Here’s her little opening tirade: “These next tests require co-operation. Consequently, they have never been solved by a human. That's where you come in. You don't know pride, you don't know fear, you don't know anything. You'll be perfect.”
Right from the off she’s taking the piss out of the bots. Whether it’s questioning their sexual orientation based on what chemical compound they choose during the initial tests or mocking them if they take too long with a puzzle. Some rooms actually pit you against your partner. And whoever solves the solution last normally gets an aural bitch-slapping from the sarcastic supercomputer.
Seeing as GLaDOS seems to have strict orders to make sure the bots don’t make it through Aperture Science’s series of puzzles with all their bolts and emotion chips intact, we can only assume her comments will get more snarky and her actions more homicidal as the game goes on.
Portal 2 will be released on 360, PS3 and Steam on April 18 and April 22 in the US and Europe respectively. Keep your peepers peeled for more coverage soon. In the meantime, here's a trailer to keep you busy. Oh, and remember: never trust a bastard cake.
Jan 24, 2011