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Portal 2: The 10 things you NEED to know

So, Portal 2 has been officially announced. Excited yet? Of course you are, but not nearly excited enough. Seriously, we can promise you that.

We've tracked down every available detail on Valve's sequel to one of this generation's few perfect games, and believe us, this time around, GLaDOS' reign of physics-bending tyranny is a whole new cube game. In fact it's going to make Portal look like a trailer for the main event. Here's why.

Above: The April issue of GameInformer blows the lid on Portal 2


#1 It’s a full-sized game

Where Portal was a small but beautifully-formed piece of bite-sized perfection, Portal 2 is a full-fat, full-sized release. Valve isn’t giving details of the exact running time yet, but Portal 2 is a standalone game with a bigger, much expanded campaign. The development team has grown from eight members to twenty-eight, and in-keeping with the bulked-up design philosophy, Portal 2 even has…

#2 A separate co-op campaign

Recognising that most people played Portal in unofficial co-op anyway (one player firing the portals, another sitting behind offering up ideas), Valve is now giving both players a character and a Portal gun. Running in parallel with the single-player campaign, co-op uses two new characters; humanoid robots evolved from a gun torrent and one of GLaDOS' spare personality cores.

While single-player is being kept sedate for the sake of maintaining the same thoughtful progression we loved in the first game, having a partner to bounce ideas off will allow Portal 2’s co-op to be a little more demandingly hardcore. Puzzles range from simple cases of using four Portals to carve paths through the environment to more frantic affairs, requiring players on separate paths to open up routes for each other through otherwise lethal areas. And yes, GLaDOS will use the co-op dynamic to snarkily play the protagonists off each other. There’s split-screen, online, and to help players co-ordinate logistically complex tasks, it’s also possible to tag the environment with visual instructions for your partner. But going back to the single-player…

#3 Chell is back

With the recent update to the first game extending the ending to show Chell dragged back into Aperture Science following her escape, it’s now confirmed that she’ll be the protagonist again. Given the tense and beautifully nuanced relationship built between her and GLaDOS in the first game, Valve is eager to build upon what has gone before. Everything is the same, but at the same time, everything is now different. For example…

#4 It’s set hundreds of years later

Chell has been in stasis for at least a couple of centuries. In that time, the wrecked Aperture Science facilities have gone to wrack and ruin. While the pristine testing chambers remain, many of them have fallen apart and become overgrown with plant-life. This creates a captivating visual style (gleaming white sterility juxtaposed with sprawling organic life and sunlight), but also opens up much more varied environmental navigation possibilities.

You’ll also see a lot more of the Aperture labs. With the whole place in a state of extreme decay, GLaDOS’ attempts to restart the testing procedure are obviously up against a few challenges. So as she reconfigures the test chambers, she’ll have to send you through a great deal more of the broken-down ‘back-stage’ areas you explored at the end of the first Portal. So as well as seeing more of the place and its sordid back-story, your relationship with the ever-present digital dominatrix will constantly be broken up and punctuated with periods of tense silence. Unless of course, it’s a double-bluff, and she’s secretly watching you the whole time. But there are even more key changes to the environment. Such as… 

#5 Talking NPCs

Don’t go fearing an Aperture Science populated with atmosphere-killing human characters. Chell is still the only fleshy around. Instead, Valve has been characteristically smart by populating the labs with sentient personality cores (that warehouse full of computerised brain balls at the end of Portal had to be for something, right?)

One of these cores is responsible for the whole story. Named Wheatley, he’s become frustrated by his static nature (the cores are all constrained by being attached to rails in certain rooms), and realising that jumping from his perch with probably smash his insides out, he reactivates Chell for help. But despite the new characters, Portal 2 is…

#6 It's still all about the player

Like Half-Life 2, Portal was a personal journey, with Chell’s interactions with GlaDOS and the environment at large perfectly pitched to immerse the player on an unbroken one-to-one level. That’s just as much a consideration here, so don’t fear any annoying robot Navis pushing you to do anything or throwing out intrusive hints. When you get down to business they’ll shut the hell up. And you’ll need the time to think, because…

#7 There’s a lot more to do

If the first game was a physics playground, Portal 2 is a theme park. Where your interactions with the areas through portals once consisted only of moving Weighted Storage Cubes through them and launching energy balls from one trajectory to another, there’s now a whole new rulebook of possibilities.

Pneumatic Diversity Vents (those big Perspex sucky pipes that transport objects around the lab) now work through portals, meaning that you can, for example, suck up gun turrets from a room away. There are also now tractor beams and holographic bridges that work in the same way, extending your reach through portals in an exponentially more tactile fashion. And that’s just the start. There’s also…

#8 Physics-bending paint

Yeah, paint. It sounds weird, but it also sounds amazing. Certain areas will be smeared with dynamic liquid colour which affects the properties of anything it touches. So far we know of two flavours. Orange paint acts as an accelerator, vastly increasing Chell’s (and presumably anything else’s) movement speed on floors. Blue paint turns things rubbery, making Weighted Cubes into bouncing pinballs and turning walls into vertical trampolines, allowing Prince of Persia-style wall-jumps.

And the best bit? By linking up portals and paint dispensers, you can redirect the paint flow onto any surface you like. Mark our words, this is going to be amazing. As in fact, are the…

#9 Brand new objects

No longer will your inanimate love-objects be limited to cubes. Now there are plenty of things to become unhealthily attached to. There are Redirection Cubes, which are essentially mirrored Companion Cubes which can be placed around the room to reflect the path of Aperture’s Thermal Discouragement Beams (read: smoking-hot death lasers). Think that laser puzzle from Resi 5, only 1000% more awesome.

There are also Ariel Faith Plates, which act like massive jump accelerators (we assume for both Chell and any objects in the area) and Weighted Storage Balls. The latter are spherical versions of the Companion Cube which slot into buckets rather than being dropped on pressure plates. The possibilities for linking these with all of the above already has us dreaming of the Marble Madness of MC Escher’s nightmares. And most promisingly of all for obsessed Portal meme-fiends…

#10 Music is a much bigger deal

Jonathon Coulton (scribe of the now-legendary ‘Still Alive’) is back on board as song-writer. But while GLaDOS’ iconic swansong will probably make it back in some form, Valve is looking at far more creative ways to integrate new music into the environment. One great example so far is the use of music as a weapon. At one point, GLaDOS uses the threat of Smooth Jazz as a behavioural deterrent. Christ knows what she’ll be like if she ever gets hold of Country.

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46 comments

  • JohnnyMaverik - March 12, 2010 2:58 a.m.

    Playing Portal 2 will feel like being groped by god... you heard it here first.
  • TheSugarRay - March 11, 2010 11:23 p.m.

    I still want half life 3 but this sounds amazing but then again I don't like one hundred years later bit.
  • Muzungu_Mbaya - March 10, 2010 9:41 p.m.

    Just realized something when someone above referenced Duke Nukem Forever as DNF. This was also the acronym used in the Olympics for a skier who missed a gate and stood for: Did Not Finish, which is also applicable to Duke Nukem Forever.
  • frmonth - March 10, 2010 2:57 p.m.

    I HATE COOP WHAT ARE YOU DOING VALVE LEAVE MY SINGLE PLAYER ALONE!!!!! I DONT WANT LEFT FOR DEAD I WANT PORTAL!!
  • reveffect - March 9, 2010 10:18 p.m.

    i loved the first one even though i still havent beaten it after 2 years have passed now. stuck on a very hard lvl i cant make out. anyways i cant wait for portal 2. i could really care less about HL EP3 now. when a game takes this long to come out with no word on how its going you should just move on and put your attention onto something else. but when some news does come out i will be very very happy.
  • philipshaw - March 9, 2010 5:14 p.m.

    Sounds cool, hope that it comes out on PS3 so I can play it. Also what is up with HL EP3?
  • Seabread - March 9, 2010 3:54 p.m.

    awesome, sounds like valve aren't doing the typical sequel trick of 'more of the same' and forgetting to put anything new and exciting in there. Portal was by far and away the best game in the Orange Box. pleased it's getting it's own stand-alone game. it deserves the attention and care. don't even mind if ep3 takes another 3 years now. my two fav's are getting the full on robot chubby valve attention - L4D and Portal. Thank you Valve. @AnonymouZ ... never played portal...isn't it just a puzzle game? (3dpuzzlegame to be exact) Yeah, Only the most awesomest puzzle game ever!
  • 4fromK - March 9, 2010 7:04 a.m.

    this makes me simultanesouly scared and excited. please dont fuck it up, valve.
  • Xavygravy - March 9, 2010 6:28 a.m.

    @RabidTurtl Yes, they hired the DigiPen team that created 'Tag', that game where you use a paint gun which has different properties according to the colour used (e.g. speed, super jump, sticky) - just like they hired the DigiPen team that created 'Narbacular Drop', which ended up as Portal.
  • vogler1604 - March 9, 2010 6:25 a.m.

    FINALLY! Hopefully next week will be an information bomb shell on Half life 2 episode 3
  • Cwf2008 - March 9, 2010 4:35 a.m.

    Screw episode 3, its Portal 2!!!!!
  • awil117 - March 9, 2010 4 a.m.

    "...I heard that Portal 2 was finally coming out and I-JIZZED IN MY PANTS."
  • TheWebSwinger - March 9, 2010 3:37 a.m.

    So you guys say that the first Portal was perfect, then laud a game that "changes everything"? I...am confuse.
  • lovinmyps3 - March 9, 2010 3:33 a.m.

    I bet it will tie into the Half-Life story.
  • HlBRlD - March 9, 2010 2:45 a.m.

    Anyone get their GI issue yet? I got mine today and it is so awesome.
  • Xeacons - March 9, 2010 1:45 a.m.

    AM I EXCITED ENOUGH YET?!!! When oh when oh when?! I can't wait!
  • Pokez117 - March 9, 2010 12:52 a.m.

    I can't wait for that issue of GI on my doorstep. you and GI are my favorite game related things.
  • Cyberninja - March 9, 2010 12:13 a.m.

    i hope they put it on the ps3 and i fear half life 2 ep 3 has gone the way of DNF or starcraft 2
  • rybell - March 9, 2010 12:05 a.m.

    looks fun, don't know what to think about all the new objects and things. they might just make things too crowded and complicated. I'm also disappointed with no news on half-life ep. 3. maybe if we're lucky they'll release another valve collection. platinum collection was fun and orange box was godly. Valve still has to make sure they don't start releasing games too fast. L4D2 only came out a few months ago and already they've announced another game.
  • CH3BURASHKA - March 8, 2010 11:48 p.m.

    Hopefully this doesn't get delayed. Hopefully they're still making Episode 3. Hopefully they both come out this year in an Orange Box 2 bundle. Hopefully they read my comment.

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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