Portal - hands-on

What’s surprising about the turret encounters is that they’re not purely puzzles: most of them can be conquered with speed, quick-thinking and makeshift cover, and they’re entirely freeform. In other words, they’re combat. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the thoughtfulness of the rest of the game, but if you do prefer to use only your brain, there’s always a clever way of avoiding being shot altogether.

Expert Narbacular Drop players and wormhole physicists might worry that they’ll breeze through Portal. But although it introduces its concepts to you gradually, it’s a complex equation by the end. The later levels involve bouncing energy balls, moving platforms, physics puzzles, weight-triggered doors and often require an impressive grasp of the subtleties of momentum. In fact, the last two chambers take 40 minutes or more each.

Then you’ve got the Challenge and Advanced modes. In Challenge you’ve got to get through the same series of rooms using either a) as few portals as possible, b) as little time as possible or c) as few footsteps as possible: in other words, the shortest possible route. Advanced takes the hardest levels from the main game and adds more obstacles, hazards and complications until they become virtually impossible.

“It’s all the things we’d like to torture our players with,” says lead designer Kim Smith, “but they’re just too cruel.”

After that, what comes next depends on us. If the universal cry is for multiplayer, they’ll take a whack at it. If players just want more of the same, they’ll churn it out episodically. If lots of ambitious suggestions come up, they’ll go back to the drawing board and start work on Portal 2. And if no one likes it at all, the team will split up and move onto other Valve projects. But that doesn’t seem likely, somehow.

For more info on other upcoming Valve games click here.


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