"Why Portal is perfect"

Oct 12, 2007

Ben Richardson is Content Editor for GamesRadar UK.

The Orange Box is Valve's finest hour. Five triple-A games, one package, muchos satisfaction guaranteed. But it's a special bundle for more than simply its value for money, because The Orange Box contains the world's first ever perfect game: Portal.

If you've read the discussion GamesRadar had with several mag editors, you'll know how most journalists feel about 'perfect' games and 'perfect' scores. Short version - such a thing doesn't exist. But I don't agree. And here's why I reckon Portal is perfection...

It has a perfect... story
I could talk for hours about the brilliance of Portal's story. But the crucial thing is that it gives the game a clearly defined beginning, middle and end. It's a perfect plot. The slowly unravelling mystery gives added weight to your actions, pulls you through each task and brings colour to Portal's world. It elevates it from being just a puzzle game, and turns it into an adventure.

It has a perfect... idea
Portal's quirky warping never once feels held back or shortchanged by some arbitrary rule. In fact, there are moments when I thought "I can't possibly have completed that task in the 'correct' way" because the solution felt so natural. Portal is a totally linear game, but the very definition of freeform gameplay.

The idea is simple - thing goes in here, thing comes out there - but the effect turns your world inside out and upside down. It's such a perfectly realised idea that you can actually break the game, in a way, resulting in a ticking off from your AI over-mistress who's forced into opening the exit herself to let you continue. Every shooter I play from now on will feel trapped and claustrophobic without Portal's warp-hopping aspect.