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"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 apuzzle 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.