Portal 2 shares very little in common with the first Portal, mostly just the same gun. GLaDOS is also back, but her role and personality this time around are rather different. Portal 2 is more story driven, loud, not at all minimalistic, and in some ways quicker than the first game. Portal 2 is polished, but it is not surprising. That said, I love the portal gun!
- The new game mechanics really stand out, although they are rarely combined and take away from the complexity that emerges after exploring a few simple concepts (as in the first Portal).
- The credit song– surprising how much it grows on you.
- Moral ambiguity, an intelligent script, and the voice acting. At times the game is very funny (all due to the amazing Wheatley), at times it is rather serious, and most of the time it is somewhere in between.
- Of course the fact that despite my complaining, this game is a lot less frustrating than it could have easily been. Go obsessive Valve playtesting!
- The music is not only bad, it is a letdown compared to the cold, atmospheric music of the first game and the music featured in the Portal 2 trailers (of which they took only the best few second samples). Blah blah blah, the change in music reflects the change in environment between the games; sterility vs fecundity. Great, I’m excited for some liveliness, although only the first half of Portal 2 really maintains this and the second devolves into a bunch of boring warehouses. Which leads me onto…
- Clutter. The game certainly looks great, whether there are vines all over the place or metal railings, but all these visual feats detract from the clarity that is necessary to solve the puzzles. Almost every time I was confused while playing stemmed from the fact that I had no idea where I should be going or looking. I dreaded the start of a new puzzle because it meant a few minutes of surveying my surroundings and picking out the four or five actually useful puzzle solving components present in the immense rooms. I do appreciate the attention to detail and the look of the game (I spent plenty of time exploring the environment), and I understand the levels need to be physically larger to accommodate the new game mechanics.
- The repetitive atmosphere and pacing of the game (solve some puzzles, listen to some quips, step into an elevator).
- There were some story inconsistencies, lame moments, and abrupt plot changes. Also a bit too much tangential narrative while solving puzzles. Chell is boring, which is a shame because she could have been cool and a nice foil to the AIs, silent protagonist or not.
- Tons of loading screens which made the game feel choppy.
I am excited to see the mods that people come up with. I think people will combine the best of Portal 2 (the new game mechanics) and Portal 1 (the minimalism) to create some brand new ways of doing science.
For a better written review that I heartily agree with, head to ars technica. If you are looking for spoilers and some story speculation, try this hub. For a beautiful Portal related experience, go here. Tevis Thompson has a nice essay on the game as well.