Posts Tagged ‘Co Op’

Developer: Valve Corporation

Publiser: Valve Corporation

Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

Price: £39.99 (£36.99 on Gamestation)

(Please note that post this may be a little spoilerific, so if you haven’t played/finished Portal 2 yet then exit here)

A wise man once said ‘Perfection is hard to improve’. Never has this phrase been more accurate than when used to describe Valve’s ingenious FPS puzzler, Portal.

Originally bundled in with the Orange Box in 2007 as an additional side-project, Portal was a surprising hit. Capturing the hearts of Half-Life fans the world over with its quirky puzzles and dark, sarcastic charm the game has sold almost 4 million copies (excluding Steam sales) over the last four years.

Pour-tal. (I'm so sorry)

Unexpectedly, Portal rapidly began to receive acclaim, in many cases overshadowing Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, which were very much anticipated successes. Awards included the Game of the Year, Best Game Design  and the Innovation Award at the 2008 Games Developers Choice Awards, amongst many, many others.

Years later, we now found ourselves handling the sequel. But how does one replicate the success of a title that has become so critically-acclaimed, especially something praised for its originality and innovation? How do you transfer a fledgling side-game to a stand-alone hit? Well, ask Valve, because somehow they managed it.

To the game…

For fans of the original, expect plenty more of the same. Once again you take the role of mute protagonist Chell, awoken from stasis after the destruction of GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the artificial intelligence computer system that you combat in the previous title. Chell’s stasis is disturbed by a small personality core called Wheatley, who attempts to guide her towards an escape pod as a means of rescue. In the process of doing so however, they accidentally awake the dormant GLaDOS, who, bitter and aggressive after her prior downfall, proceeds to rebuild the decaying Aperture Science labs in order to put Chell through another cycle of rigorous and dangerous tests.

Portals in action

The game physics remain generally unchanged in Portal 2. Testing your spatial awareness, the player must use ingenuity and experimentation to progress from chamber to chamber with their trusty Portal Gun. But there are also some interesting additions this time round. Instead of relying solely on the use of two portals, there are also Hard Light Bridges (long panels that can be used horizontally to bridge a gap or vertically as a resourceful shield), Tractor Beams and three types of gel: Repulsion (a blue gel that causes the user to bounce when they come into contact with it), Propulsion (an orangey-red gel that increases the speed of any user passing over it) and Conversion (a white gel allowing any surface to become portal-able when ‘caked’ in it – a little in joke there); the latter device is particularly game changing as it enables an endless amount of possibilities.

Bridge the gap!

These new additions are key to Portal 2. They ensure that the game is not a simple revamp of the original, adding new degrees of difficulty and variation. For veterans they establish dimensions unexplored previously, keeping it fresh and interesting. Importantly, Portal 2 has a really accessible learning curve. As with the first game, the first few test chambers function as an interactive tutorial, instructing the user on the basics of portal usage. Experienced players may find this a little tedious, but can run through them quickly enough that it should not become a problem. As the game progresses, portals must be used in more inventive ways, testing the creativity and logic of the player, with the new gameplay elements added continually for extra obstacles. In the later chambers, when Hardlight Bridges, Gels and Tractor Beams are combined, the game really comes into its own, setting impressive challenges.

The levels are well designed and really show off the sequels improved graphics. Between chambers, Chell is often treated to more detailed passageways, complete with growing foliage and transforming surfaces as GLaDOS attempts to rebuild a decaying facility. Escaping the somewhat sterile environments of the original, which were almost entirely centred around very small-scale and repetitive lab designs, the player also gets a glimpse into the vast scope of the Aperture Science building, with long distance shots that sometimes seem endless.

The bumbling Wheatley aka Stephen Merchant

Portal 2 definitely seems a bit gloomier, aided considerably by a beautiful ambient soundtrack. This goes hand-in-hand with perhaps the most impressive voice acting ever witnessed in a game. Ellen McLain (GLaDOS), J.K. Simmons (Cave Johnson) and a surprise appearance from Brit comedy writer Stephen Merchant (Wheatley) provide the perfect comedic delivery of a hilarious script that is notable for its wit and charm. GLaDOS appeals to the child in all of us, regularly spouting the equivalent of ‘Your mum’ jokes (“Oh good, you finished the test. Let’s see what the data says. Hmmm, it says you’re a terrible person. Weird, we weren’t even testing for that.”), with Merchant’s Bristolian accent lending itself particularly well to a clumsy, dim robot. And referring to audio, don’t forget the outro song… It’s sure to be another Valve classic.

Add to all this a newly developed multiplayer system and you have a winner! The campaign can be played co-operatively in both split screen and online modes. PS3 users can play over Steam using PSN, finally allowing console and PC gamers to cross formats (although currently, due to PSN’s outage, this won’t be possible for the near future), and will also receive a free promotional code for the PC or MAC version. Disappointingly, Xbox Live users can only play with other Xbox owners, but hey, at least it’s actually working! Impressively, the co-op mode is made up of all new test chambers, doubling the hours of play time. Co-op is much more than just a name in this title; it is completely vital. The multiplayer chambers cannot be completed alone, some requiring the use of all 4 portals at your disposal.

Best of auto-mate-ons

And it appears that Valve have thought of everything: For users playing online without a mic the developers have included various tools, such as a Ping Tool, a cursor used for highlighting a pa

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Originally written in April 12th 2010, for a gaming content writer competition

When it was announced that the N64 classic Perfect Dark was coming to Xbox Live Arcade, frequent demands were heard across the gaming community for the release of its predecessor, the nostalgia-filling Brosnan-Basher Goldeneye. However, it soon became very clear that Rare made the right decision.

Despite PD drawing very heavily from Goldeneye, it is patently a much more developed title. Graphically it was much sharper, with a greater attention to detail and palette of colours used, especially visible in some of the darker levels like Chicago Stealth, looking especially beautiful when rendered in full HD.

See the difference for yourself!

PD also had more sophisticated gameplay and importantly much more replay value, lending itself perfectly to XBLA. Not only is there an entertaining solo campaign – a captivating sci-fi story, free from the chains of cinematic realism – but a vast multiplayer system also. This includes standard co-op mode and a highly inventive ‘counter-op’ scenario in which one player assumes the role of enemy forces, constantly respawning as a different enemy attempting to foil Joanna Dark’s objectives.  Additionally, there are crowns to collect by completing a specific task in each level and 29 challenges to conquer, which can be played solo or multiplayer, pitting the players against AI simulants in various scenarios like the classic capture the flag (briefcase) or king of the hill.

Greasy Monsieur Brosnan

Obviously when compared to a successful contemporary FPS like MW2 the AI often appears illogical and outdated. However, this is completely forgivable when accepting  that PD was originally released 10 long years ago, coupled with the incredibly thorough multiplayer simulant AI list. The list is perhaps one of the most creative and memorable elements of the game, including 18 massively differing sim types, from standard difficulty alternatives to specialised bots that prey on the winning player or that will only attack using explosives.

All this, bundled up for a measly 1200 points? And never having to look at Mr Brosnan’s greasy mirkin hair? Yes please.