by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
We Both Said a Lot of Things You’re Going to Regret
Of course, there isn’t always a safe hard surface under that Light Bridge. Sometimes it’s toxic waste, in which case, if you’re anything like me, your partner is dead. In-game buddy murder is just as fun as watching robots pancake. In fact, killing your co-op partner hasn’t been this much fun since Magicka – which, actually, didn’t come out that long ago. But if we ignore it, killing your co-op partner has never been this much fun! GLaDOS even encourages robot-on-robot crime with passive-aggressive comments meant to turn you and your partner against each other. And the game never penalizes death. If you fall into toxic waste, you simply respawn from a nearby tube without having to reload a previous checkpoint or restart the puzzle. The transition between life and death and then life again is seamless for a robot, which adds to its fun.
Portal 2’s co-op campaign also includes gestures, which are similar to Team Fortress 2’s taunts, but Portal 2’s gestures are mostly co-op affairs. You can high-five your partner, play rock-paper-scissors, and even give your buddy a hug. Such antics are especially entertaining when performed in front of the cameras at the end of each puzzle, cameras from which GLaDOS monitors you.
She never appreciates any semblance of human emotion, and always responds with some terse, often sarcastic quip. Unfortunately, the co-op campaign doesn’t have the wealth of dialogue that the main campaign has, so GLaDOS’s responses can become repetitive if you emote in front of the cameras often enough. Regardless, high-fives and hugs became a ritual between me and my robot buddy after the successful completion of every puzzle.
Food for Thought During this Next Test
Not everything about Portal 2 is so magnificent. Under the guise of Robot Enrichment, the game, at least on the PC, includes an item store from which you can purchase cosmetic additions – such as skins, hats, and gestures – for your co-op robots. To clarify, when I say “purchase,” I mean spend actual money, on top of what you already spent on the game. Next to the smart, meticulously designed single-player and co-op campaigns, the item store seems like an afterthought thrown in to increase the game’s profitability.
I understand why Valve included it. Team Fortress 2’s Mann Co. store, with its hats and accessories and weapons, has been wildly successful, netting Valve, community developers, and even the Japanese Disaster Relief Fund substantial amounts of money. So why not create the same in Portal 2? Well, it doesn’t really fit. Team Fortress 2 includes nine different classes and endless, free-flowing gameplay. It can accommodate new weapons and resulting subclasses. It also allows you to interact with many people at once and repeatedly. Servers can contain 23 and even 31 other people, all of whom can see and be jealous of the fancy new hat you just obtained.
In Portal 2, you can only show your hat to one person at a time, your current co-op buddy. And really, there’s no reason to show your hat to another co-op buddy since the co-op campaign is linear, with a defined beginning and end. Once you’re done, you’re done. In fact, Portal 2 doesn’t have much replay value beyond revisiting levels for the developer commentary, which is excellent by the way. No, the Robot Enrichment store doesn’t make any sense. At least not yet. I suppose it does portend Valve’s continued support of Portal 2. As with Team Fortress 2, I’m sure we’ll see plenty of content in the future. Maybe compelling reasons for having a store will emerge. We’ll see. For now, the store has no bearing on the actual game.
Are You Still There?
Disregarding the Robot Enrichment center – and I am actively disregarding it – Portal 2 has some of the most entertaining writing and voice acting of any videogame, ever. It has some of the most innovative and rewarding puzzles, ever. And it contains one of the best co-op experiences, ever.
That is a lot of superlatives for one game – and all are seemingly unrelated. What a bizarre amalgamation. I mean, good writing, innovative puzzles, and engaging co-op – have those three things ever been in a game together? Good writing is only supposed to exist in role-playing games and the occasional first-person shooter. Innovative puzzles? Well, those are reserved for budget indie titles. And we typically only see engaging co-op in shooters, mostly violent ones. But Portal 2 has it all and is, simply put, phenomenal.
Smart, Surprising, Funny, Poignant, Magnificent.