Video Games

Bullet Points: Portal 2, Part 1 (Spoiler-Free)

There will be no spoilers below, I’m just going to be talking in very general terms about the game (which I haven’t even finished). There’s too much fun stuff to discover on your own, which is why I avoided as much of the pre-release media blitz as I could. (And I feel like I’ve probably had too many spoilers in the Crysis 2 stuff I’ve been posting). I’m not even going to post screenshots. About the only thing I mention specifically below is about an actor who does some voice-work in the game.

Anyway. Portal 2! It’s finally here, and out a few hours early to boot. It unlocked for me around 10pm last night, and after about ten minutes of waiting for the files to decrypt, I was able to start playing. I played about two hours last night, and followed it up with a little more this morning (I called in late). I haven’t tried multiplayer yet; I want to finish the single-player stuff first.

How is it? It’s great and you should buy it and play it. Some general deets and thoughts below. If you leave a comment, please keep them spoiler-free as well.

  • What do we want from a sequel to one of our favorite games ever? More of the same stuff that made the original so great, plus a whole bunch of new stuff to make it feel like a whole new game. So far, Portal 2 seems to have accomplished this.
  • Looks great, runs great, and is funny almost immediately. It’s good to be back at Aperture. Screw HL2: Episode 3. I’d like a new Portal game every couple years.
  • Loading screens. A lot of them. I miss the way Valve used to load levels, sort of in the background or while in an elevator, without loading screens. I assume there’s some technical reasons they can’t accomplish this anymore. The loading doesn’t take more than a few seconds on my machine, but it’s still noticeable. Not really a complaint, just an observation.
  • I have to admit, I’m a little impatient with the early test chamber stuff. The puzzles are fine, and fun, and satisfying enough due to some new puzzle elements, but what I really want is more story. Luckily, there is plenty more story.
  • Stephen Merchant voices a character. He does a great job, very funny and charming. I’ve been a fan of his from the old radio show he did with Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington (their XFM show, pre-podcast, which you can listen to here apparently, the link I posted earlier is no good). I actually prefer him to GLaDOS, simply because we already know GLaDOS from the first game.
  • In fact, if Stephen Merchant could please come over and narrate for me while I play other games, I’d appreciate it. He’d be great in Crysis 2. “Oh, bugger! Look out! Aliens! Ooh, they seem livid.” Or if he could just come and talk to me while I do laundry, or pay bills, or whatever else, that would be great.
  • Portal was a very short game, which was fine, but I had hoped Portal 2 would be longer and it certainly appears to be.
  • There are more on-screen prompts than are probably necessary, but I’ll take all the help I can get.
  • Some elements of this game remind me strongly of elements from a non-Valve game, but I don’t want to say which. In fact, this is kind of silly to keep going on when I don’t really want to say anything about anything.
  • So, I’m going to stop.
  • I want to go home now and play more. It’s a lot of fun.
  • Also: In the game’s “Extras” section, there’s a little “interactive” “game” “preview” thing for the movie Super 8. It’s worth a look, I guess? It doesn’t take long, and I don’t recall ever seeing a promotional tie-in like this in a game before. It’s a little lame, honestly, but different.
  • Also also: there’s a store where you can buy skins and hats and gestures for your Portal 2 multiplayer robot. I don’t know what my opinion of this is, but if people want to spend more to buy stuff for their robot, Valve is certainly ready to take their money. I wonder if all this in-game merchandise is being put into place for some new game further down the road.
  • If HL2: Ep3 ever does ever come out, I wonder if I’ll be able to buy Gordon Freeman a hat.


  1. My guess about the loading screens is that it’s just Source starting to show its age. They may have been making upgrades to it over time, but it’s still fundamentally the same engine they designed almost a decade ago, with the same sort of technical constraints that may no longer make sense on modern hardware.

  2. The big cutscene part about halfway through has to be my favorite scene in all of video game history, and I’m not exaggerating. Everything in this game is so fantastically done; the animations, the writing, the acting, the art… and especially the brilliant combination of all of those things. I’ve never been so impressed by such a simple game. Valve never ceases to amaze.