Friday, September 12, 2008

Portal review

Remember, this review will be using the new review scoring system as outlined in this post. Let's take this baby for a spin!

Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release Date: October 9th, 2007
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
ESRB Notes: Blood, Mild Violence

Around the time of holiday 2007, all anyone would talk about was Portal. They'd go on about the Companion Cube and "the cake is a lie", focusing mainly on the dark humour of the game. What they often didn't talk about, though, is the quality of the game itself. Personally, I think Portal is a fantastic game. Here's why.

First off, the narrative in Portal is just amazing. As the game starts, the player awakes in some sort of holding cell, with no explanation given as to why they are there. That's pretty much how the rest of the game goes, with your only source of information coming from the booming voice of the computer program GLaDOS. As it turns out, you're a test subject in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, and you must work your way through the facility's many puzzles to test their new invention: The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (Commonly referred to as the "Portal Gun").

The Portal Gun is a truly amazing piece of technology. It has the ability to create portals on any flat, non-metallic surface. Up to two portals can be created at once: One blue, and one orange. The blue portal will always lead to the orange one, and vice versa. The speed of whatever enters a portal is transferred over to the exit speed, meaning something going in at 50 miles an hour will exit at 50 miles an hour as well. Or, as GLaDOS put it, "In layman's terms, speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out".

Orange leads to blue, and blue leads to orange: A two-way ticket!

As the game progresses, the tests get more difficult, as well as quite dangerous. Moving platforms over pools of deadly liquid, balls of energy that vaporize victims on impact, and even small sentry guns that fire live rounds (As well as speak to the player, assuring them upon their deactivation that they "don't hate you"). As the game gets more difficult, GLaDOS starts to seem a little less benevolent than before. She seems to care little about your well-being and survival, making light of all fatal hazards in the trials. Looking closer, things get even more scary as you notice there's nobody in the observation rooms watching your progress. Also, GLaDOS starts glitching out, the lights begin flickering, and equipment malfunctions. What's going on here? Where is everyone? Is GLaDOS insane? Is there any cake? I won't say, but the way things turn out is expertly written, and definitely leaves the story wide-open for a sequel (Which, apparently, is already under way).

Like all other titles originally released in the Orange Box, Portal is a real treat both visually and audibly. The special effects of the portals and the lighting are just amazing, though I should expect no less from Valve. They've always managed to turn out amazingly beautiful titles in the past, and Portal is no different. From the models to the animations, Portal is nearly flawless in appearance.

Nothing about this screenshot is anything less than amazing.

Yes, that's right: Nearly. There are quite a few textures with writing on them that, even with the graphics turned up full, are virtually impossible to read. I had to back up quite a few paces to read the word "WARNING" splashed across the Aperture Science Emergency Intelligence Incinerator. Perhaps I shouldn't have been standing on top of it...

As for the audio in Portal, I need say only two words to express how awesome it is: "Still Alive". This amazing original song plays during the ending sequence, and serves as somewhat of an epilogue to the game. It's funny and has a great beat, and I just can't stop listening to it! As of now, I have heard it over 200 times according to Windows Media Player. Yeah, it's that good.

Also serving to make Portal as much a treat for the ears as the eyes is the excellent voice acting given to GLaDOS and the turrets. GLaDOS manages to say even the darkest things in such a happy voice, that I just can't help but laugh at times. As for the turrets, the way they say "There you are" and "Hello" is so haunting and creepy, yet strangely funny. Definitely a success in this category.

As you've probably noticed, this review is turning out to be quite short. This is mainly due to the fact that Portal is a short game. Between 7:55 PM and now (10:49 PM), I've had enough time to write this review and play through Portal one time. It's not a long game by any means, but it sure packs a lot into a few hours. To help extend the live of the game a bit, Portal also includes a selection of "Challenge Chambers". These challenges are basically levels taken from the actual game and made more difficult in some way. For example, one level has almost the entire floor replaced by a pool of lethal fluid, requiring nothing less than the utmost in precision to complete it. Finish these levels, and you'll be considered no less than a master of Portal.


What can I say about Portal that hasn't been said already? It's just an amazing game up, down, left and right. The game's dark humour just can't be missed, and the main gameplay mechanic is the most unique idea in a very, very long time. Without a doubt, Portal deserves all those awards it's received, as well as one more: The first ever...

So then, what do you guys think of the new rating system in action? Let me know in the comment section or in this forum thread!

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Nice review. If I ever get a better computer or a PS3/360, I'll definitely have to pick this up (along with Team Fortress 2).

As for the rating system, I have somewhat of a prediction. I willing to bet you won't give away as many NAY's as you do MEH's and YAY's. Not because you go to easy on games. But you (like me) buy games usually based on reviews, and they'll probably be at least a decent game. (Similar as to how I don't see myself giving scores much lower than 6 or 5).