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Portal 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Valve
Release Date: April 20, 2011 (US), April 22, 2011 (EU)

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PS3/X360/PC Preview - 'Portal 2'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Portal 2 introduces players to a host of fresh puzzles and devious new test chambers in never-before-seen areas of Aperture Science Labs. It also reunites them with GLaDOS, the occasionally murderous computer companion from the original Portal.

Aperture Science did not have a large presence at E3 2010. Apparently, its plans for selling video game-branded shower curtains have not been very popular among publishers and failed to justify a booth. However, their Handheld Portal Device, which was famously demonstrated in a component of 2007's The Orange Box alongside demos of Black Mesa Research's Gravity Gun and the war products of Reliable Excavation Demolition and Builder's League United, has proven a little more successful, leading them to devote a small meeting room for demonstrations of the newest version of the device ... and plenty of exciting new Aperture Science equipment.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth ....

Like last year, Valve's presence at E3 was limited to a small meeting room, themed after and focusing on one game: Portal 2, the sequel to the megahit component of Half-Life 2's Orange Box compilation. The demonstration involved a gag video that displayed new Aperture equipment, a live demo of an early area, and some developer Q&A. It also neatly showed the progress of the game, which will be receiving a full release next year.

The original Portal ends with its hero in the Party Escort Submission Position, picked up by robots and returned to a relaxation chamber for future experiments testing the Handheld Portal Device … and cake.

Hundreds of years later, the testing facility has fallen into disrepair, resulting in the hero's reawakening among ruins. Attempting to escape, she runs into one of many AI Spheres — components of the game's iconic villain/ally/troll/cake provider, GLaDoS. Fortunately, the early spheres you encounter are friendlier and help you exit the facility. Unfortunately, they have as much of a clue about where you're going as you do — that is to say, none at all. Where does that get you? Well, let's just quote the dialogue:

"Oh. It's you. I'm sorry I didn't recognize you. I've been too busy being dead. Because you killed me."

Fortunately, GLaDoS is a forgiving troll and decides to keep you alive to continue experimenting with the device, confident that she can forgive you in the name of science. Thus begins a second, and this time much longer set of tests, and you get to use new items and devices galore.

Alternatively, you can take the role of one of two testing robots, who have their own interactions and tests. The co-op campaign received no coverage during the E3 demonstrations, but it has been confirmed that this distinct campaign will be much harder than the single-player campaign to make up for the distinct advantage that two sets of portals may provide. The difficulty of the single-player campaign will be on par with the original game, so it'll be tricky but won't be too insane or rely much on quick reflexes.

The E3 video focused on showcasing new gameplay elements and showing several examples of how each addition will change the gameplay. The pneumatic diversity tubes suck in air on one end and blast it out on the other, identifying but never judging anything that goes through. The air currents are very handy for knocking things over or pulling them out of your way. Two gels can paint surfaces:  the propulsion gel, which causes Chell to accelerate uncontrollably, and the repulsion gel, which turns a surface into a trampoline to set up higher jumps. Both gels are sprayed from launchers, so you can use portals to target specific surfaces.

Also introduced to the game are a new series of weighted cubes. The most significant is the weighted redirection cube, which has mirrored surfaces for dealing with lasers, energy balls — or the new thermal discouragement beam, which sets you on fire to discourage you from touching it. Also more formally introduced are weighted storage balls, which only showed up in the advanced versions of some scenarios in the first game. Finally, the video introduced the aerial faith plates, which catapult objects into the air.

All of these items (and more!) are planned for Portal 2. Yes, all SKUs —Xbox 360, PC and now Mac OS X and PlayStation 3 — will come out simultaneously. It's the first Valve game to do so for Macs. Many plot elements will return, but several of the memes won't. The cake might not be a lie anymore. Jonathan Coulton is also returning and will have significantly more involvement. Surprisingly, several Steam features — community features, DLC and updates — will come to the PS3 iteration. They hope to even provide PC and PS3 cross-platform multiplayer alongside the existing PC-to-Mac play. Naturally, this announcement proved particularly exciting, though it's uncertain whether it'll pan out.

Fans will have to wait until next year to experience Portal 2. GLaDoS awaits your anticipation and hopes to reward it with cake.


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