A few hours into the campaign, the narrative focus expands beyond "What happens now?" to include "How did that whole weird situation come to pass?" In your explorations, you encounter new characters who provide some of the best lines in the game, and your AI companions evolve in surprising and gratifying ways. You also encounter a variety of new testing materials, from catapults to bridges made of light to gelatinous goos that splatter on surfaces and directly affect the way you move through the world. Portal 2 does a great job of introducing you to new tools and then challenging you to use them in clever ways. Successful navigation requires careful study of your environment and experimentation with the materials and surfaces available to you. There are some very tricky situations that you must puzzle your way out of, and figuring them out is always immensely satisfying.
6308998NoneIt's all in the timing. And the lasers.
The single-player campaign will likely last at least twice as long as your first Portal playthrough, clocking in at somewhere around seven to nine hours. Replaying it isn't very satisfying from a gameplay perspective, but with a ton of clever writing, some interesting developer commentary, and a bevy of achievements, a second playthrough is still appealing. Unfortunately, there are no stand-alone test chambers or leaderboards to really stump you or scratch that competitive itch, but even so, Portal 2 is not light on content. The cooperative campaign is an entirely separate, two-player experience that provides hours of exciting new puzzles and environments. You and your partner (split-screen or online) play as two robots that GLaDOS guides through a serious of test chambers. She's a bit disappointed that, as robots, you can't die horribly in the name of science, but that doesn't stop her from putting her perverse sense of humor to work. The robots provide a bit of physical humor themselves; their animations are a treat to watch, and seeing your partner bash into a ceiling is good for a chuckle.
There are some trips off the beaten path, but the action here is more akin to that of the original Portal--lots of clever test chambers that present an increasingly difficult challenge. Each player can deploy two portals of his or her own, and having twice as many portals allows a new degree of complexity. Again, the difficulty curve is fairly gentle, teaching you the basics before getting down to the tricky stuff. Teamwork is the name of the game, and some puzzles require some coordinated feats of timing. To help you communicate, you have a few simple visual indicators that you can place in the environment to direct your partner's attention or set a countdown timer for a simultaneous action. Verbal communication is very helpful as well, but if you aren't able or inclined to chat, these indicators are a surprisingly effective way to get your point across. Cooperative mode also includes the Aperture Science versions of emoticons--little dances or gestures that you can perform for fun. Solving puzzles with a friend is definitely satisfying, but it's also a lot of fun to goof around. Shooting a portal under your partner's feet and transporting him in front of a moving spike plate may not be nice, but it's a great way to get him back for the time he disappeared the bridge from under your feet and dropped you into a pit of deadly goo. While the cooperative campaign is shorter than the single-player one, together they provide 12 to 15 hours of very enjoyable, very accessible content.
This clear, easy-to-use icon is a much nicer way to point something out to your partner than yelling at them over a headset.
As you journey through the massive Aperture facility, it becomes clear that Portal 2 does not merely come after Portal. Instead, it radiates outward from its predecessor, simultaneously illuminating the world that gave rise to Portal and continuing the adventure that began there. The sense of novelty is diminished, but the thrill of exploration and puzzle-solving is still intoxicating, and it's amazing how Portal 2 manages to tell a better story with disembodied voices and spherical robots than most games can with full-on humans. Your return to Aperture Science is a joyful one in this immensely appealing, laugh-out-loud funny, and thoroughly satisfying sequel.
If you're already playing Portal 2, be sure to check out our game guide which includes both a Story mode walkthrough and tips for cooperative play.