|Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, PS 3, and Mac|
|Intelligence Agency Report by: Thread of Fate|
|You awaken as a girl in a small glass enclosure with nothing but a small stasis pod and toilet for company. A computerized voice, known as GLaDOS, informs you that you are a test subject at the Aperture Science test facility and then rips open a hole in the fabric of the universe to let you out. Thus begins Portal, a 2007 game by Valve that makes you think in ways you’ve never thought before.|
|Weapons Expert Report by: Thread of Fate|
|(not an average)|
|Version Reviewed: PC
Portal is more of a glorified tech demo than a full-fledged game, so I guess it’s good that Valve released it as part of The Orange Box, a collection of five games released in late 2007. The collection includes Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode One, Half Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. Although the other games are stellar in their own right, Portal stands out as a critical darling and new paradigm in gaming, blending creative and innovative gameplay with a compelling narrative, pitch-black humor, and some truly infuriating puzzles.
The game opens with our heroine, Chell, awakening in a test chamber inside a research center —Aperture Science. A disembodied, computerized voice speaks, instructing you and ridiculing you in equal turns, acting as your guide and occasionally dropping disturbing hints about your ultimate fate.
GLaDOS is one of the stars of Portal, and her words and actions against Chell are some of the finest comedy writing in years. The dialogue absolutely drips with sarcasm and bureaucracy, from her unhelpful safety tips (“For instance, the floor here will kill you—try to avoid it.”) to her insincere congratulatory remarks (“Incredible! You, Subject Name Here, must be the pride of Subject Hometown Here.”) and her amusing taunts as she tries to kill you with a neurotoxin (“That thing you incinerated wasn’t important. It was the fluid catalytic cracking unit. It made shoes for orphans. Nice job breaking it, hero.”).The atmosphere of the Aperture Science laboratory is masterfully set by the audio and visual style. The bleak, sterile test chambers are offset by occasional moments of behind-the-scenes exploration, particularly during the latter half of the game. The two sections contrast beautifully—GLaDOS’s controlled environment versus the raw, tarnished realism of the back-door areas, filled with hidden messages from other test subjects who attempted escape. The visual style strives for a conservation of detail, and this works out incredibly well, forcing the player to pay attention to the visual cues of the test chambers.
The other star of Portal is, of course, the Weighted Companion Cube.
Well, not really. But seriously, it’s the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Capable of creating an interspatial pathway between two solid surfaces, the device gives you the power to make a doorway anywhere you damn well please—a simple concept, sure, but the full applications of it are mind-bending. What starts off as simple gap-crossing and jumping turns into elaborate gambits involving multi-portal leaps and flinging yourself across entire rooms.
The portal concept is stretched pretty far, but it’s a testament to Valve’s creative process that it never gets dull or old. The puzzles are fun and interesting, and even playing around with the portals can be fun, as you can fall for infinity or suspend a telephone in midair.
The only real problem with Portal is its length. I first beat the game in about six hours, which seems to be the average, and subsequent run-throughs can reduce that time to less than an hour. The challenge mode provides some replay value, but as a stand-alone game, I wouldn’t pay $30 or $40 for it. That, I suppose, is what makes it such a great deal with The Orange Box. Portal has also gone free multiple times. If you still don’t have it, you can grab it for $20 on Steam, and you can find it for even less during Steam sales.
To sum it all up, this game is a must-play. You owe it to yourself. Thank you for helping us help you help us all.