Portal 2 Takes the 2011 Video Game Sequel to a New Dimension

This year has been a year of run-of-the-mill sequels in the video game industry. From the military shooters like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3, to long established IP installments like Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Gears of War 3. With a few exceptions, the major game studios stuck with tried and true formulas for making money rather than creating unique gaming experiences. Having said all of that, my favorite game of 2011 is also a sequel. Valve’s Portal 2 is a follow-up to its sleeper hit Portal that was included in their 2007 Orange Box bundle.

Valve went above and beyond to ensure that this sequel would eclipse the original in every conceivable way. Portal 2 includes all the humor and innovative puzzle-based gameplay of the original but this time on a standalone disc with the character development and studio support of a full-blown top-tier AAA release. The team also included a co-operative component that takes the puzzles to a new mind-bending level while preserving the novelty of the game.

The player once again assumes the role of Chell, the silent protagonist from the original game. Chell awakens to find herself back in the bowels of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center that is crumbling due to her defeat of GLaDOS, the malevolent AI that runs every aspect of the facility. With the help of Wheatley, an inept personality sphere voiced by the estimable Stephen Merchant, Chell embarks on her journey to free herself from the underground prison where GLaDOS uses her as a glorified lab rat.

Early in the game Chell and Wheatley manage to reactivate GLaDOS who returns to Chell her trusty portal gun and proceeds to begin “testing” her in the various chambers familiar from the first game. These test chambers include all kinds of fun deadly traps like spikes, lasers and automated machine gun turrets that Chell must use her portal gun to navigate.

What makes this sequel stand out from the first game, and consequently what makes it stand alone this year, is the time and effort Valve put into improving every aspect of the game. With Portal 2, Valve took the time to flush out the back-story of Aperture Science. Through the course of the game Chell is introduced to the original art deco inspired Aperture Science Facility deep underneath the one from the first game as well as Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson.

In addition, the inclusion of various physics defying gels adds to the complexity of the solving of each test chamber. This, along with the addition of the co-op mode, creates a challenging experience without sacrificing the ambiance and wit of the original. Portal 2 was not only the best sequel of 2011, but in my opinion is the best game of 2011. The Valve Corporation released Portal 2 on April 18th, 2011.

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