Throughout my childhood I was always told that more is not necessarily better, but as you grow older and get just that slightly bit wiser, you come to realise that sentiment is complete hogwash. Of course more is always better. I know there are exceptions to the rule, of course there are, but they don’t work to prove my point here, so I’ll completely disregard them, rather than let them totally discredit my segue – it’s more fun that way. I guess what I’m trying to say is, that 4 cakes are better than 2; 4 beers are better than 2 – unless you’re driving of course; 4 page 3 models are better than 2 and let’s be honest, collectively, they might make up one brain between them then; and ultimately, 4 portals are better than 2... which is my point entirely. They also say an experience shared is an experience doubled... actually, I think I just made that up, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, Portal 2’s co-op mode is an absolute blast.
It’s hard to grasp how such a mode would work without actually experiencing it for yourself or having a wordsmith explain it to you in such intimate details that you can visualise it yourself. That my friends, is my job... so let me just go and get someone who can do that...
Your most important tool in Portal 2’s co-op arena will surely be your ping tool – actually, I lie, it’s teamwork, but I digress. Your ping tool is your virtual finger of sorts and instead of shouting through your headset until you're blue in the face and pointing at your screen indicating where your partner should puts his portal before realising that’s not going to work, with a click of the left thumbstick you can place a waypoint on the screen. This is one of the first things you’ll learn in Portal 2’s co-op campaign, as the dynamic duo, Atlas and P-body are created and unleashed into GLaDOS’ world of pain.
You’re first asked to select an animal from a selection of animal related tiles and choose an element from a number of periodic table elements – to which GLaDOS couldn’t help but poke fun at us when we chose silver; “Interesting choice,” she says. This is Portal 2’s way of teaching you the basics of the ping tool and humiliating you in the process. It’s hardly rocket science to work it out, but GLaDOS’ quips are always worthy of a giggle.
We were subsequently flung into the first of three levels, which consists of a couple of adjacent gauntlets where my partner and I need to work together to get through to the end. It’s essentially an arena to teach the basics of Portal 2’s co-op, and tries to instil, early on, the necessity for teamwork. After all, there’s no “I” in co-op – and if you say there is in co-operative, I may just have to hunt you down. In the opening section alone, my teammate had to stand on a button so I could travel across the subsequent bridge it opened up; I had to shoot portals on various sides of a glass pane so he could navigate the obstacle; and on one part I had to catch a companion cube, pass it through an opening to my teammate on the other side, who then passed it back further along so I could drop it on a pressure plate.
As you get further on, the puzzles become increasingly complex, and thanks to what Valve calls a “Fizzler,” you will get your first genuine head scratching moment. The Fizzler is nothing more than a blue force-field like substance that can disintegrate companion cubes and remove your portals when you walk through them, so working together around them is key. In this particular sequence, I was tasked with standing on a button that disengaged the Fizzler, while my compadre on the other side of the glass wall had to shoot his portal over my shoulder, before shooting another one further up the gauntlet, just so I could reach the button to open up a bridge to the end of the level.
A quick high-five and a wave later – using up on the d-pad and pushing up/down on the right thumbstick – and we’re in our separate tubes being rebuilt for the second chamber.
The second map is more of the traditional Portal fare, with both Atlas and P-Body unleashed in the same map space. All that sits between you and success is a large chasm that’s far too wide to jump, and thus, the power of portals and momentum will be key here. As is teamwork. Either side of the chasm sits a button and hanging from the wall on the left hand side is a platform that is controlled by said buttons. Behind our pair of robots sits a slanted platform and further behind them to the right sits a Fizzler and two horizontal platforms, with the Fizzler acting as the meat in our portal-esque sandwich.
It didn’t take us long to figure out that placing two portals for your co-op partner on the inside surfaces of the portal-esque sandwich would be key to building up the necessary momentum to fling one another across the chasm. From there, when our partner was in a constant free fall, we had to switch out the top portal at the last minute and use that falling momentum to catapult our partner across the crevice by placing the portal on the slanted platform. Typical Portal stuff in essence. Of course, hitting the button at the right time is an essential part of the puzzle, otherwise the free falling person will hit it and plummet to their death; and not removing the portal as they’re passing through it is also another potential stumbling block. Both of which we fell victim to. Once your partner is over the gap, the roles reverse and a quick high-five later and you’re onto the next chamber.
From fun with portals, to fun with lasers.
The third chamber is all about directing lasers around the room to activate nodes which in turn open up your path to freedom. It’s a multi-staged chamber where in the first part you’ll have to use all four of your portals – both you and your partner’s – and a Reflector Cube to direct a solitary laser through both the nodes that are hidden in little cubby holes on the map. It’s fairly basic stuff to be honest.
The next part requires that you and your partner work together to dispatch four turrets on the far side of the room, before, again, directing the lasers through a couple of nodes to open up your path. Taking down the turrets is simply a matter of one of you holding the cube and directing the laser at the turrets while your partner stands on a plate that drops down a protective barrier. From there, using all four of the portals again and placing the cube at the correct angle, you simply have to direct the laser at the two remaining nodes, which in turn raises multiple platforms that act as steps out of the puzzle room and into the chamber’s end room.
It’s fairly clear that from the first three chambers alone, Portal 2’s co-op not only seems to be shaping up to be a classic Portal experience, but that it’s also going to cause some genuine head scratching moments along the way too. Unfortunately we weren’t able to check out any of the new gameplay gadgets, but after only about 30 minutes of gameplay, I guess that’s asking for a little too much. The humour is all present and correct too, and GLaDOS was on form throughout as she tried to drive a wedge between our partnership and the friendship of the duo. Portal 2’s co-op on this showing is shaping up to offer fans a fresh Portal experience, some mind-bending puzzles – even early on – and some of that trademark humour... and that’s just the co-op! It’s fun, it works and this is only half the game. Things seem to be shaping up rather well then for Valve’s latest title.
Portal 2 is scheduled for an April 19th and April 22nd release in North America and Europe respectively.