Home Editorial Five things that could ruin Portal 2


Like the rest of the known world, I love Portal. Sci-fi setting, Half-Life universe, psychotic computer system, what isn’t there to like? That’s not even considering the spectacular game design choices and other clever workarounds that can be found in the commentary for the game* or the fact that the entire game is pretty much one big tutorial that happens to be incredibly fun.

Following its surprising success, it was no further surprise that a sequel was in the works. but sequels are mysterious beasts who like to swan in and wreck your shit so here are a few things that would, in my opinion, ruin Portal 2. Oh, and if you haven’t played Portal for any reason, there’s likely to be spoilers galore in here.

Any joke from Portal

This isn’t to say that aspects of the first game can’t be mentioned or pointed out in a funny way; one of the trailers has already done this to great effect. What I’m talking about is extensive inclusion of the Companion Cube (or forcing it in where it isn’t needed) or an extraneous “The cake is a lie” joke. When the game first came out, cake-based comedy was a kind of in-joke for Portal junkies. Throughout the first game, the promise of pastries also served as a creepy little niggle that maybe everything at Aperture Science wasn’t quite as it seemed. Where has this humor brought us today? “

LOLOLOL TEH CAEK IS A LIE” has been posted in everything remotely Portal or cake related. How clever.

The overuse of Portal 1 memes isn’t a particularly high risk problem, thankfully; the writer for Portal came out to say that he never meant for that single line to be blown out of proportion and that he himself hates the joke. Obviously if it’s printed on an abandoned computer screen that I have to go out of my way to search for, I’m not going to give a shit but if GlaDOS makes a point of announcing something like “I’m sorry that the cake was a lie” without some wicked evil-techno humour attached, I’m going to be pissed.

A lack of Cave Johnson

“Bin, who the hell is Cave Johnson?” I hear you cry. Cave Johnson is the CEO of Aperture Science. That fact isn’t completely obvious to casual players since his name was first found in a few memos from the epic ARG Valve ran to hype up/reveal Portal 2. He is also the narrator of the recently released ‘Panels’ and ‘Bots’ Portal 2 trailers. Johnson is a fucking brilliant, genuinely funny, and well-written character who happens to make me laugh my ass off. If there isn’t one section of Portal 2 taking place in  his office, his secret office, or something like to that effect, I’ll cry a little inside. Why create such an awesome character for the sake of a couple of trailers and an ARG? Would including him in the actual game drastically and negatively alter its development? All I can do is put on my Conspiracy Hat** and hope that he’s been reincarnated as a computer program for Portal 2.

Not enough co-op levels

One of the big selling points of Portal 2 is that you and a buddy can team up to take on puzzle rooms together, bringing the number of simultaneous portals to four and the possibilities to up to “Ow, ow, my brain hurts make it stop.” The potential for those team-based levels are massive, but could you imagine there only being ten or twelve of them?

I have no idea just how big these puzzles will be; they could be gargantuan monstrosities for which ten is more than adequate, but it’s always better to have too much than too little. I know that Valve is releasing a room creator/editor that will allow players to make their own puzzles but, honestly, I’d like to have a good number of stock co-op experiences before venturing into the inevitably sadistic community maps. Could you imagine a Kaizo Hack of Portal 2? I mean, I could imagine it but I don’t particularly want to.

Direct references to a Half-Life release

For those of you who haven’t played through Half-Life 2 (why?!), an abandoned ship called The Borealis was found by resistance members near the end of the existing story. The freighter was covered in Aperture Science logos from stern to port. This is how we first learned that Portal and Half-Life take place in the same universe, an interesting concept that offers a number of possibilities.

Unfortunately, history dictates that stories set in the same universe only lend themselves to crappy cross-overs and fan-wankery. While I have faith that Valve won’t fail the community, there’s always a niggling fear that Gordon Freeman will barge through the walls of Aperture Science with the Grav Gun and start wrecking some face. Okay, maybe not that exact scenario, but you get what I mean. This isn’t to say that seeing an abandoned hazmat suit similar to Freeman’s or, dare I say, an appearance from the G-Man would necessarily be a bad thing, but such examples would only be little teases of “What the fuck happened?” rather than “Oh, they’re revealing the next Half-Life game at E3.”

The game not being long enough

My first playthrough of Portal took me ten or so hours, with my fastest run being around seven hours. That’s an okay length but it could be longer. If Portal 2 doesn’t make me hit the fifteen to twenty hour mark, I’m probably going to feel a little ripped off. While the prospect of a disappointing content total is really low risk, such an outcome could would easily wreck the game. This is, of course, not taking into account just how brilliant those hours could be, so it’s a balancing act that will have to wait until release to assess. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see if any of these potential disasters strike, but it’s only a couple of weeks away now. Just a couple of weeks.

Just a couple of weeks…
Just a couple of weeks…
Just a couple of weeks…
Just a couple of weeks…

*Interesting point: Gamers are reluctant to look up or at ceilings.
**Enjoy: zonvmr btlpwi mbrntz tbkzxp qxripi hthvem sgobop qmpqtp dlthwi nemrwh soabopcp

26 replies to this post
  1. All valid points. I thought this was going to be a Viking Rant to rule the ages but instead you had 5 valid points.

    And it’s only It is 11 days, 12 hours, 42 minutes, 32 seconds until Monday, April 18, 2011 at 10:00:00 AM (Seattle time) aka PORTAL 2!

  2. I can guarantee you that at least one of them is going to happen. It’s the half life release bit. They’ve been being especially quiet lately, right after promising to reveal some big things about it. I think this is the reason.

  3. 2. If you look on YouTube, there are already clips of gameplay where Johnson takes the role of your experiment operator. Yes, he is hilarious.

    3. The Co-Op mode is pretty much half of the game. It’ll be just as long as the single-player mode.

    5. Both single-player and co-op are confirmed to be about twice as long as Portal was.

    That’s three ruinous scenarios dispelled already. Maybe I should have your job, Bin.

    • 3, 5:

      These things are only confirmed if you’re prone to believing hypespeak at face value!

      That said, I’m expecting to love this game, and that is not common.

    • I purposefully haven’t looked at YouTube for that kind of stuff. Why? Spoilers mostly; it’s far more fun to fly blind into games/movies than to check stuff out beforehand. What can I say, maybe I failed there.

      I really hope that co-op isn’t half of the game. That’s not to say that I don’t want co-op to be big or important, I just don’t want to have to wait for my buddy to get home from work/the pub/having a life to finish it off. Whilst I’m really interested to see how co-op goes, I have a horrible feeling that things could become counter-op quite quickly and I like to have my serious face on if it’s part of the main game. If singleplayer and co-op are bout fifteen hours or so a piece then it’ll be worth it but I’d much rather have twenty hours flying solo and then ten hours co-op.

      I did read that a Valve employee (I can’t remember who for the life of me, sorry) said that Portal 2 is definitely at least double the length of Portal but this raises the question of just how long Portal is. On my first play through it took around ten or twelve hours which included listening to everything GlaDOS said, finding all the interesting nooks and crannies, dying by trying to do certain puzzles for the first time etc. The second play through took me around seven hours and that was just balls-to-the-walls portal jumping.

      Twenty to Twenty-four hour game? Hell yeah!

      Fourteen to Twenty hour game? Has the potential for me to have wanted more.

      There are my three counter points but let’s be honest; the two points that you couldn’t dispel are anyone’s guess and could really taint the feeling of the game. Scary stuff.

      • Jesus, this specific article is embarassing, to be honest (I don’t want to be harsh, but it’s the truth). If you don’t care enough of Portal 2 to be up to date with the info released about it, or just don’t/didn’t do so not to spoil yourself, don’t write such an article out of ignorance.

        Any joke from Portal – They already said quite a few times they’re not repeating any joke in Portal 1 because they don’t want to make them (any more) repetitive or boring.

        A lack of Cave Johnson – There won’t be a lack of Cave Johnson. As Gabe said once, “you can’t show the player a big rocket and not let him launch it”. It doesn’t apply much, but you get the point. He will guide you through a series of old test chambers in the old section of Aperture, and we have known that for something like a month.

        Not enough co-op levels – There will be enough co-op levels, actually the coop game is as long as the singleplayer one.

        Direct references to a Half-Life release – They made references in the first, but they already stated they won’t repeat that in the sequel, since they don’t want to do any crossover or similar. There might be something that HL2 players will notice and non-players won’t, but nothing of importance.

        The game not being long enough – The game will be more than 4x the lenght of the first one. It’s approximately 7 hours for the singleplayer, and 6 for the cooperative. Since Portal, which is a 2:30/3 hours game took you 10, Portal 2 will take you like 35/40.

        Please, don’t do this again.

      • PhyOS don’t you think this is a little mean spirited? The article isn’t intended to be a news piece. And specifically speaking, do you implicitly trust #3-5 will turn out that way, just because Valve said so? Until someone actually plays it through, how long the game is won’t really be known.

      • You all make some good points, but the Half-Life references must be included. The Borealis really is the most pertinent detail of the entire Portal ‘side story’.

        Also, the first reference to Portal being set in the Half-Life universe came from the Portal credits when GLaDOS mentions Black Mesa.

        That said… “Stern to port”?

        P.S. Power is not what he craves my friend…

      • It’s not my intention. I know it’s not a news piece, but writing “for the audience” about things that could ruin a game, all of which are already known that won’t, is very risky (and in this case, quite annoying).

        And yes, because Valve said so. They don’t have a reason to lie, and obviously the lenght will vary depending on the skill, hardcore-ism, etc. of the player, but the approximation shouldn’t be too off. And 12 hours (let it be 10 or 14) isn’t short.

  4. GLaDOS would never apologize for the cake being a lie. It never was a lie. Only the idea that she’d share it with anyone was a lie.

    Besides, potatoes are the new cake.

  5. Finnboghi: Would have replied directly to you for this but the button wasn’t playing ball.

    In terms of what the ‘first’ reference was, it depends on whether you played Ep 2 or Portal first and even then, if I recall correctly, there’s a slide show presentation before GlaDOS in Portal that compares the profits of Black Mesa and Aperture. In terms of the mention in the song, that always seemed more like a cheeky wink than a ‘We’re in the same universe’ reference to me.

    • …Looking back, you have excellent points.

      Though Half-Life itself does predate Portal by a fair window, it does remain that perspective is important as far as which came first.

      Well, now that that’s resolved, we can get down to the biggest issue in Portal;

      Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to install DOS on a living brain? It didn’t work well on computers, there’s really no way it would have gone over well on something with emotions.

      • …No… GLaDOS stands for Genetic Life-form and Disk Operating System.

        i.e. a living brain with DOS installed on it.

      • I know what GLaDOS stands for, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a brain with a DOS installed on it, no need to make stuff up. You can’t just get conclusions out of a name, they just wanted to have the word “Glad” in it.

        AI stands for Artifical Intelligence, not “Human intelligence enhanced by secondary computer parts”, and GLaDOS is an AI.

      • Organic + Computers = Cyborg.

        There, let’s leave it like that. If you want to argue the point further, I’m sure there are some Ghost in the Shell fans who will be more than happy to take it up.

      • The thing is, there’s no “organic”. And it’s no discussion either, I’m just stating the facts.

      • It has nothing of “genetic”, it’s a supercomputer AI. It has “Genetic” in its name for the reason I’ve already stated. The most you could get is that it’s a “genetic simulation in a digital environment”, but then you’d rather tell me how, exactly, is it genetic.

      • Seriously? That’s all you have to say? So you have no arguments left to “defend” your position and instead of accepting the reasoning, decide to try and annoy me with an immature and kiddie comment like “umad bro?”(specially since I haven’t shown any signs of being angry).

        Disappointing, to be honest.

  6. http://www.infinitemonkeyproductions.net/wow_forum/portal_and_there_will_be_cake.jpg
    So, is it just me or does it not terrify anyone else that the candles lit? Someone lit it.

    I have complete and stupidly blind faith in Valve.

    They know how to do sequels and inside jokes.

    Nothing worries me about this game. I will own it the day it comes out. I will love it. You all may choose to love it as well. In fact if the name of this sequel had been Portal 2: The Quest for Cake that would have been cool beans to me. We need to delve into the mythos of the cake. Who baked it? Why Cake? What do the red balls (significance of eight) represent?

    Can’t wait.

  7. The faggotry here is unbelievable.

    ‘hurr a writer wrote something i didnt like maybe i culd replace him if i harshly criticize him for it durrrr’

    Watch it, buddy. ~WiNG

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