Saturday, April 23, 2011

Here We Are Again. It's Always Such a Pleasure.

This review was really difficult to write.

Also, a little startling.

After all, it’s not every day that a seasoned gamer gets that feeling of pure, unadulterated satisfaction upon seeing digital credits roll. It’s even more rare when that sated feeling starts translating into thoughts of, "that’s the best game I’ve played in a long time" and “that’s . . . that’s one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life.”

Yeah. It happened.

Like so many others I fell in love with the 2007 original game and was crazy excited for the sequel. However, part of me worried about how the simple (I use that word very loosely) idea of the 4-hour experiment would translate into a full-fledged game. Would I get tired of the same routine after 8 or so hours? Would all the puzzles manage to be unique from one another? Would the addition of an actual plot deter from the mechanics at all?

In short, the answers are no, yes, and absolutely not.

Waking up in a dilapidated sleep chamber, you are quickly introduced to perhaps the strongest element of the game: the incredible and hilarious writing coupled with some seriously impressive voice work. While I was thrilled beyond belief with knowing that Ellen McLain would be returning as GLaDOS (who is quickly becoming my favorite video game villain) I was floored at how good Stephen Merchant was as Wheatley – your spherical and astoundingly funny companion. It’s hard to remember him opening his mouth (so to speak) and me not laughing.

J.K. Simmons also does an incredible job as Cave Johnson, the CEO of Aperture Science who hates you almost as much as GLaDOS does and seems to have a firm belief in everyone around him being a loser who will do anything for $60.

In addition to the awesome writing and voice talent, the game’s designers deserve immense praise. Not only are the puzzles brilliantly designed but the game does a great job of switching up your surroundings to avoid repetition. Just when I would start to get sick of an area, I would be thrown into an entirely new one. Yes, I definitely got frustrated more than once and I’m not too proud to admit that a few puzzles took me over half and hour to solve.

But oh man, when I did. GLORIOUS.

I can’t even begin to fathom how the developers came up with all the puzzle designs but I’m pretty sure we’d find the origin of the universe in their collective brains should we be given the chance to dig around in there.

The single player campaign of Portal 2 really is, from start to finish, genius. Absolute genius. The co-op mode however, introduces something new to the franchise. You and a buddy play as Atlas and P-Body, two robots built by GLaDOS specifically to run her diabolical courses. Lynsey and I have run through the first course and had a blast.

Well, up until I accidently killed her.

GLaDOS seemed okay with it though.

Really folks, I don’t have too much more to say. This is really a game that has few, if any, flaws. In fact, the only one I can think of off the top of my head is that the scripted events can take awhile sometime and upon additional play-throughs it may be a chore to sit through them all again. But why would you want to skip them anyway?

. . .

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Really. That’s the only thing I can think of that could potentially be wrong with this game. I’m sayin’ it, Ladies and Gentlemen: Portal 2 is perfect. Perfect. It’s the kind of game that only comes around once in a blue moon and absolutely should not be missed by anyone. Also, it's rated “E” so you’ve got no excuse.

Get out there and get yourself a copy of what is bound to become the gold standard of puzzle games.

Friday, April 15, 2011

That Was A Joke. Ha Ha.

If you're like me and anxiously awaiting the release of Portal 2 then you probably just about lost your mind when, hidden inside Valve's "Potato Sack" collection of indie games were hints pertaining to Portal 2, including the date 4/15/11 and the time 9:00 PST. Fans were eager to think that this suggested Portal 2 would be release at that time instead of the scheduled date of the 19th.

The fact that the game started to pre-load on Steam last night only added fuel to the fire.

Then, a mysterious countdown clock appeared.

We all waited with bated breath while the time ticked down to zero and then . . . nothing.

Well, no, not quite nothing.

It seems that GLaDOS did effectively hack into Steam but now she needs help re-booting so that Portal 2 can be released early. So how can you help? Buy buying and playing the 13 indie games from the Potato Sack. If enough people play these games, Portal 2 can in fact be released before Tuesday. The Aperture Science main page where the countdown was now displays a real-time meter showing the progress of this endeavor.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

On one hand, I'm kind of pissed that Valve is all, "Hey! Give us money now so that you can give us more money sooner!" but on the other hand, it is pretty cool to see them support independent games. Plus, can we really be upset about not getting something ahead of schedule?

Valve Time schedule, that is. Remember, the game was already delayed by a month.

Of course, being a console gamer none of this really matters to me but this has been . . . interesting regardless.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm already dead... to you

Since I've made the switch over to PS3 from the 360, life has been very different. I wouldn't think of positives and negatives or bads and goods so much as just... different. I've finally added my PSN card to the side page of our blog and there you can see the games I've played and the trophies I've earned. But since I haven't really gone into much PlayStation stuff since the switch, I thought I'd talk a little about each game I've played thus far.

INFAMOUS: Really enjoyed the gameplay, and I thought the story was new and exciting. Honestly, have yet to finish the game so I can't say too much more on it.

DEAD RISING 2: Not much to say, honestly. I didn't play this game much because I found the beginning disappointing. I'm not going to give up on it, I just haven't gotten back to it yet. I dunno, maybe I take my zombie-killing more seriously.

FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS: I can't wait to finish this game. Truly, this game is certainly like a very large expansion pack but I bought it full price for my 360 before it died, then I went back and paid for it AGAIN for my PS3 -- I'm serious about this game.

UNCHARTED: This is another game I started and haven't finished (yes, I know, I know), but Drake is a truly refreshing character. And the gameplay is fun, but sometimes repetitive, to be honest. Don't worry, I'm going to finish this one when I can.

HEAVY RAIN: The first game I played (and immediately completed) on my PS3 -- one of my favorite games of all-time. I think this is the kind of game that shows what games are truly capable of being. It's easier to talk about what this game did right in so many ways and not so much on what could be improved.

DEAD SPACE 2: What hasn't been said about this game already by us? Cary and I have so much faith in the Dead Space franchise and this game was more than I could have expected. The gameplay was so much more rewarding, Isaac was a more worthy protagonist, and Ellen kicked some serious ass. For real.

MASS EFFECT 2: This is why I haven't finished so many other games, guys. THIS. I'm something like 15 hours into this game and I am not ready for it to end. I still have yet to pinpoint exactly what it is that has drawn me into this game -- the gameplay doesn't have much in the way of variety, to be honest, and the load screens still take a really long time, but my lady Shepard is a fucking badass. She head-butted a krogan. And she'll do it again.

Next up: Portal 2 (OMG DUH, GUYS) and L.A. Noire. The guys at Valve are bringin' it with this sequel, guys, and when Cary and I were sitting in that booth at PAX East with Chet Faliszek 5 feet away from us, we were stupid giddy. Valve fangirls to the end. Also: Rockstar's L.A. Noire looks utterly promising -- it looks to be going the way of Heavy Rain in terms of gameplay and story, and I'm really excited by that new direction in gaming.

As an aside, has anyone had issues connecting to the PlayStation Network at all? I wasn't having issues until the last month or so and its been intermittent connectivity. Forums haven't been the most helpful in isolating the issue.

One last aside: I had to actually call to cancel my Xbox Live Gold subscription and the experience was actually quite hilarious. When the representative asked me why I was canceling my service, I told him I didn't have my console anymore because it broke on me a third time. When he told me I could repair it OOW for $90, I didn't know and I told him I didn't know, to which he said, "Oh, so you just gave up on the situation?" And literally "tsk tsk"ed at me. Sorry, Xbox Live and Microsoft, this is an unacceptable method of saying goodbye to loyal customers who were forced elsewhere because of your faulty hardware and lack of clear technical support. Try harder next time.