The Portal Legacy
Before the claim can be made that Portal 2 is overrated, the original Portal must be looked at to see exactly what it was that made it great. Originally debuting as part of the Orange Box, Portal was somewhat of a tech demo that found its way into the collection as a puzzle mini-game. This little game that took place in a corner of the Half Life universe managed to steal the show, however, overshadowing the heavy-hitters of Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 that were also part of the collection. From the humor and characterization to the end credits song that became an Internet hit, gamers came to love Portal for all that it was.
Given the popularity of Portal, it was obvious that a sequel would be released at some point. Fans waited for news of the sequel and tidbits were released through a humorous but well-targeted advertising campaign. Without revealing much of the single-player content of the game Valve all but ensured that Portal 2 would be a major hit before it even hit the shelves. While Portal 2 isn’t a bad game and contains the requisite humor and wit that a true Portal sequel should have, when asked “Is Portal 2 overrated?” the answer quite simply is “Yes.”
One of the problems with Portal 2 is the cost. The original Portal was released as a free component of the Orange Box, and the game was offered as a free promotion when the Steam platform became available for Mac users. Though Portal was a short game, it has always been synonymous with economy since it has been released for free on two separate occasions. While no one expected Portal 2 to be completely free, the full retail price of the game seemed a bit steep to some gamers. Especially when the game shipped with an in-game DLC store similar to the one contained in Team Fortress 2. For those hoping for a lower-cost game in line with the original it’s easy to see Portal 2 as overrated.
Given its age and the fact that it wasn’t intended as the ground-breaking game it turned out to be, Portal is still a beautiful game. Good lighting, a sleek and simplistic design, and good use of color created a distinct and very “Portal” look that was easy to appreciate. While Portal 2 didn’t stray far from the design concept of the original, the graphics are in no way the leap forward that many users were expecting and in some ways seem inferior to the graphics of the original game.
Though the graphics for Portal 2 aren’t bad, the lack of graphical advancement is one reason that some players consider Portal 2 overrated. The game begins with a “ruined world” look and slowly reverts to the general look of the original game, but even when the transformation is complete the game simply doesn’t look like what you would expect from nearly four years of development with a team of 30 to 40 members. For comparison, only eight people worked on the original Portal.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with Portal 2 comes from the gameplay. This isn’t to say that the gameplay is bad, of course; the requisite puzzles are there and the dialog is fairly entertaining. The problem with Portal 2’s gameplay is that there are a number of places where you’re only playing the game to get to the next cutscene or interaction with one of the characters. The original Portal was about exploring and figuring out how to overcome obstacles, while the sequel seems overshadowed in a number of places by its own plot. If there’s a reason to consider Portal 2 overrated, this is it.
Portal 2 offers two separate campaigns with their own storylines, and while they are both entertaining neither offers the deep emersive gameplay that was expected after the game’s promotion. Gameplay time estimates seem to combine the two campaigns, since standard playthroughs of either campaign are unlikely to reach ten hours or longer. While portal-slinging alone or with a friend can be fun, Portal 2 is unlikely to have the staying power in pop culture that the original Portal still enjoys.
Perhaps the largest outcry against Portal 2 came when it was revealed that the game shipped with a built-in store for paid DLC similar to that which is included in Team Fortress 2. Given that the game was selling for full retail price, some fans felt that it was an insult for Valve to be pushing paid DLC on the day of release. The DLC items unlock new looks, accessories and animations for the co-op mode’s robots, and additional DLC is sure to come as Portal 2 matures. It should be noted that the Portal 2 store is nowhere as obtrusive as the store included in Team Fortress 2 and that most if not all of the DLC items can be earned as random drops during gameplay as well.
Image Credits: Portal and Portal 2, copyright Valve Corporation