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Portal Review PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul "Ex1le" Caillouet   
Portal Review



  • Publisher: Valve
  • Release Date: 10/10/07


System Requirements

    Minimum:
  • 1.7 GHz Processor
  • 512 MB RAM
  • DirectX 8 Compatible video card
  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • 5GB Hard drive Space

    Recommended:
  • Pentium 4 processor (3.0 GHz or better)
  • 1 GB RAM
  • DirectX 9 compatible video card
  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • 5GB Hard drive Space



Background


A problem that is beginning to plague the video game industry these days is a lack of originality. Sadly enough, the industry is beginning to emulate Hollywood in its relentless recycling of old ideas, so itís really nice to see someone trying something new. Valve has created massive amounts of hype with this Portal ever since it was announced and every bit of it was deserved. It presents a new and interesting way of looking at games and will hopefully inspire other producers to try new things.


Initial Impressions


I purchased my copy of the orange box through Steam and the entire experience couldnít have been easier. It was a few simple clicks and some credit card information and I was good to go. The download was a little too lengthy for my tastes but I suppose thatís the price you pay for not having to get up and go purchase it from the store. After the download finally finished which took my 2 days (University connection FTL), I started the game. From the moment I was greeted by GLaDOS, I knew that Portal was going to something special. Its art style and humor are original and engaging and help to draw the player into the game. The first few tests serve as a sort of tutorial for the player and helps to orient them in the world. However, its one of the few games Iíve ever experienced where playing through the tutorial was actually fun.

Image
You are greeted with a glimpse of the starting point for Portal upon entering the game



click "read more" for the rest of the review


Graphics


Letís start this off with the eye candy. While the source engine is starting to age, Portal is still no slouch in the graphics department. It has a distinctive look to it that I have yet to see replicated in a game. One thing that I was particularly fond of was the motion blur that Valve made use of throughout the game. It was perfectly implemented, not too much, and not too little. This is thoroughly refreshing in a world where motion blur is either highly overdone (NFS: Carbon Iím looking at you) or nonexistent (most games). The portals have some nice particle effects around their entrance and look good overall. Also the model for the Portal gun looks very good in comparison to the gravity gun for HL2 which is something to be thankful for as it consumes ľ of the screen for most of the game. Besides these few new additions much of the game looks similar in quality to Half-Life 2, though this is hardly a bad thing.


Image
Here is an example of the motion blur present in Portal



Image
Here is an example of the particle effects present around a Portal



Sound


Past Valve outings (HL2) have always featured wonderful sound design including epic scores and scripted music sequences. This is one the reasons why I was slightly disappointed when it came to the sounds in Portal. While the auditory experience presented in Portal is very suitable for the game, I canít help but feel that Valve could have done a better job in this department. The game lacks any sort of music other than in a very few key places, thus most of the sounds present in the game are produced from the character, environment or portals. Luckily enough, the noise when moving through a portal is subtle and satisfying, which is a good thing considering you will hear it countless times before the game is over. Furthermore, the voice-over work done for GLaDOS is outstanding and the one liners that it occasionally emits are quite funny. While I donít think it quite lived up to Valve standards, the audio experience was still very good.


Game play


Many of the puzzles present in Portal are reminiscent of those in Half-Life2, though the gravity gun has been replaced with the Portal equivalent. These brainteasers are engaging as well as confusing, though never frustratingly so. The overall amount of objects that are used to construct each puzzle is relatively small; however, this does not limit the game in the slightest. Each puzzle feels genuinely different from the last and will require the use of previously learned skills as well as new ones to complete. The Portal itself also exhibits characteristics such as the transfer of momentum that help to add depth and difficulty to the game, as well as giving truly skilled players an upper hand in quickly defeating some the more difficult puzzles (speed run). The world of Portal is fraught with danger and a new player is sure to die more than a few times, however the sense of accomplishment after completing each puzzle is easily worth the effort.


Image
Here is a screenshot of some of the objects present in Portal



Finishing Thoughts


Portal offers more interesting scenarios and replay ability in its 3 hour length than many games released in the past couple of years. Valve does an admirable job of keeping the game fresh throughout by changing the level of difficulty and thought that each room requires. One of the wonderful things about Portal is that there are many different ways to solve each room; this keep the monotony to a minimum as well as creating competition among the Portal community. Evidence of this can be found by taking a quick trip to www.youtube.com and searching for Portal, Some of the run throughs are truly impressive. Overall, Portal was a joy to finish; I canít remember the last time I played through an entire game and enjoyed every second of it. It oozes originality and atmosphere, and continually throws twists (both in the puzzles and storyline) at the player to keep them guessing. I highly recommend this game to everyone.





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