Genre: Puzzle/First Person Shooter
Platform: PC, Xbox360 (Reviewed on PC)
The crowning achievement of the Orange Box is the game Portal. Portal is a puzzle/first-person-shooter hybrid that believes that people want something different.
The concept is a simple one: you are in a training facility testing a portal gun. The portal gun is something the world has never seen before. Unlike the similar feature in the earlier 360 title Prey, Portal puts the portal into your hands.
There are two different features of the portal gun: orange and blue. Each shoots a hole in the wall that opens the door to the other. If you shoot a hole in the ground and the ceiling you step into the ground and fall out of the ceiling. If you shoot two holes next to each other, going into one portal brings you out of the other and you catch a glimpse of yourself entering it as you do. It’s crazy and takes some getting used to but it is also one of the most ingenious things to ever come into a video game.
The easiest version of a puzzle has to travel through portals from a place you are to one just out of reach. The game quickly moves on from such things into much more difficult endeavors involving inertia. As the robotic GLaDOS explains, "speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out.” There are several times where you will need to shoot a portal high up and then one in the floor. Jumping out of the one high up into the low one to launch yourself great distances is an amazing use of this simple idea.
The plot is actually much, much better then it needs to be. It has a very “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” feel to it as you move through the facility and are given instructions by GLaDOS, the robotic instructor who guides Chell (the protagonist) through the game. GLaDOS very well may be the best video game character ever created. Her nonstop comments on your actions bend the plot in amazing ways and continue to raise questions about what is going on in the Aperture Science institute. The entire game seems like a training exercise for the last level, which is about as long as the entire game preceding it. In fact, even after the end of the game it still seems like there should be another ten hours to go.
Portal is one of the shortest games to ever be released and makes Heavenly Sword look like Oblivion. Portal can be completed in around two hours but it is some of the most polished and quality gameplay that has ever been presented on any system.
Upon completion the game doesn’t leave you hanging. Harder versions of some of the levels are unlocked along with time trials. Some games don’t really have much use of these features, but anything that can give me an opportunity to play more Portal is a good thing.
The opening of the commentary starts with the Half-Life creator saying that this is only the beginning for Portal. I can only hope this is the truth, because after playing through for the second time (and soon the third) I am yearning for more. It is an amazing journey that everyone should take; you may never look at games the same again.