|Portal 2 - Co-op|
|Platforms||Windows, OSX, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3|
|Genre||Pleasurable partner puzzling|
A year ago I published my full review of Portal 2. I guess you could say it wasn't exactly complete since I never touched the co-op portion of it, but finding time to sit down and play a video game with another human being for a few hours is pretty difficult for me, so sacrfices had to be made. But last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve and our gaming PCs for about 10 hours, and time for Portal 2 co-op was finally realized.
Portal 2's co-op is pretty fantastic in that it is a completely different experience than the single player, in every aspect. The story is different, the characters are new, and the puzzles are two-player required. While many games that feature co-op, if they even bother, just toss both players together in the single player campaign, that would have been disastrous with a puzzler like Portal 2. So major props to Valve for developing this campaign, just for us.
This really isn't a proper review, but I wanted to present both Steve and mine opinions about just the cooperative portion of Portal 2. Enjoy, and give it a try if you find a few hours with a friend.
By any standards, Portal 2 is a generally fantastic co-op experience that has everything you could ask for in this type of game. The cleverness of the single-player doesn't miss a step while going to co-op, which is honestly surprising. They spent a lot of time on this as a main feature, not just a thrown-in side mission. It's very clear at this point that Valve is going to focus on multiplayer for most, if not all of their games from now on. The only minor complaints you could point out are lengthy load times and somewhat variable pacing. Of course, pacing difficulty in a puzzle game will also depend on the skills and mindset of the players, so this is a minor issue at best. It can even be relieving to complete a simple puzzle after spending ages on the previous.
Greg and I played through the entire co-op mission in about five hours during one sitting and I was generally happy with this length. It stretches one session, but it's definitely doable, and they bring enough new material throughout the campaign to keep things fresh. Throughout its entirety, true co-op was the word. A lot of games' co-op can be completed with one player mostly or even entirely carrying the other. Portal 2 requires both players to continually interact and stay invested to succeed. I really can't say enough about how rare this is. Both personal work and required cooperative elements are in place on essentially every map.
In this sense, Portal 2 is nearly the epitome of a casual/accessible co-op experience. While the campaign itself is indeed a little short and I doubt many people would play it more than twice, Valve is actively working on co-op implementation for the newly launched Portal 2 section of the Steam Workshop, which allows downloading fully user-created experiences. Considering how cheap the game can reach during sales, this is very nearly a must-play, even ignoring the single player. However, local play or voice is essentially a requirement for an initial playthrough.
I loved how the single player in Portal 2 made you feel like a genius. It geniunely makes you feel really smart for solving its puzzles. In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, you enter a room and the camera flies way up high and you're like, "geez, I have to climb that?" And five minutes later, you're standing at the top and feeling triumphant. Portal 2 channels that into puzzle solving very successfully. And somehow Valve managed to translate all of that into the two player cooperative campaign that stands proudly next to the main story.
There is nothing half-assed about co-op in Portal 2, it feels like it could stand alone as its own game just as easily as the single player can. And though I'm a year removed from my original one player experience, I think the puzzles in Portal 2 are actually more difficult and more rewarding to solve during co-op. There are some really devious setups that absolutely require two portal-gunners from start to end. We would knock our brains together for what felt like forever sometimes, just to figure out how launch ourselves 10 feet in the air. And honestly, the only way to beat most of the levels is to always remember that there are two of you.
GlaDOS follows the pair of test robots around for five hours, being her sarcastic, hilarious robot self that constantly takes you and humans in general down with her humor. The story isn't as quite as involving as the single player game, but that's okay, when playing with a friend story is usually always in the backseat with gameplay at the forefront.
The amount of loading gets pretty tedious over time, and it's exasberated when playing with a partner. Speaking of that, I don't know how anyone could play through the co-op game without their friend sitting right next to them. We constantly talked out puzzles together and pointed at each others' screen. While Valve provides some decent highlighting and timing mechanisms to try and plan puzzle solving, it doesn't compete with being next to each other. It might be pretty doable with at least a headset to chat.
I loved the Portal 2 co-op campaign just as much as the single player game, too bad we waited this long to play it together!