What we're talking about: Portal 2, the much buzzed-about (and oft-delayed) sequel to Valve's wildly popular puzzler.
Where we saw it: At Valve’s booth on the PAX East showroom floor.
What I knew going in: Quite a bit. I loved every moment of the original Portal, and was lucky enough to spend some time with it last year at PAX Prime, where I got to glimpse at its co-op campaign in action.
What you need to know:
While we didn't actually get to see a live demo, we were treated to a couple of lengthy clips of never-before-seen content from Portal 2's single-player campaign. Valve writer Erik Wolpaw was on hand, and told us that the game's single-player campaign will be about two and a half times longer than the original Portal.
First off was (roughly) the game's first six minutes. Chell wakes up from her suspended animation years after the events of Portal, and is discovered by A.I. personality Wheatley (voiced by actor Stephen Merchant), who ushers the ever-silent test subject into a tour of the ruined Aperture Science. Time has not been kind to the once pristine testing grounds, and it's alluded to that our protagonist is the last surviving test subject. "Aperture is currently in a state that's kind of like when you unplug your laptop, and it goes into hibernation and slowly runs out of power," explains Wolpaw. "The power's about to go out permanently, which is going to be catastrophic. Wheatley wakes you up so that the two of you can beat a hasty retreat and get out."
Valve won't say exactly how long after Portal that Portal 2 takes place. "We're not necessarily putting a number on it, but a significant amount of time has passed."
In the second clip, we were treated to an assortment of brand new puzzles -- or "tests" -- guided by the voice of Aperture Science founder and president Cave Johnson (voiced by actor J.K. Simmons). "He was never directly referenced in Portal," notes Wolpaw, "but some of the supporting stuff around Portal referenced him. He's kind of the proto-Glados; before there was Glados, there was Cave."
We got to see two new puzzle elements in action: the propulsion gel (launches Chell in the air when touched down on) and repulsion gel (shoots Chell off in a given direction). "Also, if you drench an object in the repulsion gel, that object will start bouncing around the playing field," adds Wolpaw.
When asked if there'd be any crossover between the single-player and multi-player campaigns: "In the sense that the stories do connect, and you'll understand how when you actually play them."
One of Portal 2's more player-friendly additions: Glowing outlines have been added to both the orange and blue portals that shine through the map, regardless of where Chell's looking, making them much easier to locate after they've been shot. "Keeping track of which portals you fired and where was never something people enjoyed," explains Wolpaw. "We have some bigger environments as well in Portal 2, so we want to make it easier to see so that you can concentrate on solving puzzles, not on 'portal management.'"
Wolpaw says that we're going to see much more of Portal's fan-favorite enemies, the turrets. "The turrets are definitely back," he notes. "You're even going to learn a bit about turret culture."
Point in development cycle: Portal 2 is a done deal. It's wrapped up, and just about ready to ship come April 19th on PC, PS3, and 360.