Portal 2: bigger, better, and definitely more insane

I just got out of my Portal 2 meeting a little while ago, where Erik from Valve went through a few of the game’s new features and themes. It’s nothing particularly new if you read the Game Informer article, but seeing it in motion started my brain juices flowing again, just like the old days. And there are a few new details in here.

As for the PS3 surprise, it turns out they’ve been working on it for quite a while; it’s not some new idea they just had. Erik referred to it as the “most open of the consoles” — I don’t think he meant open like open source, but rather in accessibility for developers to create and update their games. Their major issue (with the 360 as well) was that it was a pain to push out the updates that Valve so loves. 120 updates to the PC Orange Box, he said, and 5 to the console ones. Not exactly fair to the console kids, and they didn’t want to go big until they could do it right. The big break was the ability (presumably a concession on Sony’s part) to bring in Steam-like functions, though which ones exactly aren’t confirmed right now.

It was confirmed that Portal 2 is not being made for 3D or motion control and there are no plans at the moment. There will, however, be online and local multiplayer and as we knew before, a whole separate campaign (which Erik described as quite complicated) that fits within the story of the game.

The game itself, Erik explained, is essentially like the first one in that you build up a set of gameplay tools and then use it. The main difference in Portal 2 is that the set is much bigger. Here are a few of the new gameplay items; some of them were mentioned briefly but he showed how they worked in motion. I’ll link to a video of the presentation as soon as I find one, but in the meantime please enjoy these pictures of the screen. I encourage you to open up the big version and read the text if you haven’t encountered these already.

Your pal with the blue eye there is one of the personality spheres you’ll encounter. Lots of fun to be had here with different voices and characters. It was mentioned as being a major part of the story.

Excursion Funnel: they refer to these internally as tractor beams, and they slowly move you along the path of the beam. You can direct the path with your portals, and the trippy part comes when you erase the path you’re on by moving the portal, only to be caught by it again from a different direction. Luckily you move pretty slowly, so reflexes aren’t as much of a factor.

Thermal Discouragement Beam: It’s… a laser. It’s fatal to touch, but can be manipulated using prism cubes, which catch and redirect the beam. It was demonstrated burning up a few turrets, which complain bitterly while being roasted alive. The beam will also enter and exit portals at the correct angles, which results in some pretty crazy shots, like the one above. (sorry for the blur, I caught the display between frames)

Pneumatic Diversity Vent: These vacuum tubes create a huge suction directly below them, but if you place a portal on them you can use them to suck up turrets indirectly and otherwise affect the environment. In a scripted event, we saw one tube strip the wall of tiles, which were quickly replaced by pneumatic tile-replacement devices.

Propulsion (orange) and Repulsion (blue) Gel: these two substances drip or pour from tube structures, and the flow can of course be redirected with your portal gun. The Repulsion Gel acts like rubber, bouncing you up and away in the direction you were heading. Propulsion Gel accelerates you and can be used to fire yourself off surfaces much faster and farther than just by a running jump.

That’s all there was. You can find videos of the demo on YouTube and the trailer is here, but I figured you guys might like a blow-by-blow and some shots of the frames with lots going on. I suppose it’s not really necessary to say so, but the game looks absolutely incredible (and despite their assurances, it also looked very hard). Their plan of expanding and reconfiguring your brain is definitely going to work. I’m just sad it’s not coming out till 2011.