Portal 2 Details Revealed at E3 2010


A little earlier today, we got a behind-closed-doors look at Portal 2 (FYI the “big surprise” was that Portal 2 will come out for PS3 in addition to Xbox 360, PC and Mac). Erik Johnson from Valve walked us through several video segments, revealing details about the story, new gameplay mechanics, new environments and other stuff.

So, how’s it looking? My thoughts so far: Valve clearly knows that Portal 1 fans’ expectations are through the roof, and it shows.

Or, in the words of Erik Johnson: “there’s a huge amount of pressure to not fu** up.” Click through to see why Valve is emphatically not fu**ing up so far.

The first video segment we saw swept through the destroyed Aperture Science facility, messy and in shambles. Then, it appeared that the facility was being mechanically rebuilt by an unseen force. Johnson revealed that you’ll be playing as Chell again, and that GlaDOS is back…

The next bit we saw walked us through some of the new environments. One comparison came immediately to mind, in a good way. Picture Metroid Prime, but in Aperture Science. Basically, scientific-looking facilities, in a state of disrepair, completely overrun by nature. Some of the environments looked like they were being overrun by plant growth. It looks like a very cool twist on the Aperture Science laboratory that we know and love.

Personality Spheres

Johnson explained a new type of NPC in Portal 2, referred to as “personality spheres.” They are essentially small talking orbs that you interact with, use to solve puzzles, and in general add some…well, personality to the game. The personality sphere we saw had an English accent, and had Chell carrying him across a catwalk to visit an outdoor environment.

GlaDOS is Reborn

The next scene we saw detailed how GlaDOS is reborn. She is initially in a pile of rubble, and then slowly comes back to life. It appears she was manually restarted by accident(!) A couple of funny moments: she wakes up, looks at Chell says, “I’ve been really busy, being dead…after you murdered me” and then “Look, we’ve both said a lot things we’ll regret, but I think we can put our differences behind us for science, you monster.”

Now, onto some of the new gameplay mechanics we were shown. This is where Portal 2 is really adding a lot of new stuff. Puzzles look much more complicated and mind-bending, and it’s thanks to a robust new toolset at your disposal. Anyway, onward.

Excursion Elements

Excursion Elements are blue, tractor beam-like fields that allow you to hover, and float through environments to otherwise inaccessible locations. You can use them to travel horizontally, and vertically. Some the puzzles we saw invovled using the portals to make cubes travel through the Excursion Elements to solve puzzles.

Aerial Faith Plate

It’s basically a bouncy plate, like an industrial strength trampoline. It looks like you’ll need to use them to catapult cubes to solve puzzles.

Thermal Disengagement Beam

Fancy talk for a laser. It can be used to damage objects, and enemies like the turrets (from Portal 1. They’re back in force here). It looks like you’ll be using the Thermal Disengagement Beam to zig-zag across rooms in webs, bounce off of cubes and take out turrets and stuff. This looked pretty damn cool.

Pneumatic Diversity Vent

See-through air vent tubes, with super-powered suction. These can suck up turrets, carry them through the tube, and blow them out somewhere else. You can use the portal in really interesting ways here. We saw Chell cleverly create portals under turrets, which caused them to fall through and get sucked from the PDV. In one instance, a whole crowd of turrets got sucked through a portal into a PDV. Their cries of terror, and the speediness with which they traveled, warmed my heart.

Repulsion Gel
This was a particularly interesting gameplay addition in Portal 2. You can “paint” surfaces with different colored gel, which changes the properties of the surface. Repulsion Gel is blue, and causes objects to repel other objects, thereby becoming extremely bouncy. We saw a cube get drenched in Repulsion Gel, and engage in a bouncing fit.

Propulsion Gel
This orange gel makes surfaces super slick. For instance, we saw a long runway drenched in Propulsion Gel. Chell then backed up, and ran insanely fast over it.

The last video segment we saw showed how all of these new gameplay mechanics will work in concert with each other. It was frantic and exciting. It looked like a kaleidescope of lasers, gel, turrets, portals, etc., jumping, flying and being sucked to and fro, and being used together to solve some mind-fu** puzzles.

The challenge for Valve will be this: to bring all of these new elements together in a way that keeps that distinct lighthearted charm that made Portal 1 so good, without making the game too hard. Johnson actually mentioned that Valve’s goal isn’t to make Portal 2 harder, but rather to make gamer’s “think harder.”

Anyway, to end this, here’s a few other points Johnson covered in a short Q&A at the end of our time with Portal 2.

  • There’s plans for online co-op in Portal 2
  • Portal 2 is a “pretty big game.” It’s at least twice as big as Portal 1.
  • There will probably not be a public beta or demo.
  • In terms of their development cycle, Valve has already polished a lot of Portal 2. What they need to do now, Johnson said, is watch people who beat Portal 1 play through Portal 2 a million times so they can continue to make tweaks.

UPDATE: Here’s a short clip we shot when we got out of our Portal 2 preview. In it, Valve developer Rick Johnson talks briefly about Valve’s decision to release Portal 2 on PS3 with Steamworks.

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