Tag Archives: Glados

Portal 2 (2011)

If you want the clearest summation of how Portal 2 differs from its predecessor, simply look at the cores. Portal 2‘s final battle – almost structurally identical to the original game’s – finds Chell attaching “personality cores” to bumbling companion-turned-adversary Wheatley, attempting to corrupt his programming and return Aperture Science to its rightful (if still slightly skewed) order. “Wacky” doesn’t even begin to sum up these eccentric, chatty spheres, each offering up so many lightning-fast quips that one is tempted to ignore the boss fight’s time limit and simply enjoy these characters’ ramblings until the facility explodes.

If nothing else, the cores are the purest expression of writer Erik Wolpaw’s gift for deadpan insanity since Psychonauts’ “Milkman Conspiracy” level. Yet for all the left-field absurdity of the rough-and-tumble Adventure Core (voiced by Nathan Drake himself) and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it foreshadowing of Portal 2‘s lunar resolution by the so-called Space Core, the conclusion lacks the thematic and emotional depth of the first game’s encounter with GLaDOS. That confrontation saw Chell disassembling her AI tormentor’s personality cores and stripping her of her most basic emotions. The result was a villain equally harrowing and hilarious, and a final battle that perfectly captured the dichotomous relationship between well-intentioned scientific objectivity and the petty, cold-hearted hubris often lurking behind it that defines the Portal universe. The fight with Wheatley offers no such metaphor, sacrificing it for one-liners and distracting action. I still enjoyed every second of it, but that’s Portal 2 in a nutshell: Bigger and more crammed with (usually wonderful) ideas, more audaciously willing to follow its bliss for laughs and entertainment, but less interested in the thoughtful, dark-edged cohesiveness that rendered the original one of gaming’s most indelible narratives. Continue reading

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Portal (2007)

I told myself I wouldn’t, but screw it: This was a triumph.

What are video games if not the ultimate expression of technology for its own sake? If NASA first got to the moon with the processing ability of an iPhone, how ludicrous is it that we spend so much time and computing power rendering ever-higher-defintion space marines and dragonslayers so we can play make-believe for an afternoon? This is an industry where “new” is often shown off in place of actual content, and sometimes the benefits that innovation will bring to the medium seem like a mystery to even those developing them. Look at the dismal software line-up rushed out for potentially interesting hardware like the Wii U, or go back to past console failures like the Virtual Boy: game creators have an obsession with being first, even when they don’t fully understand what “being first” entails.

The folks at Aperture Science could certainly relate to this problem; it probably even crossed a few of their minds as a killer AI flooded their facility with deadly neurotoxin. (At least when Nintendo falters, they only have to worry about sales dips and snarky blog write-ups.) Continue reading

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