PAX 2010: Portal 2 Co-Op Preview - It Takes Two Baby, Just Me & You
Written Wednesday, September 08, 2010 By Nate Gillick
Portal turned heads and captured the attention and praise of the gaming industry back in 2007 with its physics-defying, puzzle solving gameplay and off-beat sense of humor. We’ve been eager since its announcement to see just how Valve would work that gameplay into a cooperative experience, and got our chance at this year’s PAX.
Glados instructs the pair to wave at each other, demonstrating the new gesturing system integrated into gameplay. Upon release from their prisons, the orange player makes her way down a hallway to pick up the iconic portal gun. After using the gun on a wall dead ahead, and another above and to the left to get to the next floor, Orange – or Mr Skinny if you want – reached a dead end, where we caught our first glimpse of the new ping ability.
Communication is key for success in Portal 2‘s co-op, and this ping tool allows players to easily mark locations where they want their partner to place portals, represented by an eyeball icon. Blue demonstrated this by using Ping to mark a wall near his position, and another wall on the opposite side of an energy shield. After Orange created a pair of portals for Blue to proceed through, Blue returned the favor, and the pair were able to move on to the next test chamber.
A laser beam shooting its deadly red energy into the ground was the distinguishing feature of the next chamber. Also in the room was a new type of cube, called a reflector cube, which has the power to reflect lasers wherever players choose, though caution is needed, as the laser can damage your partner.
To escape this chamber, one player needed to reflect the laser’s beam at a nearby wall, and then create a pair of portals so the laser could pass through to trigger a switch. While this is going on, the second player needs to use their own portals to allow it to pass through another wall to activate a second switch. With this simple mission accomplished, both players were able to pass through a newly opened door toward elevators leading to a new test chamber.
“To reiterate, this is not a competition,” said Glados with her trademark passive-aggressive humor, “Still, if it were, Orange would be winning.”
“It’s not, though,” she continued, as the duo continues on their journey to the next chamber, which introduced a new gameplay mechanic: the light bridge. These light bridges can be projected through portals to create a walkway to previously inaccessible areas. After using portals to project the bridge to a new platform, the light bridge needed to be moved around a corner to allow safe passage over a room with lethal slime covering the floor.
In the process of trying to realign the bridge, Orange fell into the slime and suffered a timely death, which allowed us to see how failure is handled in Portal 2. Gamers will be happy to know that Portal 2's co-op is essentially penalty-free for failure. Instead of having to restart the test chamber, players simply respawn and can walk right back to where they were, making it possible to focus on puzzle solving and not stress over potential failure. Once Orange returned the light bridge, a simple redirection of Blue’s portals allowed the pair to cross over the slime and make their way into the final test chamber of the demo.
Valve concluded the demo by showing off a new use for the infinite fall technique introduced in the original Portal. By creating a portal on the floor and another in the ceiling, players have the ability to fall indefinitely, generating massive velocity for their character. The only way to clear this test chamber, in fact, was to build up momentum using an infinite fall, then have the other player redirect portals so the individual falling would get catapulted through a wall and across a pool of slime to a safe landing zone. The first time the pair attempted this, Orange got launched into a glass wall and fell into a pool of lethal slime.
Not wanting there to be any animosity between the two, the Valve representative urged them to “hug it out.” Yes folks, you can hug your fellow robot in Portal 2, and the camera will pan out to allow you to see the exchange of warm and fuzzy feelings. Trying again, Blue pressed a button jutting out of the floor to remove the wall of glass impeding Orange’s line of flight, then redirected portals to send Orange sailing across the room to another button. Upon pressing this button, the glass wall retracted again, and Orange could redirect portals from across the slime to help Blue fly over the gap. It was on that victorious note that our quick look at Portal 2‘s co-op ended.
Wondering just how long the co-op in Portal 2 will last? “The co-op experience in Portal 2 is about double the length of the original Portal game,” said the Valve representative. “There’s a lot more content this time around,” and from what we’ve seen, Valve clearly aims to make co-op an integral part of the Portal 2 experience, with puzzles designed to be impossible to solve without the cooperation of both players.
Portal 2 is scheduled to be released on February 9th, 2011.