Recently, I’ve been getting excited about Portal, an innovative mini-game which is going to be bundled free with Half Life 2: Episode 2. On the surface, it doesn’t look like anything special: it’s a first-person perspective game which has the player as a test-subject in some sort of military research lab. The hook is the Portal gun which looks as if it will provide a really novel and fun way to interact with the game world and solve puzzles. This alone puts this game near the top of my current “most wanted” list.
The idea is simple: firing at a wall or floor creates a portal; fire again at a different area and you create a gateway from one portal to the other. You can travel through the portals to reach an otherwise inaccessible location in an instant, or use them to manipulate objects without touching them.
It’s difficult to explain the full potential for awesomeness, so here’s a youtube video showing it in action:
Now, I know Prey has recently made extensive use of portals for much mind-bending, stomach-flipping, gravity-defying fun. However, portals in Prey are static. In Portal, Valve are taking things a step further by giving the player the power to create portals.
It seems like Valve are constantly experimenting with new weapons and new ways to use fancy physics as part of gameplay. They did it with the gravity gun in HL2, and there have recently been reports of a secret, untested black hole grenade in HL2: Episode 1 which can be activated in-game via the console. Now there’s the Portal gun, which surely has the potential to be used in future instalments of Half-Life, and, like most good ideas, will probably be ripped-off by other developers hungry for new ideas (I’m looking at you, ID Software).
This kind of innovation should be applauded and encouraged. I’ve been getting real FPS fatigue lately, starting with Call of Duty 2 and FEAR. It looks like the Portal gun could change that; at the very least, it’ll offer a fresh new slant on FPS gameplay, and it’ll give the player something else to think about besides whether to use a shotgun or an automatic rifle to dispatch the next bad guy.
With Portal, the long-awaited Team Fortress 2, and Episode 2 in one package it looks like it could be game-on once more for Valve and Half-Life.