Portal

PC, MAC / Action / Release: Oct 10, 2007 / ESRB: T

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Portal Q&A

There's a Q&A with Valve's Erik Wolpaw on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, asking the writer about his work at Double Fine and now Valve.

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Replay Couch 1: Portal Dizziness

Welcome to the Replay Couch, where we kick back and watch the best, and worst, of recorded video game history. Each week we'll be offering up a compilation of captures from the world of insane speed-runs, chance kills, competitive moments, and hilarious happenings from the past and present. This week sees the release of Portal, and, more importantly, the release of blurry-eyed speed-runners upon the game's timed puzzles. Look on for an idea of what you're up against, and keep scrolling for a few clips from Team Fortress 2, Halo 3, Skate, StarCraft, and the always entertaining Garry's Mod. Impossible Video of the Week: Portal Like ice cream, Portal hurts my brain. I can only take so many mind-bending maneuvers before my circuits begin to freeze up. This four second domination of Challenge 14 by chezda is a triple scoop of pain.

Get the Flash Player to see this player. Now You're Thinking Outside the Box Crate This Portal player takes another pathway towards cake: cheating. Okay, not cheating--"creative thinking." Sineltor shows us how to stop worrying about our weighted companion cubes and love the PC, completing Advanced Challenge 18 in an unconventional run of 78 seconds.

Get the Flash Player to see this player. So Much Blood Is there anything better in online gaming than an unbridled, uncaring charge into the face of your enemies? Couple that feeling with the gleefully sadistic taunts of Team Fortress 2's Heavy Weapons Guy and you get a clip that is both heroic and hilarious, all courtesy of grodno.

Get the Flash Player to see this player. Magic Bullet Theory Is it luck, skill, or fate? You've seen Halo 3 videos of impossibly-landed sticky bombs and suicidal sniper shots, but here's one that would make Zapruder jealous. Catching an angled ricochet, spotteddogchez takes out two players with one shot, wounding a third for an easy follow-up kill.

Get the Flash Player to see this player. Turn the page for Skate Exorcisms, StarCraft-announcing Koreans, and a little Fitty. _PAGE_BREAK_ The Power of Cement Contorts You Playing Skate is a bit like taking a trip to the ER, but without the bills and twice the fun. This creepy wipe-out in the Linda Blair style comes from Rock n Rye, via the excellent Skate.Reel website.

Get the Flash Player to see this player. Competitive Arena: Boxer vs. [NC]Yellow When the professional StarCraft player Lim Yo-Hwan joined the Korean Air Force in 2006, his career might have been over. Instead, Yo-Hwan--who is commonly known by his StarCraft handle "Boxer," or by his adoring fans as merely "Emperor"--formed the first all-military pro gaming team. Facing off against opponent [NC]Yellow in tournament play, Boxer proves in this video why Zerg rushes are so 1998.

Get the Flash Player to see this player. Video of the Week: G-Unit Still mind-blowing; still funny. Buckthegreat's epic 50 Cent-tracked Garry's Mod video has yet to be topped.

Get the Flash Player to see this player. See a cool video that you think is worth sharing? Drop me a line: Nick@Shacknews.com

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ShackCast Episode 13: Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Unreal Tournament 3, Portal, BioWare/Pandemic

For this week's ShackCast, Remo spent some time hands-on with Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) and several of its new characters--Pit from Kid Icarus, Meta Knight from the Kirby series, the new Samus and her Zero Suit form, and the just-revealed Sonic the Hedgehog. Nick was at Epic's offices checking out Unreal Tournament 3, which he feels is underrepresented by its recent demo. Carlos met with Sierra to check out several upcoming PC and Xbox Live Arcade downloadable games; some--such as Aces of the Galaxy and Commanders: Attack of the Genos--are promising, and some--Battlestar Galactica--are not. Plus, all of us played through Portal and loved it, because it is lovely. Finally, we discuss Double Fine's new game announcement and Electronic Arts' acquisition of BioWare and Pandemic Studios. Don't forget to send in your questions and comments about video games, the Shack, or the ShackCast to shackcast@shacknews.com! Play or download the podcast now, or browse the episodes through iTunes, RSS, or Digg--or continue on for the full breakdown. 00:00: It's a song! And it's not Friday the 13th. 01:56: Remo checked out Super Smash Bros. Brawl as Sonic! He's in! (Story) 14:01: Nick on Unreal Tournament 3: game better than demo. (Demo, preview) 27:20: Carlos on Aces of the Galaxy for XBLA. (Preview) 33:17: ...and on Commanders: Attack of the Genos for XBLA too! (Preview) 34:35: Did you guys play Battle Bugs for PC? No? Okay. 37:15: More XBLA! Switchball! 38:03: Carlos is thoroughly unimpressed by Battlestar Galactica on XBLA. 40:18: Even more XBLA! Arcadian Warriors from the makers of Assault Heroes! 42:34: Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is coming to DS! YES. 45:29: Remo has Call of Duty 4 PC single- and multiplayer hands-on. (Preview) 47:48: Nick is underwhelmed by Heavenly Sword (PS3). 50:03: We all love Portal. A lot. (Review) 57:57: We also love Half-Life 2: Episode Two. (Review) 62:55: Double Fine is (officially) making a new game, Brutal Legend! (Story) 65:13: Electronic Arts has consumed BioWare and Pandemic Studios. (Story) 72:20: Listener mail, including in-game ads talk and the workings of the Shack! 85:44: Remo likes Rocket Race in Halo 3, so this was born.

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"Kane: "Meet me at the Burger King (tm), it's a great place for a shootout" == comedy gold. ..."
- pham nuwen    See all 31 comments


Portal Review

Portal is part of The Orange Box. Don't forget to check out our reviews of the also-included Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Team Fortress 2. As the only part of Valve's Orange Box package that isn't a proper sequel or expansion, Portal can be played without any prior knowledge of the Half-Life series. That's a plus in the sense that it makes this portion of the box more accessible to a general audience, as the title is without a doubt the most interesting take on the puzzle genre in years. It's essentially a combat-free game--having been spawned by a now Valve-employed team at DigiPen, which mandates its students game be nonviolent--though it features the first-person view and play mechanics most commonly associated with shooters. There are a few tweaks; weapons are replaced with the titular portal "gun," and levels require careful thought rather than twitch reactions. Perhaps most impressive for a puzzle game, Portal actually features a substantial narrative of skillfully subtle execution. From the moment you start playing, the game's immersive, self-contained story unfolds without a break in the action, in signature Valve style. A feminine robotic voice greets you when you awake in a sterile, gray observation room and guides you from one test chamber to the next. This seemingly innocuous guide quickly gains a sort of benevolent taskmaster personality and becomes the game's central narrative device, lending encouragement or even humorous discouragement in some cases. "The enrichment center regrets to inform you that this next test is impossible," the voice says at one stage's outset. "Make no attempt to solve it." Though the comedic elements are a welcome addition, the tidbits of information offered by the monotonous voice actually reveal much about why you're running through this obstacle course of sorts inside the so-called Aperture Laboratories in the first place. As the title suggests, the gameplay centers around a gun-like device allowing you to place two connected portals on nearly any flat surface. If your character or an object goes through one portal, it comes out the other, retaining its momentum and exiting at the same velocity with which the first portal was entered. Valve executed this system beautifully, and once you get the ability to place both portals, you'll undoubtedly spend a bit of time putting a portal directly above you and below you to simulate an infinite drop, your character plummeting faster with each cycle. Or try placing the two portals in convenient proximity to your character, using them as a looking glass of sorts to examine the protagonist--a woman, as it turns out. Following standard puzzle dynamics, the stages start with easy challenges, acquainting you with the game's methods at a steady pace. Like any puzzle game, the central mechanics are simple: jumping, picking up objects, and eventually placing portals--starting with just one blue portal, and then adding the second orange portal later. You'll use portals to best complete each room by pressing buttons, manipulating blocks, sending energy balls on convenient trajectories, and becoming a human cannonball to reach each test chamber's exit. Through the 19 chambers, the challenge increases at a suitable pace, forcing you to build on what you've learned in increasingly innovative ways, but never demanding a large enough leap in puzzle logic to stump you. Tips from your robotic guide are paired with a helpful diagram--masked as an elaborate warning sign--at each test chamber's entrance, revealing which skills you'll need to utilize in each level. A smaller caution sign depicting a figure being struck by a block indicates you'll need to manipulate objects in the current stage, for instance, while a black-and-white depiction of a desperately drowning caricature tells you the chamber floor won't be an available route through a level. On more complicated stages, squares with a sequence of dots placed conveniently near suggested portal placement locations indicate the order in which you'll need to perform a level's tasks. Since travel through portals retains momentum, hurling yourself through these magic doors to cross chasms or other obstacles becomes an essential skill, and remains a thrillingly visceral exercise in physics throughout the extent of the game. After placing one portal on a wall or conveniently slanted platform, a second portal placed at a distance below your character serves as the point of entry. Using the momentum gained on the way down to the portal below, you'll shoot from your higher portal at a speed relative to the distance you dropped--and that's just the beginning. Didn't get enough air? Try replacing your portal on the ground with another below you before you hit the ground from your first launch, adding another cycle's momentum for a doubly forceful impetus. Portal's 19 test chambers in its 10 chapters are a perfectly encapsulated gameplay experience, with each new test increased in length, and building on prior challenges an expertly tuned pace. The final chapter culminates in a thrilling test combining all prior exercises and wrapping up the surprisingly fleshed-out story as well. Still, despite Portal being a perfect slice of innovative gameplay, its two to three hours of gameplay end far too quickly. Luckily, advanced versions of several stages as well as "least time," "least portals," and "least steps" challenges unlocked after the first playthrough significantly enhance its playability. Thought one of the levels was too easy? Try the advanced version, in which you can't touch the now-deadly floor, and that helpful block you used to hold down a button is nowhere to be found. While I'm not usually enthralled by time-attack modes, I couldn't help trying to test myself with Portal's extended playability options, which you'll be rewarded with achievements for completing in both the Xbox 360 and PC versions. There were just a few sections of the game where using the Xbox 360's gamepad made things slightly difficult for me, but otherwise, it all felt extremely natural on the console. Of course, I'd be greatly envious of PC Portal players once the mod community goes nuts with the title and starts making Portal chambers and gameplay modes of its own--apparently, Valve has taken steps to fairly easily integrate custom content into the game. Whichever version you play, you're going to be impressed again by Valve's commitment to innovation--not to mention the game's ending sequence, which I have no reservations in saying features the greatest original musical composition--courtesy of Jonathan Colton--ever included in a video game to date. The song is equal parts triumphant, humorous, and enjoyable--a fitting end to a game summed up by all three.

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ShackCast Episode 12: Gears of War PC, Crysis, Portal, Guitar Hero III, Hellgate: London, Dementium

Here's your weekly Shackcast, and it's a packed show befitting this absurdly blockbuster-ridden upcoming holiday season. As always, send in your comments and questions to shackcast@shacknews.com. Episode 12 focuses almost entirely on game impressions, with no time left for news. On tap is discussion of Gears of War on PC, Crysis, Portal, Guitar Hero III and its differences on the three main platforms, Hellgate: London, and Dementium: The Ward on DS. Faylor also played a bit of Treasure's N64 classic Sin & Punishment, officially available in the West for the first time thanks to Virtual Console on Wii, and we have some listener mail involving missing game discs at retail and the unsettling growing number of simultaneously offered models of various consoles. Play or download the podcast now, or browse the episodes through iTunes, RSS, or Digg.

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"In all seriousness. You guys need a chick. Supposing you wanted to get up the iTunes charts. ..."
- graceofdragons    See all 68 comments


Portal Preview

Related Topics – Half-Life 2, Portal, Portal: Still Alive,

IGN has the latest Portal preview, offering impressions of the game launching next week as part of the Orange Box.

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Portal Pre-Load Underway, Half-Life 2: Episode Two Pre-Load This Week (Updated)

Update: Though no specific date has been set, a Valve representative tells Shacknews that Half-Life 2: Episode Two will be available for pre-load later this week. Original Story: Those who pre-purchased Valve's first person brain twister Portal through Steam, either in the $44.99 ultra compilation The Orange Box or by its separate $19.99 listing, can now begin downloading the game's assets. Commonly referred to as pre-loading, the idea is to let gamers gradually download a game in advance so they only need to download a small enabling file on the day of its release, preventing owners from being held back by slow download speeds and clogged servers. While buying a physical copy of The Orange Box at a retailer sidesteps the pre-loading process, retail consumers will still need to go through the same Steam-based activation process in order to play the included games. With The Orange Box gone gold and confirmed to release on October 10--that's next Wednesday--for PC and Xbox 360, the pre-load for Half-Life 2: Episode Two is expected to begin shortly.

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"So is the Orange Box the best way to go value-wise? Is there pretty much no chance of the Black ..."
- Waverider    See all 20 comments


Portal Preview

Related Topics – Half-Life 2, Portal, Portal: Still Alive,

bit-tech.net has been updated with a Portal preview, going hands-on with the first person puzzler which will be included with The Orange Box.

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Portal Preview

IGN has been updated with a Portal preview, offering their thoughts on Valve's first person puzzle game.

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Portal Preview

There's a Portal preview on Eurogamer this morning, offering more impressions of Valve's portal puzzle game which is part of the Half-Life 2 Episode Two package.

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Portal Preview

Also on Computer & Video Games is a Portal preview, checking out the first person puzzle game at Valve. In case you missed it, we recently got to check out the game as well.

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Portal Preview

"Unbelievable," I was earnestly but dispassionately told by the in-game narrator in Valve's upcoming teleport-centric action puzzle game Portal, after solving one of its early challenges. "You, subject name here, must be the pride of subject hometown here." "Subject name here" and "subject hometown here" were delivered in a different, somewhat less distinct, tone of voice, highlighting the lack of personal information as if to make the existing lack of humanity in Portal's cold, sterile environments that much less personal. Of course, it's also funny. Portal's writing is the work of Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek, best known as the writers of the celebrated--but sadly now largely defunct--gaming website Old Man Murray; Wolpaw also has experience with video game comedy writing as designer Tim Schafer's co-writer on Double Fine's Psychonauts. Wolpaw and Faliszek are now on Valve's full time writing team along with longtime Half-Life scribe Marc Laidlaw. Despite the pedigree of its writers, Portal remains an intensely, and refreshingly, gameplay-oriented game. It centers around the manipulation of a portal-shooting gun that creates entry points and exit points on flat surfaces, allowing its user to teleport or transport objects instantaneously from one point to another. This basic mechanic forms the fundamental building block of the game's series of puzzles, which become more and more creative and complex as they progress.
Even the early parts of the game I was able to play during a recent trip to Valve, which serve mainly to acclimate the player to the physics of portals and the various kinds of resultant interactions that are possible, display an impressive range of puzzles. The most fundamental tasks include simply using portals to reach on the other side of obstacles, or at an otherwise unreachable height. Portals can be cast on most surfaces visible by direct line of sight, with the exception of surfaces composed of certain impervious materials. Portals can be used to incapacitate hostile gun turrets by casting a portal above the turret and dropping a crate through another, knocking over the turret and rendering it useless. With a bit of timing, they can be used to drop down onto moving platforms. They can be used to transport crates where they are needed, or to drop them onto large buttons that need pushing. They can be used to re-route the floating energy balls previously seen in Half-Life 2, guiding them to recepticles that, when filled, lead to results elsewhere. They can allow you to bypass a room full of obstacles--until it becomes clear that, in order to achieve a particular goal, you must plant opposing portals in separate accessible only via opposite sides of the obstacle room. Perhaps most ingeniously, and very satisfyingly, portals do not break the momentum of objects traveling through them, but they do reorient the direction of momentum according to the angle of the surface on which they are placed. This means that one can plant a portal on an upwardly inclined surface and another on the floor below a long drop, then jump down into the first portal and end up launched through the second at an angle, with all the momentum gained from the initial fall. After completing a few challenges based on this principle, one begins to imagine some complex but enticing possibilities involving launching through portals and casting new target portals in mid-air based on one's current trajectory. Portal is the spiritual successor to Narbacular Drop, a free game created by students at the DigiPen Institute of Technology built around the portal-based puzzle concept. Impressed, Valve hired several of its team members to create Portal, which takes Narbacular Drop's concept, refines and expands it, and adds the Valve sheen. Valve's Kim Swift and Jeep Barnett, who served as programmers on Narbacular Drop, admitted that after having spent so much time developing Portal, it can be a little tough to go back and play Narbacular Drop again (but don't let that stop you; it's a blast!). Laughing, fellow Valve employee Doug Lombardi chimed in, "At Valve, what you work on should always make your previous work look like shit." Set within the Half-Life universe, Portal breaks from the franchise's previously constant focus on the exploits of Gordon Freeman in the aftermath of the Black Mesa incident--or, at least, it seems to. I asked team members if Portal eventually ties into the larger events of the Half-Life universe, and while the carefully noncommittal answers I received strongly suggested that it does, it remains to be seen how and to what extent. "We would prefer to let players come to those discoveries themselves," explained Valve's David Speyrer.
Though it remains a mystery how much Portal will tell any kind of substantial narrative, there is at the very least some foreshadowing. Portal's early levels take place in a Combine portal user training facility, and constant use of the term "test chamber" immediately brings to mind the brief calm at the beginning of Half-Life before Gordon sets off events in a Black Mesa test chamber that initiate the entire tale of Half-Life. Odd and seemingly random distortions and silences from the narrator also vaguely suggest some kind of impending technological failure or error. Another element of Portal that runs counter to the conventions of the Half-Life series is that it is quite easy to see the player character, who is, in another series first, a woman. By simply positioning oneself in between two facing portals, one may look through either portal and see oneself on the other side. This novel mechanic works several levels deep, like looking into facing mirrors, and when employed slightly more creatively can be used to see the player character from a variety of angles. There is little focus on health or other player statistics; there is in fact no HUD at all. Health is very much downplayed, and regenerates over time as in Infinity Ward's Call of Duty or Bungie's Halo 2. Still, there are frequently situations that are genuinely dangerous. "Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory score," relays the monotone narrator in one room, "followed by death." With an impressively strong set of central gameplay mechanics and a surprisingly engaging sense of atmosphere and humor, Portal is shaping up to be one of the most unique titles of the year by any measure. Titles so fundamentally and elegantly structured around such a novel gameplay concept are practically unheard of in the realm of current, full-3D, polished games from large, established developers, and Portal is a reminder of what is wrong with that picture. Valve plans to ship Portal this fall, initially sold as part of Half-Life 2: The Black Box and Half-Life 2: The Orange Box for PC, and Half-Life 2: The Orange Box for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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"maybe the last level of portal will force you to drop something in a portal to end the level and ..."
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Portal Preview

Related Topics – Portal, Portal: Still Alive, , Games: PC

There's a Portal preview on GameSpy, going hands-on with the Source Engine powered puzzle game to be packaged with Half-Life: Episode Two.

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Portal Impressions

1UP, GameSpy and FiringSquad are three of the latest sites with Portal impressions, checking out Valve's upcoming action puzzler at the Game Developers Conference.

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Portal Previews

Related Topics – Half-Life 2, Portal, Portal: Still Alive,

GameSpot and IGN have Portal previews posted this evening, sharing their impressions of the game after playing it at the Game Developers Conference.

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