A pair of giant flat screen monitors greeted visitors to Valve Software’s booth-interior theater this weekend at the Penny Arcade Expo 2010 in Seattle, Washington for a demonstration of Portal 2’s cooperative campaign. For each demo, one lucky visitor got to play as one half of a duo of Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device wielding robots who, as we watched on the monitors, are assembled by GLaDOS for what she describes, in her deadpan style, as a series of tests that must be completed co-operatively “therefore they can’t be done by a human.”
The robots, although they appear to have identical functionality, are differentiated by name (Blue and Orange) and body shape. Its a credit to Valve’s attention to detail and design that the paring of one short, round robot with one tall, elongated robot instantly feels familiar and endearing, as the two of them together evoke similarly shaped and beloved parings like Laurel and Hardy or Burt and Ernie. That’s even before the display of the ‘wave hello’ button, used practically as a signal, and the existence of a ‘hug’ button, to sooth hurt feelings after accidentally getting your partner ‘killed.’ Not to worry, though, death is not the end in co-op, as shown at the end of the intro video when one robot gets smashed to bits only to have it instantly replaced via pneumatic tube. GLaDOS describes this feature by reassuring the robots that during the test “you will feel no pain, they might make you wish you could die.”
In play, the demo walked the one visitor and her Valve Software representative partner through a basic introduction of the concept of sharing a pair of portals, one linked set red and blue, the other purple and orange, so the pair can reach a pair of elevators that will take them to the next test. That is, after GLaDOS passive-aggressively tries to turn the robots against each other with suggestions of favoritism and inducements to backstab. In the next room, a marker that each player can lay down to wordlessly request a portal in a particular location is introduced to help a laser beam be ’tunneled’ through two walls and then over two switches.
In the final demo room the Valve representative described that the so-called ‘infinite fall’ maneuver, placing one portal on the ceiling and on the floor, that was possible in the first game but impractical other than “being both cool and nauseating,” has an application in the co-op campaign. In this test room, one robot can use it to accurately fling his partner when said partner is falling between the other’s paired portals. The infinite fall is used to build speed, then a third portal is opened to send the partner flying.
Like the single player campaign, the unique co-op campaign of Portal 2 is said to be twice the length of the first game, and will feature original GLaDOS commentary just as in the core game, though there was no indication yet whether they are linked in any way story-wise. The demo ended with an original admonishment from GLaDOS to leave the tiny theater right away, as the combined effect of the minuscule amount of asbestos in the free t-shirts that were given away is not part of the test.
Portal 2 will be released in February 2011 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
What're you looking forward to more in Portal 2? Single player or Co-op?