Continuing my weekend of picking up loose ends, I played through Portal. I don’t really know why I didn’t do it before – it was only three hours in total, but I wanted to feel like doing it properly before sitting down to finish it, putting it off by eleven months. I’m glad I did.
Of course I’d heard all the excited discussion about the game and all the nominations for game of the year, and the Companion Cube, and the ending song. As I was late to the party anyway, I really wanted to put some time between the hype and my experience. In the end, those three hours didn’t feel that special until around the end, the last couple of levels, when the facades start to crack and things spiral out of control.
Whereas Half-Life 2 is all about story, Portal is all about character, specifically the AI GLADOS. It starts out quirky, then goes all bedlam and finally you don’t know whether to curse her or feel sorry for her. It? To get this emotional reaction out of a cold piece of silicone is a spectacular achievement, especially considering the ordeals she puts you through and the fact that she’s only present via voice. Compared to another recent and popular AI character, GLADOS has much more emotion and depth than Cortana ever did – even though Cortana is a rather fine videogame character in her own right.
I would really like to write more about the three hours I spent with Portal, but really – it’s three hours you should spend with your console or computer and experience for yourself.