Review: Portal 2 Peer Review DLC

Usually when you get some free DLC, it consists of something minimal, perhaps a slightly naff costume you don’t really want. However, in the case of Portal 2 developer Valve, free DLC means a whole load of new content. But is it any good?

The answer is mostly a resounding yes. I applaud Valve for taking a stand against the DLC norm and charging for content, as it really feels as if they care about those who bought the original game and want them to experience more enjoyment for the money they’ve already paid.  More brownie points are then thrust vigorously in Valve’s direction for offering a piece of DLC that makes Portal 2 have a lot more to offer to the player through inclusion of a few new test chambers, competitive leaderboards and a new challenge mode.

Atlas and P-Body Return

 

You remember these guys, right? The stars of Portal 2’s co-operative campaign, Atlas and P-Body return once again in Peer Review, once more forced to complete test after test under the omnipresent and often malicious gaze of everyone’s favourite sarcastic AI construct, GladOs. This time she’s claiming that she hasn’t reassambeled the two robots for 100,000 years and the human race is extinct, throwing in some curious comments about a mysterious entity playing havoc with the Aperture Science testing facility along the way (I’ll give you a clue, it isn’t Wheatley).

If you’ve played Portal 2 before, you know the drill here. In Peer Review, Valve has taken the established Portal 2 formula, retweaked the various mechanics they’ve already established and created a brand new set of highly challenging test chambers that will more than likely break your mind and cause some levels of mild frustration.  This means that you’re not going to be seeing a whole lot new here – you still use boxes, switches, excursions funnels, portals, lasers and the whole host of other crazy mechanics Valve introduced in the original game in order to navigate the environment, but the execution of said challenges uses a seemingly more difficult style than the original game.

Playing through the game with resident fellow ManaTankian Eric Pederson, we both found ourselves struggling multiple times to comprehend what on earth we were meant to be doing. Regularly you’d find yourself entering an absolutely cavernous room with various types of gel flying all over the place, only to discover you then have to use light bridges, lasers and all kinds of other things to navigate across the treacherous baths of acid that litter the testing facility.  While this, at times, caused mind-bafflement, Valve continues to impress with giving the player a sense of satisfaction upon completing a tricky puzzle. Both myself and Eric found ourselves almost jumping for joy once we’d completed a test we’d been struggling with for the past twenty minutes, and the more challenging test chambers found within this DLC will more than likely stretch the brain-boxes of even the most hardcore Portal fan.

Alas, such challenges can only last so long. This piece of DLC’s new content, at a stretch, will probably take you just over 2 hours. For free though, that’s not a half bad extension on an already lengthy co-operative campaign, and overall I found myself impressed with Valve’s new ideas using already established formulas.

A Mysterious Entity Lingers Behind These Doors…

 

As usual, GLADoS remains the star of Portal. She’s got some brand new dialogue and will routinely refer to you as ‘Marshmallows’ in various hilarious ways as she tries to upgrade you to being killing machines. Also be sure to listen out for the extremely brilliant section where GLAD0S cannot comprehend ‘your mother’ jokes and offers insights into her knowledge about the average length of human excrement.  So there we have it ladies and gentlemen, not content with constantly referencing a mythical ‘Cake’, Portal now introduces marshmallows into the fray also. I predict sticky toffee pudding next.

Challenge Thyself

You wanna be the very best, that no-one ever was, right? Obscure Pokémon original song references aside, Portal 2’s Peer Review allows you to do just that, should you be good enough. The package includes a brand new ‘Challenge Mode’ which – as well as being playable in both single player and co-operative campaigns – allows you to experience the test chambers of Portal now with a timer and a count of how many portals you’ve shot in order to traverse the area. This will then allow you to view your stats in a global and friend sense, and you can compare how well you’ve done against the rest of the Portal community.

Alas, Challenge Mode does not include any additions to the original formula. Fans of the original Portal may remember that you could gain access to ‘advanced’ maps that would make your average levels much harder, but these are curiously missing from Peer Review. Instead your challenge is to simply traverse the same levels you’ve played before and, while it is a novel way to get people playing the campaigns again, it feels like a few tweaks here and there to the levels might have ultimately benefited the package.

It’s nice though, to see how rubbish (or brilliant) you are at playing Portal, and I predict many a person will now be flinging themselves in the air using Aperture Science’s various strange devices in the eternal quest for a better time. That’s just how we are as gamers, we’re not happy unless we’re the best, right?

This Was a Triumph….Sort Of

For a piece of free DLC, Valve has delivered brilliantly and opened up a few new layers to the Aperture Science facility. Challenge mode is fun to play and will provide an extra layer of dertermination, while the new co-operative chapter provides a fun but difficult experience that has one of the most truly bizarre video game endings I’ve ever seen. This is Portal though, so it’s not too unexpected.

Score: 9.5/10

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