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Portal: Hands-on Preview

Microsoft Xmas Show: Portal Hands-On Preview

Now, call me weird but Portal is the title that I am most excited about out of all of the Orange Box titles which, for those of you who’ve been sleeping under a rock for the last few years, includes Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 and the aforementioned Portal.

So, why has Portal got me even more excited than Episode Two?

Well, to put it simply it’s because I’m a sucker for story. While Episode Two promises to give me a certain fix of story-telling, I also know that the narrative will be automatically handicapped by a large number of issues which I explored in a past feature. Portal meanwhile may break from those handicaps whilst still remaining fixed in the Half-Life universe - something I find incredibly exciting.

On top of that you can pile a whole heap of other reasons which would make it appeal to a gamer like me. The fact that it’s the mainstream debut of a small group of developers who are being guided by Valve is something I find exciting too, even if Valve's involvement removes a lot of the indie feel of the game for me.

Portal: Hands-on Preview Portal Hands-On Preview
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Then there’s the design of the game itself, which fuses a bewildering story with a mind-bending puzzle element and an innovative twist on modern 3D platformers and action games.

All of Portal appeals to me – from the perverted sense of humour and impersonal feel of the game to the team behind it all. That’s why I seized a chance to slip away from the main congregation at the recent Microsoft Xmas Showcase and go play a substantial portion of the game. While everyone else was downstairs shaking hands, sipping champagne and picking up their free Xbox 360 controllers, I was upstairs having the time of my life with a game so delightfully unique that it can be compared to very little else.

While I’m on this topic, I should probably apologise to the organisers of the event who seemed to be in the middle of tidying up when I came bursting up the stairs of the elegant Violin Factory and plopped myself time down in front of a screen to play some more Portal. I imagine they were quite annoyed with me and since I had a incredibly sore throat at the time, I was unable to apologise or explain myself.

Portal: Hands-on Preview Portal Hands-On Preview
Click for full-size

Still, I’m not going to apologise that much because, as I said, I was having a great time playing on the game and experimenting with the different ways to abuse and use the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, which lets players shoot interconnected portals through which to travel instantly.

It's this portal gun which forms the entire armoury of the player, who must learn to use the portals to travel through a series of escalating tests set by the Aperture Science Labs and, perhaps ultimately, escape the labs themselves. So, in words similar to those of the Aperture Science Enrichment Centre; I hope you, <reader name here>, have enjoyed your time in the introduction. However, it is now time to move on to the preview proper. Ready yourself.