Valve's generally incredible at keeping secrets (we think they may actually be removing knowledge of Half-Life from our brains at this point), but we thought we had Portal 2's main feature set pretty well figured out. Single-player, co-op, custom levels. Yep, that about covers it. Turns out, we were wrong. There's more. In this case, though, it's not necessarily a pleasant surprise.
Remember that song you'll never be able to forget thanks to the Internet's insistence on brutally hammering it into your skull? Well, it all started with Jonathan Coulton, and he's returning to overwrite more precious childhood memories with another insidious tune.
“Closing the doors. If this plane goes down, the Portal 2 song goes with it. It is in my pocket,” Coulton tweeted.
He later added that the plane didn't crash, which means he's -- yep -- still alive.
Portal 2's set to forever singe the color white into your retinas on April 20. In other words, you'll only be able to hear one song and see one color. And when you're old and gray, you'll look back on a life full of entirely avoidable hardships and mumble: “Worth it.”
Have things seemed... off lately? Well, friends, that's because you're in the Twilight Zone. Don't believe us? Well, how else do you explain the fact that Valve's embodiment of the phrase “large-and-in-charge” is whistling this tune:
"It's a real game changer for us," Valve CEO Gabe Newell said of Sandy Bridge and its integrated graphics core. "This allows for a console like experience on the PC."
He's referring, of course, to the fact that Sandy Bridge could lead to a consistent set of specs for all PCs. In other words, no more futzing around with different graphics configurations. Granted, Sandy Bridge nearly took home gold when we ran it through our obstacle course, but it came up sadly short in the graphics department.
Meanwhile, Newell noted that Portal 2 was actually built from the ground up with a Sandy Bridge processor in mind. Sure, it's not the most graphically intense game ever, but – if you're a fan of fishing around in the nitty gritty guts of your PC – it might be a disturbing sign of things to come.
Valve may be able to control the space half of the space-time continuum, but it looks like the “time” bit is still giving the developer some trouble. Portal 2 – originally slated to short circuit gamers' brains in February – has now been pushed into the far reaches of April, specifically April 20. But hey, it's not all bad. Why? Here's Valve's take:
“This two month slip not only marks the shortest delay in Valve's proud tradition of delays, it represents the approaching convergence of Valve Time and Real Time. Though this convergence spells doom for humanity, it will not affect the new Portal 2 release date,” the developer said in an announcement.
Ok, we admit that the “doom for humanity” part sounds bad, but here's the thing: If Valve's track record with Half-Life 2: Episode 3 is any indication, the fiery and assuredly painful End won't come during our lifetimes. Hell, even our children's children probably won't have much reason to worry, although they'll probably be too busy dealing with tyrannical squid emperors and Apple's establishment of the iDeathStar (It forces everyone in the universe to use AT&T wireless! And destroys planets too, we guess) to lose any sleep over it.
From the folder titled “Wait, what?” comes word that Valve’s initial concept for Portal 2 was a bit avant garde – even for Valve, the studio that brought us such hits as “MIT Scientist Fights Aliens,” “Cartoon Mercenaries Kill Each Other for Hats,” and “MIT Scientist Fights Aliens Again.” See, Portal 2 was going to give the portal gun the weighted companion cube treatment. That’s right: no more portals.
“One of the ideas was: what if the Portal franchise is, instead of always being about Portals – which’d be tough because it’s called Portal – but what if it was always about introducing a new puzzle element that you’re going through? it’s about Aperture Science, and now you’re going through this new testing track with this new element,” writer Erik Wolpaw told PC Gamer.
You can probably already see, however, where this is going. Wolpaw continued:
“We pretty quickly found that, even though we had a couple of pretty interesting mechanics, that people would always, to a person, every play tester we had would say, ‘Yeah this is alright, but where’s my portal gun?’”
As a result, gameplay mechanics like puddles of goo paint with different, gameplay altering properties switched from being central mechanics to a secondary ones, and thus, the Portal 2 we all know and love was born.
So hooray for that. Sure, we love a good brain teaser and all – so we can understand where Valve was coming from -- but it doesn’t take too much gray matter to figure out that maybe removing the feature that made your game so popular in the first place isn’t the best idea -- especially when you're dealing with a horde of easily outraged gamers.
Circle February 9, 2011 on your calendars, folks. That's the day Valve confirmed it will be releasing Portal 2, the anticipated sequel to the original surprise hit.
The release date leaves plenty of time to drop hints about what you want for Valentine's Day, or vice versa if you're the one buying gifts. It's also somewhat sooner than some had thought, as previously we only knew it was going to ship sometime in 2011.
There's more good news associated with Portal 2. Valve has decided to release the upcoming sequel for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC platforms all on the same day, which leaves only Mac gamers out in the cold, at least for the time being. A version for the Mac is also expected, but probably won't debut on the same date as the other platforms.
After Chell, GlaDOS, and the gang warped out of 2010, Valve’s release schedule would have actually been improved if the PC powerhouse announced Tumbleweeds and Cricket Chirps: The Game. At least it would have been something, as opposed for the heaping helping of nothing we’d resigned ourselves to. But as it turns out, the long, cold, Valve-less winter won’t be sold long, cold, and Valve-less after all. See, out of nowhere, Valve has released a game. It’s called Alien Swarm, and you might already know it from back when it was called, er, Alien Swarm.
“Two years ago Valve hired the talented team behind the popular top down co-op mod Alien Swarm. Since then they have been busy working on the Left 4 Dead Series, and now Portal 2. However, we never forgot about Alien Swarm and the team has spent a lot of time bringing the game to Source in between their contributions to the other Valve projects,” Valve said of the extraterrestrial that unexpectedly burst out of its chest.
The best part? It’s already out. Like, now. And it’s completely free, which makes it a gift, which is awkward, because we didn’t get Valve anything. Still though, grab it if you haven’t already. We haven’t spent an extensive amount of time with it, so we can’t recommend it one way or the other. But really, what do you have to lose?
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself.”
Well, it’s a lie. Doing stuff is hard. Don’t believe us? Then here’s an object lesson: E3 happened last week. Now, you have two choices. You could turn the Internet upside-down, scouring hundreds of blogs, RSS feeds, and tweets for every last crumb of the information you so crave, or you could just let us do it for you.
Huh? Oh, hey. Would you look at that? We already did it. And you didn’t even have to lift a finger. Well, okay, you’ll have to lift one, actually, in order to click past the break. That’s still a pretty good deal, though, we think. And hopefully, we’ll have Maximum PC’s brand new telepathy-based “read more” link tech up and running in time for next year’s E3. Fingers crossed. Unless you don’t want to lift them.
“Aperture Science, doing business as Aperture Laboratories LLC, in partnership with Valve today announced the successful completion of an ethics-review-panel-supervised release date restructuring process. Portal 2, the sequel to the ground-breaking title that earned over 30 Game of the Year awards despite missing its original ship date, is now targeted for a 2011 release,” read an email from Valve.
But who cares? Half-Life 3, right? Wrong. Completely wrong, as it turns out.
“To ask questions about how close we all came to dying, or to ask futile questions about the previously announced E3 ***PORTAL-2-THEMED-FOR-GOD'S SAKE*** surprise or, less futilely, to schedule an appointment to attend a Portal 2 screening at the Valve booth during E3, please contact Valve's delegate to the EU's Valve Time Studies Group, Doug Lombardi,” the email concluded.
So there you have it. E3 is Portal 2’s party. Maybe Half-Life will get a chance to hog the spotlight next century year. Perhaps just in time for the Orange Box 2, if those wishes we've been wasting for the past couple years when blowing out our birthday candles finally come true. We can dream, can’t we?
In addition to the expected return of GlaDOS (she is “still alive,” after all) and an all new single-player mode packed with “devious test chambers,” Portal 2 promises a completely separate co-op campaign that has even the mighty collective MPC Megabrain crying in a corner just thinking about it.
Also, if GameStop's listing’s anything to go on, Portal 2 will probably be a fair bit beefier content-wise than its predecessor – at least, if it hopes to wear its suggested $49.99 price tag with pride and not shame and regret.
Unfortunately, that’s all that’s trickled out, for now. But hey, look at it this way: Gabe Newell has to pass the time during his GDC award acceptance speech somehow, and while thanking his family and God or whoever is great, it’s so passé. The solution? Portal 2 footage. This, of course, after he approaches the podium, grasps his award, leans in close to the microphone and whispers, “This was a triumph. I’m making a note here: huge success.”