Thursday, May 26, 2011

Portal 2 co-op review

Tuesday night and I managed to see Orphi playing Portal 2 via the interlinked Steam Network - time for some co-operative multiplayer.

I'd played it in person, but had yet to try it out over the 'net would there be any differences? Well yes my headset wasn't working so I couldn't talk with him; but hey at least this gives the chance to try out the tools in-game designed for those who don't have headsets. (Oh it turned out that the PS3 had unpaired my headset for some reason since I last used it).

First up getting two players together. Select co-op and you can see a list of PSN friends and Steam friends; in this instance I could see Orphi was playing Portal 2. Hit X to invite him... then wait. At this point I'm guessing that the developers never really tried this except in arranged circumstances because once you hit invite you can't do anything else without rescinding the invitation. So you can't invite someone then pop in to continue your single player experience while you wait - you just get a menu screen to look at.

Once they've accepted you jump straight into the loading screens and then into the calibration hub (or wherever you last left off). It was at this point I discovered my headset was not working. At least Steam offers a chat - just bring up the overlay, select the Friend and you can type messages. As usual tricky with the on-screen keyboard (I hope he forgave my spelling and grammatical errors) but advanced communication was possible if a little game immersion breaking.

Anyway we dived in and stuck to using our respective ping tools to indicate to each other paths of progression. It worked pretty well though some problems did crop up.

Firstly you can only ping something you can see; sounds obvious but in one instance I was flung up to a ledge and wanted to draw attention to a wall plate running alongside me. In one case I was in a sealed corridor waiting for Orphi to stand on another button, which I obviously couldn't tell him.

It also doesn't allow you to specify which portal they should shoot. In one instance we had an aerial faith plate bouncing the player straight up into a wall. I place a Blue portal on that wall and a Cyan portal on an angled wall that jettisons me over a emancipation field (that deletes your portals and anything you're carrying) and splat into a jutting out panel.

I head back and repeat my portal placement while Orphi slaps his portals on either side of that panel. Bounce, through mine, through his and land on a higher platform. Now how does Orphi get up here? There's another angled wall I can shoot at and he pings it for me. Okay but how does that help I can't shoot anything else down there? I scratch my head and realising he knows how to do it I jump down and we reverse our positions. I shoot the protruding panel he goes for the plate.

At which point it clicks. I needed to have shot a Cyan portal at the angled wall then he uses the plate and my Blue portal to be flung across. I take his place and land up at the exit door. So how does he get across now? I don't know how he did it, but he appears next to me.

With a headset it would have been sorted, with the ability to say shoot a portal of this colour it would have been sorted; as it was it was a little messy.

Another ping type ability comes from the gesture menu and the game tells you about this when you need to synchronise actions (in this instance pulling two opposite levers at the same time). Pull this menu up and you get two options to use - a timer and what appears to be a 'go through portal' ping. The time just puts a display on both screens counting down from three, but the problem is if you bring up that ping menu but don't select anything. You get a ping anyway at whatever you were looking at. So again I hope he can forgive me my constant "look at this" as I experimented.

Problems aside I had fun. It was interesting to try and get four portals working in combination to clear the hurdles. In fact it reminded me of the original Portal - no overarching storyline, just the 'joy' of solving things... for science.