Anyone who’s been gaming for a significant length of time will have fond memories of certain moments, games, or parts of games that they wish they could go back and experience for the first time all over again. Myself, well, I have many; but one of my favorite memories by far is my first co-op play through of Valve’s Portal 2’s multiplayer levels.
There are various reasons for this – the first being uncharacteristically sentimental of me; it’s the first game I ever played cooperatively with my partner. We hadn’t been seeing each other long at the time and our weekends were generally spent with two Xbox 360 setups in my lounge, playing games alongside each other. Romance at its finest, right there.
Beyond that, though, it’s one of the only multiplayer experiences (my long-standing Neverwinter obsession aside) that I’ve genuinely enjoyed. I find most gaming that requires co-operation with other players frustrating and tedious. Admittedly, I rarely play online components of single player games (Tomb Raider, Mass Effect, Dragon Age – to name a few) – they always tend to feel like they’ve been tacked on for the sake of it – and when I do indulge in something resembling social gaming, I tend to come away thinking ‘well I’m not doing that again…’ but Portal 2 I enjoyed immensely.
Of course, it’s a humorous affair, and that helps massively. Naturally, Portal as a series is written exceptionally well and the characters have been developed so insanely brilliantly you can’t not like them – GLaDOS will always and forever be one of my favorite video game characters purely for her banter and warped, sarcastic sense of humor.
The greatest thing about Portal 2’s co-op, though, is that while it is a taxing set of levels that do require concentration, and that do invoke a definite element of frustration (many swears were uttered), it’s also a co-op section that does actually require you to play cooperatively. Far too many multiplayer additions to otherwise single player games are simple, arbitrary ‘hey, here’s some weapons, just kill all these other people’ type affairs, whereas Portal 2 actually wants and needs you to work together if you want to get far. It also maintains a relatively equal amount of effort put in by both people playing – no, you can’t just camp in the corner or watch while your co-op partner does all the work.
While work has gone in to making sure the co-op section of the game maintains some regularity and similarity to the single player game, it’s different enough that it doesn’t feel like you’re playing the same game again. In contrast to the single player component of Portal 2, though, playing with two characters does mean you have to quite significantly alter the way you’ve become used to thinking about getting through the increasingly puzzling levels. You’re now playing with a potential four portals instead of two, and you can’t complete some levels without working on your timing, or without proper communication, and for me that’s what playing with other people should be about.
In short, it’s highly unlikely (although let’s be honest, with online gaming you can never really rule it out) that you’re going to co-op Portal 2 and have someone shout something about your mother; and that’s always nice.