"I've had a lot of time to think about being dead...since you murdered me. You monster."
The words, laced with accusation colder than an ice cube dipped in liquid nitrogen, are bad enough. But it's the voice -- that not quite toneless tech-monotone, laced with malevolence and fear, that sends an instant chill up any serious gamers' back. You'd recognize it anywhere: GLaDOS is back. And man, is she massively pissed.
, without question the greatest toss-in game anyone's ever paired with a triple-A release, was a physics-lab exercise that started friendly and soon turned deadly. Portal 2 brings back the original's wonderful, wormhole-creating gun again, but dispenses with the nuances this time around.
The austere and deadly confines of Aperture Laboratories have had about 800 years to fall into miserable disrepair, just in time for Chell, the voiceless heroine of the first game, to wake up from prolonged stasis. She's shaken awake by Wheatley, a droll eyeball-shaped bot with a quick wit and a competency complex. When Wheatley inadvertently powers up GLaDOS, it's time for the testing to begin again. And we're not talking SATs.
There are lots of new twists to liven up your efforts to escape these dilapidated testing rooms, which often resemble racquetball courts in long-deserted apartment complexes: light bridges, richocheting lasers and weird blue glop that'll totally screw with your notion of walking from point A to point B.
The experience is leavened with some of the snappiest, most hilarious writing you've ever had the pleasure/horror to hear. Even before GLaDOS re-ignites her sarcasm feature and starts to fire barbs like a bitter dinner-party guest after six gimlets ("The test results are in -- and they say you're a horrible person. Really. They do."), Aperture's Patrick Warburton-esque public-address announcer will have you busting a gut with jaw-droppingly comic, um, "safety" messages.
And we haven't even touched on Wheatley, who quickly becomes the series' most memorable and well-defined character. By the time -- or maybe we should say if -- you've managed to survive the experience, you'll know a lot more about what happened after you dumped GLaDOS into that incinerator at the end of Portal.
Surviving the single-player campaign is a matter of seven or so hours if your wits and spatial awareness are sharp. A new co-op mode extends the experience, pairing you and a pal as a couple of robots who have the unfortunate luck to become GLaDOS's testing playthings. Word is that developer Valve is barreling in the co-op direction for future games. So this is as good a place as any to begin testing the wave of the future. Besides, who really wants to face another wing of Aperture Labs alone, anyway?