Review: Portal 2 In Motion

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Reviewing games has one drawback, especially if you also work full time outside of gaming.  The chance to replay good games of old rarely comes up.  Sure there may be a lull every once in a while that allows for a game to be revisited, but more often than not I am too caught up in playing catch up with new games to have any opportunity to go back to a favorite from the past.

When Portal 2 was released last year, I played through it twice. Partially to hunt for trophies, but also to play a second time with the developer commentary turned on. First off, the game is fantastic so it doesn’t feel like a chore to replay.  Secondly, playing through and listening to what the creators chose to include or not, is a rare insight into game making (and something that more developers should include, in my opinion). But after those initial replays, I put the game aside and moved on to other titles. Now, after more than a year of being away from Aperture Science, Sixense Entertainment has given Portal 2 fans one more reason to once again play through one of the best games in recent history.

Sixense recently released a DLC pack for Portal 2 titled In Motion, which includes 20 new test chambers built around new portal gun functionality, in addition to a free title update introducing Move control support throughout the original game’s single player and co-op campaigns.  The new test chambers gradually introduce all of the new motion control functionality and end with a final quiz of sorts requiring use of all the new tricks.  So how does it play?  In a word, flawlessly.

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Using the Move controller is not my typical first choice because some games (especially FPS) don’t quite get the field of view/aiming/moving balanced properly.  This imbalance tends to lead to aiming at something in the outer field of view and instead causing the whole field of view to spin up or right and completely disorient the player or cause the target to be lost from focus. Tweaking motion sensitivity, camera speeds and everything in between simply to use a Move is something I don’t enjoy, particularly when I could simply use a DualShock 3 and avoid the setup hassle. But I have to hand it to Sixense, the game just feels perfect right from the start with the Move controller (paired with a Navigation).  Calibration couldn’t be simpler: one press of the Move button and it’s off to face the test chambers.

On a side note, one great comparison I’ve always attempted to remember during Move calibration is to think of the Move like a mouse.  Don’t calibrate the Move with it hovering high up, but rather close to your lap (or where ever you typically hold a gamepad).  If a game doesn’t require large extravagant swinging gestures, then resting the Move on your leg will help to keep your arm from being fatigued, and also help you keep it centered to where it was calibrated from.  This calibration tip works perfectly with Portal 2 In Motion.

So aside from the typical camera control and “mouse/cursor aim accuracy” what does the DLC add?  The new test chambers provide a custom experience for utilizing the Move as the portal gun. As new functionality is introduced within a test chamber the game pauses briefly to show a tutorial video.  These tutorial videos sort of break the pacing of the game but almost help better demonstrate what is being asked of the gamer.  One downside is the voice work in these videos is not GLaDOS.

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Aiming is more accurate than the gamepad, but additionally the portals can be rotated and dragged across surfaces.  With the introduction of being able to rotate portals after they are created, there is a greater sense of control over portal placement.  Dragging a portal across a surface also adds a nice layer of strategy.  For instance one of the later test chambers allows one portal to be placed at the end of a light bridge.  Creating the other portal on the floor causes the light bridge to shoot up and act as a barricade from sentry turrets.  Being able to drag the portal across the floor creates sort of a moving shield to bypass a sentry and avoid getting shot.

An additional function the portal gun now offers is the ability to bring the Move controller closer or further away from the PlayStation Eye and have objects being held move closer or further away within the play space, without risk of falling off a ledge or stepping into the targeting reticule of a sentry turret.  The depth of field movement while holding objects is a great enhancement to the overall experience.

Sixense didn’t stop with better accuracy or depth of field; the scale of an object can also now be changed once it has been picked up.  Several test chambers include only one weighted companion cube, but more than one pressure plate to rest the cube upon.  By grabbing a companion cube and holding down the L2 button, moving the Move controller left or right will stretch the cube into more of an i-beam shape.  This stretched cube can rest on more than one pressure plate to activate a lock or act as a bridge to cross an area that wouldn’t be possible by jumping alone.

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Once I finished playing through all of the In Motion levels I couldn’t help but want to play the story proper again to see how Move controls were incorporated with the original test chambers.  Most of the functionality of the Move created specifically for the new test chambers is not included in the Valve story.  This is a little unfortunate, because there are definitely some advantages to being able to utilize the depth of field during the story, but I can see how mechanics like cube stretching could potentially break the balance of existing puzzles.

One thing I absolutely love about the Move integration is the fact that the glowing bulb at the end of the Move alternates between glowing blue or orange, depending on the portal color fired.  This is a nice touch but also helps with the immersion of feeling like you are holding an actual portal gun.  With all of the gun-shaped peripherals out on the market for the Move, I’d love to see a company make one modeled after a portal gun to help complete that immersion.

As a late DLC offering, Portal 2 In Motion is a nice way to revisit a wonderful game, however I can’t help but get snagged on the value proposition.  The patch adding Move functionality throughout the story and co-op missions is a free download, but the new test chamber missions cost an additional $10. I definitely enjoyed the new levels and the functionality that Sixense has created, but I’m not quite sure that price is worth it for just 20 extra test chambers that don’t take all that long to complete. Your best option is to download the update and test out the basic Move controls with the game’s original portal puzzles, then decide if the price is right for you to upgrade to the DLC.

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Pros:
+ Fun new test chambers highlighting Move specific functionality
+ Great use of Move without hyper camera controls
+ Free Move support now works for the original story and co-op missions

Cons:
- New test chamber levels don’t take too long to finish
- Move specific functionality found in new test chambers doesn’t carry over to story or co-op

Game Info:
Platform: PlayStation 3 DLC
Publisher: Sixense Entertainment
Developer: Sixense Entertainment
Release Date: 11/6/2012
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.