Nearly a month ago, my friend Victor bought and downloaded Portal, a first person action game that involves puzzles, the legacies of faceless defense corporations and bizarre physics. He invited me to try my hand at it.
The game very strongly reminded me of Paranoia, right down to the jumpsuits and manipulative, deranged robots. For me, this game was rather refreshing in that it wasn’t your typical paintball session in software where those with the fastest hardware, the most practice, the least RSI and the fastest connections usually pulverize everyone else.
In games like that, I quickly degenerate into kamikaze mode simply because I can’t stack up the patience to do them well. I’d have the wrists of an 80 year old if I did anyway. (On the other hand, people like to play me in first person shooters and melee combat games because they get a kick out of how I transform into this insanely giggling manic–ahem–I can be quite childish for a 44 year old guy.)
In Portal, sort of like Thief or Metal Gear (Although Metal Gear did have some incredibly frustrating button mash events that I almost gave up on.), you’re given some tools and then you got to figure your way out the predicament you’re in. Dangerous events are immediately fatal, thus more realistic, but at least no one is immediately trying to eat your brains or blow you to bits.
It turns out there are some other ways this game is subversive to the usual shoot ’em ups. I guess Joe McNeilly, the guy I just linked to, might be over-analysing things too much but I’m pretty sure the folks over at Valve Software did seriously consider at least some of these issues while designing the game. With Half-Life, Valve became known for trying to depart from cliche and keep the escapism on a vaguely cerebral level. Nice to see they are still doing that.