Portal: Less is More


New member
Dec 2, 2007
Nice review Russ. Actually it was more like 4 reviews. Half Life, Half Life 2, Bioshock and Portal. I agree with what you said about knowing less in HL was better, but it goes the same in HL2. For ages I didn't understand why people were calling the Combine aliens? I thought they were just some totalitarian government figure (well, human ones anyway). HL2 threw you into the mix of things without giving you a single piece of info. You only knew that this Breen character was evil and you had to stop him. I do agree that Episode 1 felt like a cakewalk. The only thing you do is back up Alyx by unlocking doors for her. While this is so it was to build up a relationship with her. Thankfully HL2 and Episode 2 weren't as confind and felt that you were back into control of things.


New member
Jun 3, 2009
I enjoyed Portal as a little note of technology pinned too the rest of The Orange box, but I think you are giving it a bit too much credit for the story.

I did believe I was special for doing so well in the game, until I got to the first Alcove in the wall. I had believed I had real talent at the obstacle course, but it turned out that I was truly powerless. As opposed to my ability to jump around corners, someone, probably only a scientist, had carved a small location for himself through the course, he had truly broken the rules, and won, if only for a matter of days.

The glass frosted over gave me the assurance that every miniscule triumpth was only done to be watched, and the messages with "Subject name" and the such showed me the truth: I was not the first, and for all I knew then, not the last.

The final blow they were able to land against me was the fire room, which I was meant to meet my end in. That is where I knew I was not the first to come so far, the gun in my hands had seen the course through and through already in other hands, and better people than me had failed. Of course, you make it out, but you still see scrawlings on the walls insinuating that you were second. The game would have had more of an immpact should you have found your predescessor's bullet ridden corpse, and gone beyond, so the you would know you had won.

In the end, you are not sure what had happened to him. Had he made it out alive? Had he found a way to the surface that didn't call for billions of dollars in property damage? We will never truly know.


Forum Lurker
Jan 23, 2009
I'm a little late to the commenting party, seeing as how this just showed up in the Related section of an article.

Maybe it's just because I'm of a newer generation of gamers, but I rather prefer Half-Life 2's storyline. Half-Life was impressive in its time, but it lacks the emotional connection that the HL2 story has forged. Everybody in HL is just a face, but HL2 and its sequels have made me care about characters. When the Episode 2 credits rolled, Alyx wasn't the only one who felt like crying.

I guess what it comes down to is that HL felt generic to me. Aliens invade, military comes to clean up the mess. But I really enjoyed Portal's storytelling. The little hints behind the walls and messages left for you are wonderful to find.

Maybe that's what the crux is. Portal feels more personal than Half-Life did. I can appreciate sparse storytelling, but it needs to seem personal, which is something Half-Life didn't.

On a side note, I really don't see how Gordon was more important in HL versus HL2. In both games he just wanders around in the only path available to him. In the first, he's pretty much just trying to survive. I guess that's the ultimate limitation of the Valve-style FPS. When there's only one path available to you, the actions you take carry less weight.


Were it so easy
Oct 2, 2008
Bioshock does not have any cut-scenes... It has moments where control is taken from the player, but so does Half Life, you are still in a first person perspective, and the world is still moving about as normal, it's like the part in Skyrim where you are sitting in the back of the wagon, it's not s cut-scene.