This started out as a linked list article before I started to rant, so let me just present the source link for my discussion.
Posters are rallying around four main complaints, with the game’s online store apparently causing the most uproar. As detailed on Rock Paper Shotgun, Valve has included day one DLC that asks users to shell out up to £5 a pop for various non-essential cosmetic items and gestures for their co-op robot.
Secondly, many are complaining that the campaign is too short, offering only around four hours of gameplay.
Some are also arguing that the PC version is a straight port of the console version, probably prompted by a “Please don’t turn off your console” message that appears when you save the game.
Finally, Valve’s ARG Potato Sack ruse – which asked users to shell out for a bundle of indie games in order to help unlock the game on Steam before its published release date - seems to have backfired on them, with many laying into the marketing campaign in their 0/10 reviews.
This makes me angry, far angrier than I should be. After all, what do I care what other people think? For what it’s worth, I think Portal 2 is phenomenal. While I haven’t beaten it like Shamus Young has (and he claims that “Portal 2 exceeds its predecessor in every way possible”), I have played about 2 hours each of co-op and the single player, and it’s been awesome. Funny, clever, beautiful; everything you’d hope and expect Portal to be.
For what it’s worth, I think the Metacritic User Score (& aggregate user scores in general) are worthless and serve only to measure the froth of whatever fanbase is angriest. Look at LittleBigPlanet: user score of 6.5. Resistance 2: 5.8. Spore: 4.6. While I’m not saying that critic reviews are always accurate, they’re less susceptible to an angry fanbase being pissed off about DRM, hating another console’s exclusive, or yes, attacking a cosmetic DLC store.
Speaking of cosmetic DLC, is it expensive? Sure. There’s $80 of DLC in there. Is any of it meaningful? No! It’s all entirely cosmetic. All of it. There are no levels, no respec potions you can miss, nothing. Just clothes. PS3 owners get $10 of DLC for free, but they also pay $10 more for the game.
I see gamers mocking people who spend money on Microsoft’s Avatars or Sony’s Playstation Home characters all the time. So, isn’t it a double-standard to be pissed about a DLC store?
Some “reviews” that claim Portal 2 is a four hour game, but no legitimate reviewer has seen that playtime. It’s certainly possible you can beat it in that time with a speedrun; Metroid Prime was 1:28 in a speedrun, but nobody said that game was short. Morrowind was four minutes in a speedrun. Speedrun times don’t reflect actual playing time for most people, especially the speedrunners, as they need to practice.
I always thought that Portal 2 was in many ways, screwed. This isn’t Portal 2’s fault in any way, but following up the original Portal is a damn near impossible task. Portal was cheap (or free, as most people considered it a bonus to the Orange Box before it released), a couple of hours on your first try, and surprising. Nobody saw it coming. Still Alive, the cake is a lie, “now you’re thinking with portals”; these have become internet memes complete with t-shirts, silly GIFs, hundreds of comment entries, and Know Your Meme database entries.
There was no real way Valve could follow that up.
Imagine that a group of 10000 people had never played either game, and that they were asked to play them, one after the other (half playing Portal 2 first, half playing Portal first). Imagine that their aggregate rating clearly showed Portal 2 as the better game in every single way, and that this trial was statistically significant. Like science. Fans would still say it sucked and didn’t live up to Portal. You just cannot overcome the momentum of their love for Portal, which translates into impossibly high expectations for Portal 2, especially not after Valve whipped it’s fanbase into a frenzy with the ARG.
Now, I personally never expected Portal 2 to release really early, and by really early I mean yesterday or the day before. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Valve was contractually obligated to launch it on the same calendar day as retail; it did launch less than 30 minutes into this morning. So getting it at 12:30 AM, rather than 1 PM today, was a bonus to me, and so was playing awesome indie games. I think it was a great ARG and I think that shining a spotlight on indie games is a noble endeavour, however I think that Valve could have set proper expectations regarding how early Portal 2 could launch. Every game “completed” on GLaDOS@Home knocked down the launch time by an hour or so.
Anyways, I’m going to head back to playing Portal 2 (and finishing up my overdue Dragon Age 2 review, but admittedly, mostly Portal 2). My thoughts on the game are this: when I woke up, all I wanted to do was play more Portal 2, after having played for four hours last night. I think it’s one of the funniest and most clever games I’ve played in ages, probably since the original. My reaction to some of the puzzles and their solutions so far is best described as delighted. Shamus Young thinks that it’s better in every way. Reviewers who weren’t pissed about ARGs & cosmetic DLC have it pegged at a 95 aggregate score, with the lowest being a 90.
If you genuinely don’t like Portal 2, fine. I don’t like every game that reviewers like either; I think Oblivion was terrible (Metascore: 94; user score: 7.6). I’m not saying that people don’t have the right to hate Portal 2; they absolutely do, and I invite you to write your own blog reviews about it or post a comment on this post. Hell, express your indignant rage by clicking “0” on a bunch of aggregate user score sites and giving it 1 star on Amazon.
What I am saying is that user score aggregates are useless because they’re susceptible to angry fans whipped into a froth by an ARG seeing a DLC store and freaking out. They’re susceptible to mass hysteria, and that is no way to determine the quality of anything.
For what it’s worth, I think that the first four hours of Portal 2 have been phenomenal, and I’m not done yet. Speaking of not being done …