Exceptionally well-written gaming narratives are hard to come by, even these days. It takes a truly exceptional group of people to pull of a non-heavyhanded, gripping story in a medium that consists of tearing into aliens with a chainsaw. It takes an act of God to pull it off in a PUZZLE game. Valve is certainly one of God's greatest acts, somehow managing to pull of the impossible and create a gripping, wonderfully-written and legitimately side-splitting story, set inside of an extremely atmospheric world, with challenging, intuitive, and mindbending fun gameplay, with nary an actual flaw in sight. Surpassing their other masterpiece, Half-Life 2, as their magnum opus, and with that creating one of the most brilliant, flawless experiences in all of gaming, and in my opinion the very best.
Following the events of the original, whether it be a week or 1,000 years later, you are awoken from your slumber in a containment facility, by a brilliantly moronic personality core named Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant), who enlists your silent and judgemental help escaping from the facility known as Aperture Science, all before "she" wakes up. What follows is one of the very most well-written and intuitively-told stories ever told. Like its parent franchise, Half-Life, Portal 2 is told completely first-person, and without a single cutscene; the way I wish more games would. Valve's writers completely immerse you with some of the funniest and memorable characters, and one of the most charming gamespaces, with its great lore and dark, hidden secrets. And I do mean DARK. Easily the darkest E10+ game I've ever played, though the darkness only adds to its oozing charm.
Puzzles, powered by Valve's extraordinary physics engine, Source, and extraordinary in their design and execution, demand the utmost wit and vigor to accomplish many of the later ones during the lengthy and meaty 12 hour playtime, using your portal gun, and any and all elements and little details at your disposal. The portal gun creates inter-dimensional vortexes, or "portals", which allow to send things, or yourself, through one and out the other. This demands precision and an eye for spotting what isn't easily spottable, and while extremely challenging later on, Valve always makes sure that the portal gun and other puzzle solving elements are well-known and easy to learn how to use, meaning the learning curve is absent to any and all who enjoy using their brains.
The graphics are great, proving that the Source engine hasn't outlived its usefulness just yet. The sound, however, is pristine, with Stephan Merchant, J.K. Simmons, and Ellen McLain all lending their profound voices and top-notch acting quality to this game, creating a damn-near unmatched aural experience. The turrets and gel/water sound effects are almost as good as their physics are visually stunning.
After the masterful 12-hour campaign, grab a buddy, online or off, and take to the awe-inspiring co-op campaign, which takes place after the main campaign. Play as either Atlas or P-Body, as the two of you take to some incredibly challenging and mind-bending puzzles, that require complete and utter concentration, compliance, and pitch-perfect teamwork, especially for the timed puzzles. The co-op narrative, while not as large in scope as the single-player's, is still just as hilarious, though some lines are repeated a few times, something that never happened in the main campaign, since the script was about as big as a triceratops' leg, though we can probably chalk this up to the fact that Ellen McLain does ALL of the voice-acting.
Portal 2 is a can't miss game for all who enjoy cerebral challenges, and top-notch storytelling. Its polish is unmatched by all except for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a single thing wrong, content or technical-wise, in this flawless technical masterpiece; the greatest game of all-time.