Portal 2 was released today and boy did it hit with a bang.
Some PC users are furious after the “potato sack” series of mini-games by Valve ended in a cash grab and a resounding… well… nothing really… aside from a slightly earlier release (But then I suppose no-one twisted any arms on that one). To rub salt in the wounds, console-isms like “please don’t turn off your console” only act to remind PC gamers that Portal 2 was made very much with consoles in mind (aka: compromise). PC users have responded with fury on metacritic and the current user score average is 6.0 with a slew of rather unreasonable very low scores from angry gamers. In contrast, portal 2 has a outstanding average score of 95 from professional critics (and I tend to side with them…).
One has to wonder if 360 users are feeling very much abandoned at this point. What ever happened to the days of Valve and Microsoft? Oh yeah… Valve wants to push Steam. The question is: did Sony pay for Steam exclusivity, or did MS refuse it? Either way, Valve rewarded Sony users with a “Steam-lite” that includes access to custom user made levels, online play with PC/MAC users, and file saves on the steam system. Plus if you get the PS3 copy, you get a free digital download for Portal 2 for Mac/PC. Wow. This is a smart move for Valve, as this should attract new users to steam and hopefully generate more sales. 360 features? Not so much.
And on the topic of “the good old days,” what happened to multiplatform titles looking better on the 360? Any look at a few of the current PS3 vs 360 graphics comparisons shows a much crisper picture on the PS3. The only advantage I could see on the 360 was some shadows/lighting. That being said, it would take a die-hard 360 fanboy to not admit that the PS3 version looks superior in still-shots. I personally think Portal 2 looks great from afar on the 360, but far from good when you get up close. Low-fi graphics did not prevent me from enjoying the hell out of the original Portal, but 360 users will probably be having some Portal-envy.
As a final and potentially controversial point, I personally think textures look better in Half-Life: Episode 2 on the 360 (from 2007) than they do on Portal 2. 360 games like Halo Reach, Crysis 2 and Mass Effect 2 remind us that Portal 2 could have been more… much more visually. To me this is disappointing, and signals a lack of effort, or deliberate bottle-necking of the 360 version by Valve/Sony. My paranoid side wonders how much Sony paid for that result? Or maybe Valve really has had enough with Microsoft and could not be bothered. Either way, Valve is really pushing their Steam service… and right now the 360 is being left in the dust in that respect.
In the end I am thoroughly enjoying my 360 version of Portal 2. As a owner of a PC/MAC/360/PS3/Wii I have a lot of options, and I admit to automatically buying most of my multiplatform games for the 360, as they have historically had a (increasingly smaller) edge over PS3 counterparts. This time however, I feel as if my money would have been better spent on the PS3 version. Did Valve just succeed in changing my future buying habits?