In 2 weeks we will finally receive the highly anticipated sequel to the most important game to come out in the last 4 years. That game of course is Portal 2. I don't think a single, rational person had a bad thing to say about Portal. It was to the point, it was brilliantly written, and, in my opinion, is the first video game in history to reach that artistic emotional impact where I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the end. Any video game (or any artistic meidum) that can be that emotionally confusing and impactful is absolutely brilliant. Portal is the shinning epitome of how to take a cool, unique concept and make it so god damned effective that years later we are all still running around proclaiming that the cake is a lie and humming still alive.
Being the internet troll that I am I feel obligated to mention that there is certainly a lot that could go wrong with Portal 2. One of the most important elements of the first was its brevity; the game never felt padded or wore out it's welcome. Because of it's short length every single inch of every level was perfect, every line of, well, monologue was so meticulously well written, and the ebb and flow of the game was so well paced and thought out that there was never a single point that felt like filler (for instance Highway 17). With Portal 2 there is now 2 full length campains (8 hours each) and the biggest question I have is can they fill 16 hours with as much brilliant writing, pacing, and mechanics as they could just 3?
There have been a lot of game play demo videos, ads, and other media released for Portal 2 and from it all the game looks absolutely spectacular. It really goes to show what Valve does better than anyone; use the meidum of video games to tell stories that would not work as movies, books, musical theater, etc.
I love BioWare, and as I have ranted about frequently in this blog, I am even loving the clearly rushed and half-assed Dragon Age 2. They are a great developer, but they are not the best because their games would work almost as well as movies. Dialogue is a big mechanic and common theme throughout BioWare games and, while immensly fun to watch and navigate the conversation pie, we are not as immersed as we are in, say, Left 4 Dead. In Left 4 Dead there is very little "dialogue" and the story is told soley through brilliant level design. It is why Left 4 Dead would be a lousy movie, but works VERY well as a video game.
I'm getting a little rambly here, but bottom line is Valve is really the only AAA company that is really pushing the boundaries of the FPS. Crysis 2 may look brilliant, but it is still soldiers running around shooting soldiers. Homefront may have sold very well, but it is still soldiers running around shooting soldiers. Halo, CODBLOPS, etc.... Soldiers running around shooting other soldiers. Same base mechanics. Only Valve really shows that fantastic (and profitable) AAA games can be made if you take risks and push the boundries of the genre.