It's more than just new maps; there's new voice actors, and there's supposed to be some sort of storyline. I've played through the first 4 chambers, and they are nowhere close to being as easy as the original game. :bangheadPortal: Prelude, as its name states it, is an unofficial prequel to the game Portal. Its story revolves around the pre-GlaDOS epoch, even before she was plugged in. At this time, test subjects were monitored by real Aperture Science employees whose work was tedious, lengthy and repetitive. This is why they decided to build a great artificial intelligence that could both replace them in these difficult tasks, but also take responsibility for many other tasks within the complex and compete with Black Mesa's superiority. All employees of the Aperture Science complex are now eagerly awaiting GlaDOS. Maybe even a little too eagerly, as the upcoming events will tell...
Type: Half-life 2 Single-Player
Game Play: 5/5
Replay Value: 4/5
When people think of Portal “mods,” they think of a few portal test chambers linked together with a big cake waiting for them at the end. Portal: Prelude does have (quite) a few portal test chambers linked together with a big cake waiting at the end, but it’s far, far more than just a way to kill an hour.
What sets Portal: Prelude apart from all other Portal-related downloads is that it’s not just a map pack, it’s a full-blown modification, a project that took only eight months to complete. As the name suggests, the mod is the prelude to Portal itself and takes place at Aperture Science in the days before GLaDOS was put fully online. But what’s Portal without sarcastic and often exceedingly sadistic humor? That’s where the human component of Prelude comes into play! Yes, that’s right, the watchful eyes of Mike and Eric watch your every move... That is when they’re not talking with “a bureaucratic looking man.”
Portal: Prelude tells a story and dives into the integrated Black Mesa plot, something that more observant players and forum lurkers will have picked up on when The Orange Box was released almost a year ago to the day. Those observant players who were tickled pink will simply adore the many references and cameo appearances in Prelude and will be immediately hooked on the surprisingly deep and rich back story to the Portal series. Like I said, it’s not just a map pack, there’s a story to be heard here.
The test chambers themselves will keep you very well entertained and extremely frustrated both at the same time. This isn’t a game for the faint of heart, you’ll definitely need some portal-slinging skills to make it through the nineteen large and increasingly complex test chambers. That’s right, I said nineteen, that’s the same amount that’s in the original Portal itself.
Now, I don’t make any claim to be an expert gamer or the top Portal player out there, but I’m at least decent enough to the point where it only took me a day of solid playing to beat the original. Almost three days I’ve sat here in front of my PC. Three days. I stink, I’m hungry, I have a beard, and I’m pretty sure my cat starved to death. Not everyone will have as tough as a time as I did, some people will have an even tougher time, but it goes without saying that countless man hours have gone into the design of the game to really make you use your noodle. Don’t expect to press the right and left mouse button a few times and be done with it, be prepared for a lengthy stay with this professional quality game.
Apart from being crafty and challenging, the maps (as well as the new custom models and skins, although mostly are Half-Life 2/Portal models reskinned) are of very high quality. No detail has been overlooked and the desire of the team to develop something that’s truly professional shows in all aspects of the game, from Mike, Eric, and the rest of the Aperture team to the large multi-room chambers.
The downfalls of the mod are virtually non-existent. The biggest gripe I have with Portal: Prelude is that the developer commentaries, and there are quite a few of them, were recorded in the native language (French) of the development team. So if you’re interested in hearing from the developers while running through the game, you might want to pick up a copy of Rosetta Stone in French.
The bottom line of it all is that Portal: Prelude isn’t just a map pack, and in my eyes it can’t even be called a straight off mod. It’s a game, and it’s free. Hours upon hours of rich, challenging gameplay, beautifully crafted maps, custom content with professional-sounding dialog can all be found if you scroll down the page to the download link. I’ve played Portal map packs and I’ve played single-player Source mods, but Portal: Prelude takes the cake. Yeah, I threw in the pun, but stop wasting time, you’ll need all the time you can get to beat the game!
I miss my kitty...