Poll Question 249 – Is Portal 1 better than Portal 2?

10th November 2011

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

I’m not a huge Portal fan but I do enjoy the occasional map or mod.

There’s been more debate about which is better: Portal 1 or Portal 2 than for HL1 or HL2, mainly because they are both on the “same” engine and any comparison naturally gravitates towards visual aspects.

I am a great believer in the order of doing something has a dramatic effect on our feelings towards things. So, for me the excitement and wonder caused by both HL1 and Portal can’t be beaten just because of fancy physics or beautiful views.

Yes, those things are important but only in the context of what is available at the time of playing any game. What I am saying is that if you downgraded or upgraded all games to the same technical aspects the order you play something has the biggest influence.

As much as I loved Portal 2, especially the 1950’s areas and some of the new mechanics, the obvious changes by Valve to give the game more depth didn’t interest me much and in some cases backfired because it annoyed me.

Of course, Portal is such a limited game in that it’s hard to change the basic visual aspect AND create interest in the play. Whatever art style you use a Portal chamber is a Portal chamber is a Portal chamber.

Did the addition of a botched story, new art and new character make the game better than Portal 1? Not in my humble opinion. Sure, releasing a game without new elements as Portal 2 would probably not have been successful. But I suspect if the art and story were created by a bunch of 8-year-olds people would still have bought the game in the same numbers AND praised the “new” art style.

Let’s not forget that Portal 2 has Co-op gameplay and that is a great idea, but that could easily be backdated to Portal 1. Is it so much better because it is in Portal 2? Maybe. Maybe co-op needs all the extra mechanics to make it fun, I don’t know.

What do you think?

The Poll


  1. Derbler

    Did the vote before even starting to read this article. Took zero thought.

  2. Wesp5

    I think they are both of the same quality, only Portal 2 isn’t enough for a new game to me. They should have published it as an expansion pack to Portal 1, but as with L4D2, Valve obviously needed some more money than they get from Steam alone ;).

    1. MikeS

      Oh come on, We are not talking about a few tweaks here and there or a handful of new maps. Portal 2 took many years and many thousands of man hours to make. The costs must have been huge, I know you were probably saying it tongue-in-cheek, but to even hint that a developer/publisher could release something that big as an expansion pack is the height of naivety.

      1. Wesp5

        Sorry, but there were fan made expansions for Portal 1 that could easily match Portal 2 from a level quality perspective. Granted, Wheathley was cool as was the overall storyline, but just looking at the chambers itself, I don’t understand what should be so difficult. Compared to a real game, like e.g. HL or HL2, the environment was closed off and repetetive which makes it easy to create new levels.

        1. Ville

          Compared to a real game

          Portal 2 isn’t a real game? 😀

          1. Wesp5

            You know, a real first person shooter with different environments and AI enemies and maybe even friendly NPCs ;)? Portal 1 and Portal 2 are just small puzzle games in comparison and there is no way they could haven taken as much time to develop as even the short HL2 episodes!

            1. zonbie

              I could not disagree with you more. Sorry pal, but you are totally tripping balls in all three of your comments.

              With L4D2, it may have been possible to iterate the new content into L4D. But Portal 2 was such an enormous departure from Portal 1 that it would have been an enormous tragedy to try doing it as DLC.

              1. Anon_293824

                Not DLC, I hate those anyway ;), but a real expansion pack like in the old days :)! Although I agree with you that size alone wouldn’t have made this easy. On the other hand someone please explain to me how Portal 2 could end up larger in size as e.g. Duke Nukem Forever…

                1. Anon_296600

                  Why is Duke Nukem relevant to this?

        2. Anon_309914

          Obviously you’ve never made a game or know the process. Portal 2 is easy to make? That’s rich. Keep on dreaming.

  3. MikeS

    I preferred Portal 1. The second game lacked the loneliness and melancholy atmosphere of the original. 2 was bigger, more bombastic, had lots of talking and…that didn’t quite work for me. Also a lot of the “puzzles” consisted of simply looking around for a portalble surface. A great game, sure, but slightly disappointing too.

  4. ASG

    Portal 1 was new, portal 2 was an expansion. I bought it because I wanted to try co-op, which wasn’t as good as it could have been. There should be more challenge for experts, because levels were easy when you found where to put portals. There was usually only a few techniques to finish levels, which was dissappointing.

    1. there is a new set of co-op courses which are REALLY difficult to work out. They also added challenge mode (time and portal amount test).

  5. zonbie

    I’m gonna have to agree with Yahtzee on this one, Phillip. Let me refer you to his video review, which directly tackles this subject. And it is extremely entertaining to watch.


  6. Hard to tell.

    Portal 1 is the one that started the Portal series , and it was made on a older engine , while the puzzles were innovative and the promisse of a cake kept swriming around our heads it was just a decent FPS Puzzle.

    Portal 2 with a newer engine got more of the old repeating puzzles (really repeating in the start) , later it came up with new concepts but it was more about the story.

    So I dont know about that.
    But if you put a gun to my face and tell me to decide , I have to go with Portal 2.

    1. Herr_Alien

      I’ll second that.

      Portal 1 was more a game concept turned to game; the story in it (if you can call it a story) feels more like it was strapped on the game.

      Portal 2 started with the background information from the first game to build a story from the very start. It is a more balance mix between story and gameplay. And even from the gameplay perspective alone, there was plenty of new mechanics added that warrant the status of a “full game” instead of an expansion pack.

  7. Bradley

    I don’t understand how anybody could say that Portal 1 was better. It was a great idea, but the game itself was very “meh” and kinda boring in my opinion. Portal 2 took that great idea and turned it into a great game.

  8. Tops

    Both games are equally fantastic. However, I have to say I rather take P1 because P2 had a lot of weird bullshit in it like missing features (no challenge levels), rip-off item store (Day 1 locked content) and console left overs (Like menu designed for d-pad, forced Portal highlights, no way to turn off auto player push into portals or key prompts, etc )

  9. Beat Darwin

    Portal 1 took the portal mechanic and explored it in a pure way, exposing a surprisingly wide variety of game play challenges, especially in the advanced levels.

    The level design is simple and exquisite, with a cleverness that shook the world like the first Rubik’s cube. The rather Mondrian aesthetic in the main chambers is now instantly recognizable when it pops up in pop culture, and the very HL2-esque feeling in the BTS areas (not at all surprising given the use of the Source engine and limited development budget) ensures a lasting tie to the HL universe. Even though the game was short, one ended it with a feeling of having played through something profoundly innovative and lasting.

    The hyper overexposed cake meme long ago became a sad blight, and even Still Alive tired after being heard as a radio samba so many times in the first ARG, but the spare and dark story, and the increasingly malevolent and insane character of GLaDOS, will be remembered long after the forced narratives of many longer and supposedly deeper games are forgotten.

  10. Kyo

    The two games have different strengths. But when it comes down to gameplay, Portal 2 is the better game. Go back and play Portal 1 after playing Portal 2. I found it difficult to play again because of the one-hit-kill energy orbs, the high number of timed puzzles, and the constant waiting for platforms to come your way.

  11. uuh “botched story’? well, always with valve, you must look for a story to find it, and actually, portal 2’s is pretty clever and very good. Added features like gel does not mean everything else has to be sacrificed; it’s valve here. 😉

    Portal 1 was very fun and clever, the way you make your way behind the chambers. Portal 2 however took things a step further, make you, well me, actually get attached to robots.. in a game! see how good valve are at storytelling.

    Also, just because the ending song was not so well rated, doesnt apply to the whole game xD

    Anyway, portal 2 definitely was better than portal 1! Far much more playtime, very fun added mechanics, brilliant story, epic ending etc.

    1. Kyo

      Yeah, I don’t think the story was “botched” at all. But I think if you subscribed to a narrow view of what is expected of a story in the Half-Life continuity, it could be disappointing. Half-Life takes itself fairly seriously, so when you have tuber GlaDOS or the larger-than-life Cave Johnson, I guess one could argue that the tone doesn’t fit the universe.

      But I think a Portal without the dry wit of GLaDOS and Wheatley or the insane ramblings of Cave would be a pretty dull game. It’s the writing that gives the game an edge, and long after I started to get tired solving the puzzles, it was the humor that kept me moving forward.

  12. I really liked Portal 1 but I have to say that I was blown away by Portal 2. The visuals are stunning, the introduction of the 3 types of gels into the game made the challenges so much more interesting, and the development of the Aperture storyline was hilarious. The voice acting was also much better in Portal 2. My only beef is that none of my friends are gamers so I don’t have anybody to play the co-op missions with 🙁

  13. Hec

    In my opinion Portal 2 wins and far too much from the Portal 1., here we have many more assets and the field of creativity to do cooler and finest mods are now wider than the 1, yeah I know Blue Portals inovate many stuff from the original game, but now Portal 2 brings thaose creative options deeper and wider, I mean laser beams, repulsive, bouncy gel, are things that makes u think in portals in a different way. Altough i’m afraid Portal 2 mods could be even more challenging and difficult than the 1st ones….

  14. Zekiran

    Portal 1 was more challenging to me the first time I played it, and I still prefer it over 2 for replays. That said, P2 has a good long story and lots of places to look at – sadly, not to explore, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a portal gun.

    I love them both, but also I feel a little cheated since I can’t play the co-op and get the full story line out of Portal 2. It annoys me a lot to learn that they’ve decided I must have a partner, to experience the “whole” story, instead of allowing the single-player mode to actually have that story all the way through, and leave the coop play to those who actually have the ability and desire to do so.

    1. Wesp5

      I agree with you about the exploring. I liked the whole “moving behind the chambers” ending of Portal 1, and it would have much better if Portal 2 had moved outside!

      Also you can play the co-op part of Portal 2 using console commands. You have to cheat occassionally because the timing just isn’t possible alone, but you can experience it all!

  15. MisterAddy

    In retrospect, I don’t think a sequel to Portal could ever have been as good as the original. The sense of mystery and intrigue that was built up around Aperture could never have been recreated, nor could the discovery from realising just how many different ways we could use the Portal gun.

    In terms of the puzzles, Vlave were in a catch-22 situation. Making them harder would alienate new players, especially in the more console focused audience, whilst making them too straightforward frustrates the original players. Instead they decided to add the new mechanics, which while fascinating in themselves really limit the possibilities in solving puzzles without making the chambers easily “breakable”.

    Portal 2 is a fantastic game, but it could never match up to the uniqueness of the original.

  16. RossBondReturns

    I selected Portal 2 as my choice.

    I felt that the story for Portal 2 as well as the aesthetics just worked fantastically to move the Portal universe forward. Things looked fantastically vibrant and colorful, and they got rid of some of the nausea producing camera rotations when you would fling yourself through Portals in the original.

    Also gone are the annoying energy pellets that artificially lengthened the first game for me.

    I also felt that the hints of the moon throughout the game nicely paid off and the hidden complexities of the story in Portal 2 were most excellent.

    I think the greatest testament to my preference and love of Portal 2 over Portal is the fact that when I’m done playing through Portal 2 I want to start a reply IMMEDIATELY.

    I never felt the way after Portal.

    1. Wesp5

      “I felt that the story for Portal 2 as well as the aesthetics just worked fantastically to move the Portal universe forward.”

      I was really disappointed about this from a stoyline point of view. Because by placing Portal 2 in the far future and again only inside the complex itself, we don’t get any hints about the world outside and possible connections with Half-Life. Except in retrospect by mentioning of the Borealis, but that connection was known already from the episodes…

      1. RossBondReturns

        While I can understand the disappointment about not being outside the facility. It still peeled layers upon layers off the Aperture Science Onion. It actually weaved a very complex story, some even told through Latin opera! And of course it set up the possibility of perhaps getting your wish of having a third game being set outside the facility.

        However I think a Portal Universe game set outside the facility could pose more problems than anything else.

        Not that I wouldn’t play it or experience it but one would argue that there need to be a par for the course size limit on area.

        I mean the chambers in Portal 2 did get quite huge. Now take that outside…and try and make a game that is unable to be cheated in and/or broken by some of the best flingers of portals.

  17. jackar

    I’m developer, a mapper, and I personally don’t like how the portal 2 is commercionalized, you see that you can buy some skins for coop gameplay, and also you don’t have any option for making your own mods, as soon as they will not release source code, and they won’t, or it will be too late. I don’t know what businessmans in valve do, but I liked portal 1 just because it was original, came up with something new, and at the time I was playing it, I enjoyed it. Then I switched onto SDK, did some changes, and it was fun again… That’s why I voted for portal 2

  18. T'krau

    I finished Portal 2 for the first time about an hour ago and I really do think that Valve basically divided by zero here…they made the rare sequel that is better than the original.

  19. tim

    For me, Portal 1.

    Because it innovated. Portal 2 was the same gameplay mechanic and some bright spark and tried to wedge a story into it. The gameplay was story, story, backfill, more story. I was looking for fun, wheee, more fun, and not a sense of “you do this, you do that, aren’t we clever”.

    I played through portal 2 once and then uninstalled it. I’ve played portal 1 lots of times.

  20. vehk

    portal 1 was a better game, better achievement in its time and a more pure storytelling experience. portal 2 on the other hand triumphs in terms of potential and as a package (more versatile physics puzzles, environments for mapping, coop). I would say that portal 2 is a better game for a deserted island and portal 1 is good for introducing someone inexperienced to the beauty of gaming.

  21. Cheamo

    In my opinion Portal 1 was better. For one thing it practically came free in the orange box (or at least very cheap considering everything in there). So right off the bat I could more so ignore things like valves extremely dated engine and relatively short length. But beyond that, I especially found the story to be much better in Portal 1, and I felt like it ended on a good note that needed no sequel. Portal 1 also seemed to me to have some trickier puzzles and a lot more fast thinking sections.

    Portal 2 was still great, it was very funny in the beginning, had enough new puzzle mechanics, and was a little longer. Still, the price point it came out at still kind of makes me go :S , especially when going through some of the non-portal test room areas that make me think I’m playing half life 2 like seven years ago (and I don’t mean that in a good way).

    Oh plus, I don’t know about other people, but I definitely was getting a little sick of goo by the end.

  22. azula

    Definitely Portal 1. It was innovative and had a great atmosphere of loneliness and constant fear. Portal 2 is extremely easy and everything you do was planned perfectly by the creators. In Portal 1 there are many ways a chamber can be solved. In Portal 2 the only thing you need to do is to look for portalable surfaces. It made the game too easy and it really limited the player. You can’t even explore the maps, because of the restrictions. It may be unbelievable, but I’ve spent over 100 hours playing Portal 1 so far and only a few hours of Portal 2. Portal 2 is really awesome, but it gets boring. Portal 1 is way better than it’s sequel.

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