13 years on Portal: Revolution has reminded me I'm still an idiot

portals in a derelict facility
(Image credit: Second Face Software)

Portal: Revolution is the latest installment in the iconic puzzle-solving dystopian future game Portal. While this newest game may not have been made by Valve, it is endorsed by the company - and for good reason. 

Portal: Revolution is not a full game but a mod that introduces players to new characters as well as a fresh story that takes place between Portal and Portal 2. Set 30 years after the events of the first game, and happening after an intense fight where the protagonist from the mainline Portal games blows up the antagonist GLaDOS, you are woken by a robotic personality sphere named Stirling in the Aperture Science facility. 

Stirling is recruiting for the Aperture Human Emergency Response Unit, and you’re his sole employee. Working with this somewhat shady ally, you course through familiar puzzles and tasks to reach the top of the Aperture Science Facility building and attempt to turn on a powerful device that can return Aperture to its former glory. 

It’s not just the story that fits nicely with the previous two Portal games. Thanks to developer Second Face Software using a modified version of Portal 2: Community Edition’s engine, and a custom version of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Source Engine alongside licensed source code provided by Valve, this mod feels like the real deal.

All of this means that the locations and, importantly, the physics behind the puzzles feel precisely the same as I remember 13 years ago in Portal 2. You get the same exhilarating adrenaline rush when you catapult yourself through a portal into the sky, aiming for a small ledge on the other side of the room, as well as the same fear of a misjudged sprint across orange speed jelly, which throws you straight into some murky brown water. Even with all the fatal brainteasers, this version of Aperture Science Inc. still feels like home. 

Mind games 

portals with lasers running through them

(Image credit: Second Face Software)

While I can safely say that I would not be the first choice for completing the complex puzzles laid out by Aperture Science Inc., I’ve always given it my best go, and Portal: Revolution is no different.

I was greeted with an achievement that read: “Solved the boring way.” What a way to crush my confidence

Sat at the last test before getting the coveted promotion to the Aperture Human Emergency Response Unit, my freedom is on the line. I need to perform well, or I may be placed back into a coma for who knows how long. The difficulty levels in Portal: Revolution carry directly from the end of Portal 2, so I’ve learned that these are nothing to sniff at. 

With this in mind, I enter the dark test chamber. At a glance, all I can see is one permanent orange portal, two pressure points that will open the door, an inactive elevator leading to said door, and a laser and laser receiver. After a few creative portal locations and trying to look at the problem from every single angle, I figured out that not only is the laser the key to getting the elevator working, but also how I can angle the blue portal so it will work. After collecting a new glass box and a weighted companion cube, I’m able to activate the pressure plates and open the door.

Despite being pretty proud of myself for solving this difficult challenge after walking through the doors, I was greeted with an achievement that read: “Solved the boring way.” What a way to crush my confidence. 

A story to die for  

a keep out sign among the rubble

(Image credit: Second Face Software)

While I may not have the best aptitude for creative problem-solving, I can appreciate a great story. I grew up playing Portal and Portal 2; the sequel was one of the first multiplayer games I ever played, and to this day, I still adore the story, so getting to dive back in and experience the Labs in a new light with original characters and a fresh narrative was fantastic. 

Stirling, a personality sphere that can rival the likes of Wheatly (the intelligence-dampening sphere from Portal 2), is a great, if not slightly alarming, friend to have in the brutal testing facility. Stirling’s job is to help you shake off the dust when you first jump back into the puzzles. But the juicy parts happen when he accidentally drops bits and pieces of the narrative concerning not only what happened to cause all this destruction but also what the end goal of the Aperture Human Emergency Response Unit really is. 

Later on in Revolution, you also get introduced to another personality sphere, one that is decidedly more bubbly than Stirling. This new friend turns out to be a previous intern of Aperture Science Inc. who was scanned into the system and later awoke in the derelict facility. It also fills you in on some interesting plot points, like who GLaDOS was before her masochistic robot days, and some interesting references to Black Mesa, another underground research facility that serves as the primary setting for one of Valve’s other famous games, Half-Life

The fact that Portal: Revolution gives players a whole new (and free) way to experience the brilliant world of Portal makes it very special indeed and one that’s absolutely worth diving into to re-experience the series or jump in for the first time. Plus, as Valve seems pretty allergic to dishing out trilogies, this will likely be the closest we’ll ever get to a Portal 3.  

For more thrilling titles that you can play right now, be sure to check out the best story games as well as the best single-player games.

Elie Gould
Features Writer

Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications. 

Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.