PC Gamer

If you search Steam for nothing and then sort nothing by user reviews you'll get a neat list of the most popular games on Steam among user reviewers, based on the percentage of positive reviews on the system. Portal 2 wins. Of 35,550 reviewers, 99% like the game. Make more games please, Valve.

If you prefer raw numbers, Dota 2 (94% of 280k users like it) and Team Fortress 2 (97% of 200k like it) come out ahead. Skyrim also does well. 98% of 78,842 users like Skyrim.

One Finger Death Punch, Crypt of the Necrodancer and Nuclear Throne have 99% positive ratings too, which is good, because those games are totally ace. In fact, the whole list is a brilliant resource if you're looking for ways to spend your spare Steam wallet pennies in the Steam sale.

Here's a shot of the top ten. What do you think?

PC Gamer
MOD OF THE WEEK

In Mod of the Week, Chris LIvingston scours the world of user-created adventure for worthy downloads. This week, a Portal 2 mod that fuels our dreams of an above-ground Aperture City.

Apart from a guard booth and a small shed in a field, most of what we've seen of Aperture Science has been carefully hidden underground. Perhaps if things hadn't gone so horribly wrong in their massive subterranean lab, Aperture eventually might have built a proper above-ground campus, like Google or Microsoft.

That's the premise of Above Aperture. You're on an excursion to Aperture City, a large above-ground compound littered with buildings and devious test-chambers. 

Yes, you're still as trapped as Chell ever was, but the open-air nature of most of the chambers and the little outdoor strolls you take between the challenges give it a different feel than the subterranean labyrinth we're used to. Aperture City, naturally, is abandoned and crumbling, and armed with only your wits (and a cool handheld device), you're trying to find your way out, or at least your way through

Above Aperture features some custom models and art, as well as a really nice piece of custom music. Not only are the maps lovely to look at, but they're pretty challenging as well. I spent a good deal of time in the very first level wondering just what the heck I was supposed to do. I could clearly see the spots I needed to get to, and I knew I had the tools to get there: my portal gun, a light bridge, and a faith plate. There were even clues in a few spots, little arrows painted on the concrete... anyway, it was a challenge, a nice twist on the standard game-play, and quite satisfying when I finally figured it out.

Light bridges are a big part of most of the puzzles, but there are other familiar elements: laser-beams and mirror cubes, a bit of gel, a few turrets here and there. The chambers are nice and big, and for me, they're the best kind: where you sort of wander around for a bit before you even try anything, peering at the walls and ceiling, trying to put the solution together in your head before you actually start firing the gun.

I really do like being above-ground, too. I know, it's just a skybox, and the maps may as well be underground anyway because you're trapped in them either way, but it still feels a bit more freeing being able to see the sky (though no moon, of course). It's also one step closer to my ultimate Portal dream: a huge GTA-style metropolis I can fling portals around in.

If you spot a radio during your travels, make sure to take it with you: there's a cool custom song hidden somewhere in the maps, and you won't want to miss it. (I definitely missed it my first time through.)

Above Aperture is in three parts which you can subscribe to here. I certainly hope there will be more of this adventure to come: the puzzles are pretty fiendish and the maps are very well designed, not just in how the puzzles function but in the overall atmosphere as well.

You can also check out more of the modder's Portal 2 workshop items here.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

GRaDUATE

Have you ever idly wondered whether GLaDOS might have been up to more research and testing than the Portal games let on? A study from Florida State University into the effects of playing Portal 2 on a variety of skills won’t do much to ease your fears, then.

According to the study, spending eight hours playing Portal 2 is more effective at improving a range of cognitive skills than a dedicated brain training program called Lumosity.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Philippa Warr)

GRaDUATE

Have you ever idly wondered whether GLaDOS might have been up to more research and testing than the Portal games let on? A study from Florida State University into the effects of playing Portal 2 on a variety of skills won’t do much to ease your fears, then.

According to the study, spending eight hours playing Portal 2 is more effective at improving a range of cognitive skills than a dedicated brain training program called Lumosity.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

In almost every strategy, management or sim game I play, I will immediately turn off the music which comes with the game in favour of my own. That means that Steam Music Player sounds like a good idea to me even if I long ago abandoned mp3s in favour of streaming. The built-in functionality, which lets you browse your music library and control playback from in-game using the Steam overlay, has just left beta after its initial announcement back in February.

To celebrate, Valve have made the soundtracks for some of their games freely available to those who own the associated games, including Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and its Episodes, Portal, Portal 2, and the Dota 2 documentary Free to Play.

… [visit site to read more]

Portal 2 Blog

It seems Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 have launched Merchandise Workshops, where the community can submit, vote on and sell their own non-virtual, actually real t-shirts and posters. And so far, the response from their communities has been overwhelmingly positive. So we thought: What if we applied that same idea, but to a good game, with a smarter, more attractive community? Introducing the Portal Merchandise Workshop, where you can heroes can bravely design their own Portal universe concepts.


"But what if my ideas are bad and I don't have any talent?" you ask. Don't sweat it, you're still covered.


Announcement - Valve
Save 75% on Portal 2 during this week's Midweek Madness*!

Portal 2 draws from the award-winning formula of innovative gameplay, story, and music that earned the original Portal over 70 industry accolades and created a cult following.

The single-player portion of Portal 2 introduces a cast of dynamic new characters, a host of fresh puzzle elements, and a much larger set of devious test chambers. Players will explore never-before-seen areas of the Aperture Science Labs and be reunited with GLaDOS, the occasionally murderous computer companion who guided them through the original game.

The game’s two-player cooperative mode features its own entirely separate campaign with a unique story, test chambers, and two new player characters. This new mode forces players to reconsider everything they thought they knew about portals. Success will require them to not just act cooperatively, but to think cooperatively.

*Offer ends Friday at 10AM Pacific Time
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

So saxxy it hurts.

Every year Valve hold the Saxxy Awards to encourage and round-up the very best Source Filmmaker creations, and every year the submissions are almost solely set inside the Team Fortress 2 universe. That’s perhaps because they’re Valve’s most expressive characters and because TF2′s manic world is most easily bent towards drama and comedy, but for the just-announced 4th annual Saxxy Awards, Valve are encouraging submissions from other games. Mainly: Portal 2.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
Aperture Tag review


Aperture Tag is a mod for Portal 2 that removes the portal gun and replaces it with one that fires gel: repulsion gel, which makes you bounce higher, and propulsion gel, which makes you move faster. Jumping and running, in other words, replaces portals as the main tools to solve puzzles with. Unfortunately, there's no replacement for Portal 2's other elements, like enjoyable voice acting, excellent writing, and a well-balanced level of challenge. And, unlike most mods, Aperture Tag adds a price tag, meaning the first puzzle to solve is: should you pay for this?

There are just over two-dozen test chambers in Aperture Tag, though a couple are recycled from the original game, spiced up by having no portal gun to solve them with. The early game is slow to evolve, giving you only the repulsion gel to play with for a long while. I understand the modders wanting to ease me into the mechanics of the gels, but you can't play the mod without owning Portal 2, and if you own Portal 2, chances are you've played it and already know how everything works. A shorter refresher course would have been welcome.

Once both gels are unlocked, the game ramps up the complexity, though unevenly. I found a couple of early chambers surprisingly vexing while some endgame puzzles were so easily solved I felt like I'd missed something. Even when puzzles are good, they can be spoiled by poor design choices: in one chamber, I'd solved the room in my head but it still took a while to beat solely due to the way a faith plate-launched weighted cube landed, which seemed unfair. I'm happy to have my brain and reflexes tested, but not thrilled to have to repeat a sequence because a cube took a few bad bounces. A small handful of test chambers, however, are genuinely satisfying to solve, utilizing gels, blocks, buttons, mirror cubes, force fields, and yes, even portals (they do show up from time to time, but can't be placed by the player).

No portal gun, but still a few portals.

It ain't the paint
Repetition is an issue. One of the first tricks we learned playing with gels in Portal 2 was that laying down a line of speed gel and ending it with some bounce gel gives you an awesome, rocketing leap. Aperture Tag requires this on so many of its levels that it feels like a pointless added bit of work, as if the modders just ran out of gel-related challenges and kept reusing this initially enjoyable gimmick. Also, while it takes just a mouse-click to reposition a portal in the vanilla game, slathering walls and floors in paint takes time and isn't particularly fun to do repeatedly in the same chamber. This becomes a problem since the mod's later chambers almost exclusively feature toxic floors, meaning that missing a jump is punished by death, often undoing all your careful (or sloppy) painting and discouraging haphazard experimentation. That said, the auto-save system works pretty well, saving your game at multiple steps throughout some of the longer and more elaborate puzzles.

Do you love poison floors? I hope so.

One nice addition is the "Fizzler," an energy field that switches one or both barrels of your paint gun on and off, and figuring out how to properly paint areas when your gun has been partially or completely disabled adds another level to the puzzle-solving. The mod could have used a few more new ideas like this. I was hopeful after spotting what looked like a new brand of sentry turret early on, but it didn't act any differently, and by the end of the game the turrets revert back to their original appearance not to mention that with unlimited bouncy gel at your disposal, turrets are easily beaten. I didn't notice much in the way of custom art assets, either, and there's no real use of cinematic physics (such as Wheatley mashing enormous test-chambers together in Portal 2) meaning the mod is mostly a static series of connected test chambers, with one exception.

The centerpiece of the mod is a time-based speedrun that requires you to zoom down a series of twisting corridors and launch yourself off ramps at breakneck speed, projecting gel ahead of you to keep up your momentum and bounce at just the right times. While exciting and satisfying to beat, this sequence is hurt by the lack of preparation for it, featuring only one brief sequence of gel-racing earlier. Also, when you're rocketing along at top speed, the gel you're splattering ahead of yourself actually lags a bit behind, making it tough to tell if you're painting the landscape ahead properly. Even the modders seem to recognize this sequence is overly difficult: they've provided a big red button that lets you skip it entirely.

Not the most subtle of traps.

Several attempts at a story, misdirection, surprises, and humor are made, but all fall flat. The personality core leading you through the test chambers isn't exactly irritating, but his jokes certainly aren't funny, and apart from "generally upbeat" it's a struggle to even pin down what his personality is. I wasn't expecting anything approaching Valve's level of writing, story, or performance, but if a mod is going to include lots of talking, its character should have something more interesting to say.

This mod is for sale on Steam. I'm all for modders getting paid for their work, and clearly a lot went into this mod, but I'd say their price is a tad optimistic for what you get. In the Steam Workshop, there are a few hundred thousand custom test chambers to explore for free.

Details
Expect to pay: $7/ 5
Release: Out now
Developer/Publisher: Aperture Tag Team
Link: http://bit.ly/1qkNvz7
PC Gamer
Aperture tag


Mods, eh? The fun, free way to extend and/or fix your games. But what's this? Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative looks like a mod, behaves like a mod, and even has the word "MOD" in the corner of its Steam icon. The difference: it's not priced like a mod. This premium package offers a new campaign for Portal 2 one that does away with portals entirely, in favour of puzzles centred around the base game's gels.

A recent trailer provides a brief glimpse at this janitorial nightmare:



"Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Initiative is a mod for Portal 2, inspired by TAG! The Power of Paint," explains the mod's store page. "The familiar Portal 2 gels are now contained within the Aperture Science Paint Gun Device and it's your job to test it out!" The mod offers 27 levels, original voice acting, and an in-game editor and Steam Workshop support. Mod or not, it's a nicely sized chunk of game.

And yes, it costs 5/$7 although there's also a 30% discount for the first week. People will inevitably have feelings about whether mods should charge for content, but, given the shift towards easy-to-use game creation platforms, it does make sense. The modding scene is in a different place now, partly because it's so easy for game creators to pursue their own projects in Unity or GameMaker. If paid-for mods do catch on, it could not only tempt more people back into creating cool new things for existing games, but might also encourage those attempting more ambitious mod projects to actually finish them.

On the other hand, free stuff is great, and the possibility of a healthy amount of free, additional content is sometimes part of a PC game's initial appeal. Ultimately, it comes down to the individual game creators to say whether they're okay with people making money from their game. For Valve, in this instance, the answer is yes but likely that's decided on a case-by-case basis. Aperture Tag's premium release does feel somewhat significant, but it may not have that great an impact on modding as a whole.
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