While a great mod and one of the most cherished in the Portal community, Prelude’s difficulty and rough edges make it a game you need to be prepared for.
Now, let me get this off my chest first: I’ve played Portal and Portal 2 all of the way through without cheating. I consider myself a decently smart and clever enough man to complete the Valve puzzles (while challenging.) and feel good about doing it.
This is until I played Portal: Prelude.
Now, when I first found all of these Portal mods Prelude and Project Beta would have to be the most cherished within the community, and so naturally I assumed that these creative mods would tell its own story while also keeping the Puzzles playable and also on the same level as Valve. Nope. After a few days and much of my hair going missing from yanking it out, I realized a horrendous fact: Portal mods are hard. Really hard. Sometimes outstandingly hard. Portal: Prelude falls under this wide category, being just under the bar of unplayability and right above the bar when it comes to fun.
Prelude begins very similar to Portal but with its own (Creative) twist: You are “Abby” (Which is a very unnerving Chell recolor.) doing Aperture tests right before GLaDOS is activated for the first (and final) time. Quickly you will realize that Prelude lacks any sort of voice acting in its english versions and uses a crude text-to-speech for its lines. Because of this, many of the jokes fall flat horrendously.
You will also begin to notice that Prelude drops all pretense and it’s very obvious (and crude) dialogue that the two scientists watching over Chel- I mean Abby desperately want to sex her up. Beyond this, the mapping and other effects are done excellently, and is easily enough to ignore the chessy and sometimes oddly out-of-place dialogue.
When it comes to looks and feel, Prelude does nothing new with the Portal settings (As it does not need to.) but maintains the exact same theme with advanced usage of animation, new music and other details to make it feel richer. I’m still not sure if this is a good thing, as I enjoyed Aperture’s test chambers to feel sterile and almost a bit empty beyond what it needed in Portal, but Prelude does not break the game or setting that it’s put in. The Puzzles also fit the theme and nothing feels terribly awkward. Near the end of the end of the game, Prelude shows Aperture offices, break rooms, hallways and stairwells that, while using generous amounts of Half Life 2 models, gives Aperture it’s own charm and does not feel obvious or out of place.
As for Puzzles, I bring my point that I had in the first paragraph. This mod is hard. Hard in the sense that it was done perfectly: You know exactly what you need to do but the process of doing it is daunting I’ll admit I had to noclip a few times past areas just to proceed with this review. A quick glance at playthough videos on YouTube shows hundreds of comments where people are begging for help on certain parts or stuck completely and ragequit.
And this comes to my biggest issue with Prelude: The difficulty. In the first test chambers you need to bypass dozens of turrets, Portal-fling across complicated surfaces and other things that make someone who just wants to play a mod, and not some test of endurance, not have a great time. Valve put a lot of thought into playtesting Portal to make sure it was challenging without losing it’s fun, and I believe this is where Prelude falls on its face. Sometimes it’s just not fun. The puzzles can be agonizing and frustrating at points and makes me think the test chambers where not playtested fully by people outside of the mod team. While the cinematic parts near the end are truly fantastic, the GLaDOS fight is frantic and beyond menacing – Having to avoid Manhacks and rocket turrets in a maze-like array of Aperture offices to reach the Morality Core without any means to avoid them.
Now, before I get lots of hate mail, I know the reason why a lot of these mods are hard: There are people who found Portal “Too easy” and wanted something to challenge them. I can understand these people totally, but in order for a large-scale mod like this to work it needs a learning curve which is something many of these huge projects lack. This is a standalone mod to Portal, not a collection of 3 maps thrown into a folder for someone to download. It needs to act like any other game and allow the player to build up confidence in themselves and then allow the complicated puzzles to take place- not just skipping over it completely.
All in all, Portal Prelude is a fantastic mod and sets a new standard for storytelling and cinematics, but loses itself in cheesy jokes, lack of voice acting and a a nearly vertical difficulty curve. Keep in mind that when you download it and play, and you will have a great time.
You can download the Mod here:
Visit the Website of the Project here:
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