Falling behind again. I’m so awesome!
This one is a little tricky. There’s plenty of games where the gameplay is somewhat clunky, but many other aspects keep you coming back. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion wasn’t the most polished game ever, but its open world had me sink over 100 hours into it. Grand Theft Auto IV is another one that had me turning the game on just to mess around. I don’t even know how many hours I’ve spent messing around in the Half-Life 2 mod, Gary’s Mod. Don’t get me started on Minecraft.
It seems like open-ended sandbox gameplay is something that’s very appealing to me, but I don’t think I’d say any of those games have the “best” gameplay. Sure, it’s easy to get lost in an open-world for hours on end, but the freedom tends to make the gameplay a little rough around the edges.
Since the title of this isn’t “most addictive games” or “games I always come back to” or “biggest waste of time (in a good way),” my choice is something a bit (a lot) more linear.
Now, a dislaimer: I don’t feel super strongly about my choice. I think games are usually the sum of their parts, and having the “best gameplay” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having the best experience. I’m picking this not only because the game is damn fun to play, but it is also well polished and mechanically impressive.
I know my friend Corey Motley would disagree with me, but I think the game with the best gameplay is Portal 2. While I don’t think the game would be nearly as memorable without the witty writing by Erik Wolpaw, Jay Pinkerton and Chet Faliszek, nor without the stellar voice performances by Ellen McLain, Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmons, the game proves to be a blast up until the very end. Especially since the final moments of the game uses its main gameplay concept in such an amazing way. The achievement that pops up, “That just happened,” describes the moment perfectly.
Then again, the crazy story within the original Portal that made it so memorable was a complete surprise. The main draw of the game was its clever concept: You have a gun that shoots portals. What could have been a fun, yet forgettable, puzzle game turned into a cult phenomenon with a fair share for quotable jokes destined for internet meme infamy. Early previews for the game revolved around the different uses for Portals, not the robotic narrator who ultimately becomes your nemesis and is responsible for the majority of the humor in the game.
Just look at the original trailer for the game.
The trailer alone got me really excited for the game. The concept seemed so cool, original, and fun I just had to play it. Even without GLaDOS, I feel I still would have played through it multiple times, just to mess around with the portal gun.
Portal 2 adds a few new twists to the gameplay which work really well. One of my favorites is easily the light bridges. They’re beams of light you can walk on, and place a portal where one ends will make it continue wherever you place the second. You can even use it as a shield from lasers or the infamous turrets.
I think these additions make the gameplay even more interesting than it was in the original game. That being said, I don’t think the game would stand alone as the first one would without its story. This isn’t a knock against it; Portal 2 was a game built around a story. Portal was a story built around a game. These extra bits are essential in taking the story to the next level, something that had to be done for a sequel to a game made famous because of the story. Cut those extra bits out, remove the story, and I think you’d still have one of the most fun-to-play and polished games out there.