“The Final Hours of Portal 2” seems like a celebratory experiment in an era where print magazines are failing and their tablet-friendly versions are doing even worse. Like music a decade ago, people are finding that discrete tomes of editorialized content are worth less than ever before. So what makes this glorified cover article so different?
Before he was under-utilized as a host for GameTrailers, Geoff Keighley was an excellent full-time gaming journalist. One of his first assignments was documenting the final hours of Half-Life‘s development while he was still in college. He moved on to do a bunch of these under the Behind The Games label for Gamespot (Note: those articles are in extreme jank mode. Get on it, Gamespot!) One of my favorites was the sprawling documentation of the rise and fall of Trilobyte, creator of The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour. I read many of these while I was in college and loved the hell out of them.
I thought those days were behind Keighley until “The Final Hours of Portal 2” was announced as an iPad app with multimedia features, similar to other iPad mags. Yesterday, it released on Steam for PC and Mac with the same functionality as the iPad version (although using a keyboard is preferred to dragging a mouse cursor across the screen.) Geoff’s article is great, although Portal 2‘s development is relatively light and drama-free compared to say, the turbulence of Half-Life 2‘s. The multimedia portions are hit and miss: all the polls in the article are missing and once you’ve seen one 360 degree panoramic of an office with people sitting at desks with computers, you’ve seen them all. Also, some of the scroll features for nested articles can be a navigational nightmare.
Warts aside, “The Final Hours of Portal 2” is easily the best $1.99 you can spend to read about some games. At a quarter the price of a full gaming mag, I have to say that there might be something about this up and coming a la carte polished journalism. Fans of Portal 2 or gaming journalism rejoice and vote with your dollars: this is worth them.