Gaming is filled with a host of iconic weaponry, whether they’re huge tools of destruction or something that challenges you to rethink your environment. Well, we’re deciding to celebrate all of the best ones, starting off with a gun that’s actually not a gun in the conventional sense: Portal’s Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device.
It’s the Portal Gun. Y’know, the gun from Portal.
It’s rare for a gun to completely change the way you think and interact with the world around you, but Valve managed to achieve that feat with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, the main weapon and star attraction from the Portal games. With one simple mechanic, Valve completely flipped level design on its head, in some cases quite literally, to create a weapon with an influence that’s still being felt to this day.
By this point, you’ve probably already played Portal before, but if you haven’t, the gun itself is about as simple as it gets. One trigger controls one portal, and the other trigger controls the other. Using both, the player can navigate through a series of obstacles and puzzles in order to complete the game and escape this laboratory hellscape that main character Chell has been forced to endure.
With just two button presses, what could have been a simplistic puzzle game involving blocks and buttons turns into this beautiful experience that constantly has new ideas and mechanics thrown in, but it all starts with that Portal Gun. Just the act of placing your own portals challenges you to think outside of the box in a way that’s triggered other first person puzzle games to emulate. Superliminal feels like the game that’s come the closest while going in a different direction, but nothing beats Portal.
There’s few guns in gaming that trigger as much desire for experimentation and pure mucking about as the Portal Gun. The first time anyone tries it, they’re automatically thinking of ways to see the back of your own head or to try and deal with turrets and hazards in the most comical way possible. The feeling of jumping into an infinite portal loop, seeing your speed increase exponentially only to chuck a portal elsewhere and launch yourself at high speed is unforgettable. Granted, Chell should, by all rights, be squished into a fine paste on the wall afterwards, but the sheer thrill of it all is so rewarding.
Portal 2 expanded on the mechanics at play within the series, adding different kinds of gel, light bridges and other features to make the puzzles more intricate and complex, but it always came back to the Portal Gun and how it interacted with different elements. Despite Portal 2 being a decade old at this point, there still hasn’t been a gun or weapon in gaming as smartly and effectively designed as this one.
If you want proof of how influential and genre-defining the Portal Gun has been, just look at Splitgate, the multiplayer shooter seemingly born from the elevator pitch of “Portal meets Halo”. While there’s plenty of conventional weapons in Splitgate, players can also launch two portals, much like the Portal Gun. It’s staggering how much adding a Portal-esque mechanic to a traditional multiplayer shooter radically overhauls the gameplay, but it’s what makes Splitgate special. Being able to use portals to set up sniper nests, flanking routes and other opportunities makes other multiplayer games feel tame by comparison, but it’s hard to see how Splitgate would have worked without Valve and Portal laying the groundwork first.
It’s a long running joke at this point that Valve are deathly afraid of the number 3, so the odds of a proper Portal follow-up are unclear. Apparently they experimented with a VR game which didn’t get too far, but either way, it’d be lovely to get another go with the Portal Gun, especially if there’s a co-op mode. God, that mode was brilliant.
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