Portal: Companion Collection – Nintendo Switch is the perfect partner for Valve’s classics

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Portal: Companion Collection - Nintendo Switch is the perfect partner for Valve's classics

Portal games are true classics – brilliant and inventive first-person puzzle games that combine inventive game mechanics, stunning designs and witty storytelling to create a truly special experience. However, the thing is, these games have been essentially absent from the console space since their original releases in 2007 and 2011 respectively. Aside from improved backward compatibility support on Xbox, we haven’t seen anything new from either game since the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 era. dramatically last week with the release of Portal: The Companion Collection.

This new double pack from Valve and Nvidia Lightspeed Studios combines Portal 1 and Portal 2 plus bonus game content for an attractive price of £13.49 / $19.99. Both games run on the acclaimed Source engine, most famous for powering 2004’s Half-Life 2, so obviously we’re not looking for cutting-edge technology here. However, the brilliance of the game design and art makes both titles a great match for Nintendo’s hybrid console and it’s been fantastic to revisit these games, which are proving to be a great fit for the platform.

Before we get into the platform differences, it’s worth discussing the basic graphical makeup of the two titles and the huge artistic and technical improvements made between the two games. Portal is basically a series of basic puzzle rooms. The puzzles are interesting enough but the environments are simple, with rudimentary flat-textured walls, angular geometry, and a heavy reliance on baked-on lighting and shadows. The game has an austere look with simple and repetitive illustrations. Given the constraints of the project – developed by a team of around 10 people – these limitations make sense.

Oliver Mackenzie presents this detailed technical breakdown of Valve’s new Portal Companion collection. Oh, and the Xbox 360 and Steam Deck comparisons? You have it.

Unfortunately, the Source engine and tools at the time were unable to provide the kind of fine detail that a smaller scale game requires. Portal mostly lacks normal mapping, has little specular lighting, and lacks environmental shadow maps, techniques common in other games of the time. The artistic constraints of a game like Portal might make this effort more difficult, but there were certainly accomplished depictions of small-scale spaces in previous titles, like 2004’s Doom 3, for example. In this case, it’s the game’s design that shines so far – but the sequel improves things in every way.

Portal 2 was based on the same concept as its predecessor – a linear series of puzzle rooms – but depicted the game environment after years of disuse, giving artists an excuse to fill environments with foliage and natural light. . The areas were really varied and were broken up by long sequences of cinematic gameplay across large environments. Technically, Portal 2 ran on an evolution of the Source Engine technology featured in Half-Life 2 Episode 2, which meant heavy use of shadow maps, HDR-based lighting, and high-quality particle effects. . Source was showing its age at this point, but a combination of artistic tweaks, new technology, and a bigger production budget produced a much better-looking effort.


Even the most difficult Portal 2 sees Switch compare favorably to Steam Deck on maximum settings. The Switch OLED model arguably offers a superior overall experience due to the much improved display, a hardware spec point the Deck simply can’t match.

Stacking the new Switch port with the original Xbox 360 doesn’t reveal much – the two versions look very similar. The Switch versions tend to have a bit more contrast in general, especially in the first game, but shadows, object drawing, and lighting look identical. Image quality is where things diverge: the Xbox 360 code runs at 720p on both titles, with no form of anti-aliasing in the first game and a primitive blur filter in the second. Impressively, the Switch version offers full 1080p resolution while docked at what appears to be 2x MSAA, delivering a substantial improvement in detail and image quality. Fine features resolve much more clearly and with more stability. Dynamic resolution is a possibility but I didn’t notice it in my testing.

We don’t often see MSAA deployed on Switch, but its benefits are obvious – edge aliasing is reduced while maintaining clarity and sharpness, meaning these games deliver very good image quality for Switch titles . Handheld mode gets a reduction to 720p as expected, with MSAA also for the first game, although Portal 2 has no form of anti-aliasing in handheld play. Other than resolution, visual settings appear identical between handheld and docked play.

Xbox 360 comparisons are one thing, but I thought it might be fun to stack these ports against native Linux versions running on Steam Deck – and they still hold up well. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the more capable handheld can run both games locked at 1080p60 with 4x MSAA and improved texture filtering, but otherwise Switch is on par with the Deck. There’s not much room for settings improvements beyond the Xbox 360 or PS3, even on much more capable PC hardware – and in fact, I’d venture to say that a Switch OLED model may be preferable overall, simply because of the superior display. Some of the technical annoyances sometimes encountered on the Deck also dampen the overall experience, such as controller input curves that aren’t well suited to an Xbox controller for game show.


Docked 1080p mode pushes the switch too far – bandwidth-heavy effects and portals themselves can cause small performance hits, but 60fps is generally consistent.

Coming back to Switch specifically, performance is really where this port goes beyond. For some context, the original PS3 and Xbox 360 releases aimed for a 30fps target and were generally quite stable – although on Xbox 360 there were some unfortunate frame rate issues. 30fps works perfectly well for these titles, but an increase in smoothness would definitely be appreciated and that’s exactly what we’re seeing on Switch, with a 60fps target being achieved for the vast majority of gameplay on both titles.

Occasional double frames appear during traversal and sticking the camera up to dense alpha effects can cause issues, but in general we get a solid 60fps in anchored playback. The portals themselves are proving to be the main problem in docked play, notice – adding a second window can sometimes cause framerate issues, and loading portals into view often causes framerate issues. short but noticeable performances depending on the complexity of the scene(s). It’s not a big deal and rarely intrudes on the experience.


Despite the drop in computing power, handheld mode offers a tighter lock on 60fps than its tethered counterpart – perhaps because the overall system bandwidth remains relatively high the lower the resolution.

Handheld mode mainly solves these performance issues. Portals work very well in handheld mode, while the slight stutter while traversing is rarer. It runs very well indeed – essentially a typical game-locked 720p60. The combination of the higher performance lens and improved image quality really makes this port special. The Switch is well suited to the demands of seventh-generation console titles and generally offers resolution improvements in ported games. However, the frame rate doubling is much less typical and impressively we also get a 720p/1080p split between handheld and rooted games. It’s a very impressive effort.

Globally, this release reminds us that perhaps Valve could consider updating its classic catalog for modern console hardware the way it periodically refreshes PC originals: 4K60 would be a walk in the park for both headlines on today’s Microsoft. and Sony machines, and who wouldn’t like to see the Half-Life saga again on their latest devices? For now though, the Portal Companion Collection is a great Switch port. Crisp image quality and solid performance sit well above the typical Switch conversion and put the system on a solid footing against much more powerful hardware. This is a superb translation of two great games that shows off the best of the Nintendo hybrid.

Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/digitalfoundry-2022-portal-companion-collection-nintendo-switch-is-the-perfect-partner-for-valves-classics

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