First of all, I should point out that I'm not really eligible to vote on a GOTY as I've only been gaming for half of it! Therefore, this is my recommendation for GOTHY.. Game of the Half Year.
Lets get the obvious out of the way first, Portal 2 is the sequel to Portal (1). Portal was a ground breaking game, providing an unusual style of play in an unusual setting for around 6 - 7 hours depending on how you are with the puzzles. I become fascinated by GlaDOS and formed a strong bond with my companion cube.
With the announcement of Portal 2, I couldn't really understand how they could expand upon or quite frankly do anything better than Portal. I was also concerned to start learning about the length of the campaign, at over 13 hours I started to feel like the game would not work... that's a lot of time for solving puzzles. As the saying goes, "in Valve We Trust".
When I learnt about Portal 2's co-op campaign (note Campaign not Mode), and the two adorable test robots Atlas and P-body, my excitement for the game rose quite quickly. When release day came, I picked up the game and started to play... the main problem with this, is that I couldn't stop playing!
The game really starts with a bang, and re-engrosses you into the Half Life universe. The addition of Wheately really gave the game some fresh personality and face, and it really did feel like a true sequel from the off. The game retains and builds upon it's brilliant sense of humour, and is well delivered by both GlaDOS and Wheatley. When you arrive at the point in the game where *highlight text for spoiler* Wheatley finally takes over control of the facility, I genuily thought it was the end of the game. I had felt just as satisified as I did when the first game ended - but was slightly dissapointed. Then of course things get beautifully shaken up and you are thrown into the depths of the facility.
This was probably my favourite part of the game, learning more about the history of apeture science and playing around with some of the new mechanics in the game - what an absolutely superb way to introduce new gaming elements. It was like it's own Portal game! Cave Jonsson was another brilliant personality added to the game, and lots of dark secrets about apeture science and GlaDOS were revealed. The way the game changes your relationship with each of the main characters is really interesting, and I found myself becoming quite attached once again. The game sustains a good pace and balance between puzzles and story progression. I never once felt like it was chore, and the thrills just kept on coming right until the conclusion. My only slight dissapointment with the single player campaign was the ending song... but then I always knew that Portal was difficult to top in that respect.
In short, the characters in the game, the different environments and humour place Portal 2 as one of the mst engrossing games I've played - sitting up there with Bioshock. But wait... there's more here...
Portal 2's co-op was the icing on the cake for me (excuse the pun). Not only were we treated with an excellent single player experience but we were also presented with a stand alone co-op experience. Splintercell is another game which has pulled this off really well. The two player co-op is a little more light hearted than the single player campaign, with lots of fun to be had with the little co-operative robots. The puzzles were really interesting to solve with a co-op buddy, and valve provided an excellent interface for faciilitating this - even for mic-shy people. What i liked most about this campaign was the hidden/underlying darker purpose for the robots which is slipped in very well. My only gripe with the co-op mode was its length and the ending was a little dissapointing for me. Luckily Valve is providing some free DLC to keep the game ticking over, and also creating some tools for everyone to make their own portal 2 levels and campaigns.
What can I say? Portal 2 has it all... personality, atmosphere, humour, game play, a rich story AND true co-op. It provides the best single player experience for the half year, and also an excellent co-op experience. Having these two things together in the same game, and executed so flawlessly I feel that Portal 2 deserves both Single Player and Co-op Games of the Half Year - making it overall Game of the Half Year. These GOTHY awards might catch on you know...
Portal 2 is a truly unforgettable experience - thank you Valve