Portal is great and free, but just not for me

In case you’re curious, you’re supposed to read this blog post’s title in a sing-songy voice.

So, the big news is that Steam is now available for Macs, and that everyone can download a free copy of Portal (from now until May 24, that is) to celebrate this triumphant moment. Sounds like a sweet deal, right? Between the Humble Indie Bundle and this, the Internet’s been pretty kind to us gamers as of late.

I use a MacBook at home, lovingly nicknamed Macaroni, a laptop I’ve never considered gaming on save for silly little Facebook applications and, uh, Chess. Yes! The computer always wins, but whatev. That is until I got Aquaria, and that runs like a professional marathoner. So I figured what the hey, and downloaded the file to get Steam a-going. Took less than a couple of minutes to get set up with my name and profile and all that junk. Then I clicked to download my free copy of Portal. And then I waited. And waited some more. And made dinner. And took a shower. And grinded some more in Pokemon HeartGold. And checked to make sure it was still downloading. It was. I watched a little TV. And then it completed downloading…after around five hours. Hmm. That’s fine and all really, considering it’s a free game and I was downloading it a few hours after it was announced publicly.

Unfortunately, I get a message from Steam saying my video driver card thingy is not up to snuff for Portal. Bugger that. They offer me a link to download an upgrade. I click it, and nothing happens. I click it a few more times…still nothing. Finally, I just say screw it (not out loud, mind you) and run the game with what I got.

At quarter to midnight, I loaded up Portal, excited to play. That feeling faded fast when moving the mouse on the start menu felt like dragging around those boulders muscle men lift onto podiums for random peen tournaments on like ESPN. Uh-oh. Not to be confused with Ho-Oh, my kick-ass rainbow Pokemon. I thought this thing could run on Macs from the get-go. I start a new game, which opens into tutorial levels.

I only manage to get to the one room where a machine shoots a ball of fire/energy. The lag was so terrible, and I tried switching all the settings to be as least demanding as possible, but nothing worked. The sound was fine, with the robot’s audio coming in clear and crisp. Alas, controlling our leading lady was sluggish and unfriendly, and getting her through portals was like leading a cat to the bathtub. So frustrating. Such a shame.

And this is why I’m a console gamer, through and through. With a console, you have everything you need to play a game, more or less. You don’t have to upgrade video cards and alter settings to get a smoother performance. It’s just frustrating that I’d have to jump through all these hoops to even get Portal moving at a sane clip. I’m not interested enough for that. Besides, I could always pick up The Orange Box for Xbox 360 and play lag-free then. And now there’s really no point to me keeping my Steam account as I’ll forever be afraid to buy a game and then discover it won’t run well on Macaroni.

I guess if I want to play Portal, I’m going to have to stick with the Flash version for now.

One response to “Portal is great and free, but just not for me

  1. Pingback: Games Completed in 2011, #30 – Portal | Grinding Down

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