First it was endless free Team Fortress 2 updates. Then it was Team Fortress 2 becoming free to play in the first place. Then there were the little things, like making the Portal 2 soundtrack available for nothing. People complain about Valve’s download platform, Steam, holding a massive share of the digital games market, but at least it’s made them so rich that they don’t even have to bother charging for what could be otherwise lucrative content.
Their latest offer is one of the best – Portal, in its entirety, is free on Steam until 20th September. They’ve done this before, so you’d think that just about everyone with an account owns the game by now, but apparently not. This time around Valve are using the freebie to promote their Learn With Portals program, where school pupils are let loose on Hammer, Valve’s map creation tool for the Source engine, to build their own levels, learning about spatial awareness, logic and physics as they go. Good stuff, although it does make me wish that I could have gone on school field trips to the HQs of UK developers like Codemasters or the Creative Assembly.
Basically, if you don’t have it already, go and get Portal now. Really. Even if you don’t have a Steam account I’d recommend setting one up just to experience one of the most lauded hits of the current gaming generation. The game is beautifully formed, lasting perhaps three hours, and perfectly mixes Valve’s top-end production values with the innovative indie imagination that first came up with the idea. Moreover, it shows gaming itself in its best light: cerebral gameplay, witty writing and a unique art style. If you don’t play games much, it is the best possible way to start. For the most part I’m preaching to the choir here, but otherwise, I urge you to get a Steam account and give it a go. Portal is more than worth your time.
Follow the link, install Steam, and search for Portal in the top right corner of the Steam client. Really. Please. You will not regret it. Honest.