Ever since George Lucas decided to retcon the Star Wars continuity, prequels have been all the rage. Some attempts have been more successful than others: compare Star Trek: Enterprise and Hannibal Rising to, say, Smallville, and it quickly becomes apparent that prequels are a hit-or-miss affair. On the gaming side of things, The Legend of Zelda is the biggest culprit when it comes to endless retconning, but fans can hardly fault the series since they love it so much. With regressive storytelling being so risky, it’s no wonder companies like Valve opted to ditch prequels entirely and mainly resort to exploring backstory to flesh out their scenarios. It’s therefore been up to fans to take up the mantle of fully imagining a pre-GLaDOS Aperture Science facility in the aptly-named Portal: Prelude.
This mod is a rather beefy collection of new maps and challenges, taking place in a facility with an actual human presence. It should be said, right off the bat, that this particular map pack is brutal. I’m not kidding here: do not even attempt to play this unless you are a Portal god. Every trick and twitch jump is utilized, every sneaky movement is mandatory and you’ll need to be able to shoot portals like a crazed leprechaun on crack while spinning wildly through the air. It’s one of the nastiest modifications you’ll ever come across, and it’ll likely make you ragequit once or twice. Nonetheless, once you finish the diabolical chambers, you’ll feel a rush of endorphins that’s second-to-none.
The maps are skillfully-crafted and capture the feel of the first Portal quite eloquently. The attempt to add human characters is a mixed bag, since it’s not easy to match GLaDOS’ scathing passive-aggression. The humans are meant to come off as cynical, deadpan and sarcastic, but it’s never pulled off as well, especially with the speech-synth voice acting. Still, don’t let it detract from your enjoyment of this masochistic masterpiece.
It’s possible you may have played this before; connoisseurs of Source mods will know that Valve have patched the engine several times which has left older modifications unusable. The good news is that Prelude has been fixed to be playable once more, so aren’t you a lucky one!
As you’d probably expect, you’ll need a Steam account with a copy of the original Portal in your library. Make sure it’s updated to the latest version, then head on over here to download Prelude‘s installer. The authors of the mod, being the nice folks that they are, have included files for OS X in addition to the standard Windows stuff. While you’re getting ready to think with portals (again), check out the trailer: