Portal without portals makes for some weird, cool speedruns

A new way to play Portal, Valve’s influential puzzle-action game, is cropping up on the speedrunning scene, and the key is not using any portals at all.

Twitch streamer 097Aceofspades pioneered the portal-less speedrun last week with a nearly hourlong playthrough, which involved a Half-Life 2 cheat and zero uses of the portal gun. By conjuring up the speedy airboat vessels from Half-Life 2 using a quick cheat command, 097Aceofspades was able to navigate around all of Portal’s levels without ever using the game’s key weapon to properly solve puzzles.

Since that first 56-minute, portal-free speedrun, the streamer’s shaved a full 16 minutes off his runtime. As of May 8, the new record for this kind of playthrough is 36 minutes, seven seconds, seen below. Considering the fastest time for a typical Portal speedrun — which involves players using “out of bounds” areas to skip ahead, is just under 8 minutes — that’s a huge feat.

This could be the beginning of a new speedrunning category, which fans of 097Aceofspades’ impressive run are calling “airboat%.” (That’s a spin on any%, the most common speedrunning category.) As this type of run slowly proliferates online, it goes to show that more than 10 years later, there’s still new ways to play Portal — or any game, thanks to speedrunning.

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