From what started as the game of the year with a short and sweet sequel, the Half-Life franchise is now well known for being the best of the best
From what started as the game of the year with a short and sweet sequel, the Half-Life franchise is now well known for being the best of the best. Nothing out there really compares
A beautiful sight, the majority of Ep2 is to wipe it out of the sky
Think Ant Lions were bad? Hunters will demand a fresh pair of pants and a box of tissues
What exactly is Orange Box? Five games in one, for those who don’t know. The original Half-Life 2 and Episode 1, older games revamped with the new Source game engine, for starters. Half-Life 2 currently holds 35 Game of the Year awards, and suffice to say earns it. Episode 1 is more of the same, which is nothing to scoff at.
Then there is Episode 2. Obviously following the prior chapter, Ep2 is roughly two hours longer than Episode 1, giving about seven hours of gameplay. It features everything that we saw in the original HL2 but missed in Ep1; excessive car rides, extensive use of weapons, and a new enemy type. Not much else was added, but as stated before, it isn’t necessary. Innovating greatness is nearly impossible, but more importantly, not required.
Something to be grateful for was the chance to actually use regular weapons and not just the Gravity Gun. Sure, it’s the weapon of choice when Headcrab-raped people are in need of fast moving sharp objects, but Ep1 left us wanting to use a real gun. Ep2 gives plenty of time and opportunities to do that.
Ep2 also has a much more epic, and at the same time down-to-earth feel than prior iterations. Missions can be as homely as traversing caves to find some plot-inducing objects, or as gargantuan as taking down a dozen Striders, behemoths of the future world. While we don’t see any real choice played out, the story is entertaining enough to not need it. To get more of an understanding how Ep2 plays, read up our reviews on Half-Life 2 and Episode 1.
Along with the amazing HL2 series comes Portal, one of the most enthralling puzzle games of the decade. As the name suggests, the idea is to make portals and solve puzzles using them. This could mean anything; transporting objects to hit levers, energy balls to activate doors, or use your own momentum to jump across huge distances. With a great use of the Havok physics engine, nearly anything is possible.
Taking out Striders on a huge map with a car and supply depots. What more can you ask for?
Portal is all about finding the best route. Just remember there are 50 ways to get there
The first run through Portal is easy, though it takes some time to get adjusted to the “Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device,” aka portal gun, and properly using it. By the end of the game, everyone should have mastered it. Portal isn’t very long, but that is solely the campaign on standard play. Finish that and every level past five (of 13) gains four additional modes of play: least portals, least steps, shortest time and advanced maps. Harder puzzles and more difficult ways to solve them means that this short game may end up taking longer than the three HL2 games. And if not, they’ll at least be more thought-inducing.
Finally, the last and final game, Team Fortress 2. Looking stunning as ever in its comical cartoonish way, TF2 is fast paced, fun and exciting. The six maps each feature their own gametype, which is no replacement for games made for multiplayer, so no excuse will be given there, but with the four other games on the same disc its amazing we can play this too.
The biggest downside to the Orange Box is that it is, regardless of how good it is on a console, still a PC game. Portal runs perfectly as a console title, but the three HL2 games were obviously meant for a mouse and keyboard. Movement can be jerky at times and getting stuck on walls is occasional, though annoying.
And because Orange Box was made to be a PC game first, console game second, this means that making videos of Rube Goldberg machines won’t happen on consoles. Nor will those of us with that version be getting modded gametypes, maps, or any additional material from Valve or the mod community anytime soon, if ever.
As mentioned before, all of this runs on Valve’s proprietary Source engine, which is simply stunning. It isn’t Gears of War or Bioshock surrealistic, but rather a very realistic looking world with a few over the top parts. Glancing at Alyx Vance, the constantly reminded romantic venture of Master Chief-esque Gordan Freeman, you’ll see body movements, facial expressions, and even the eyes not blankly staring into the abyss. These characters are alive. Their mouths move differently than just the South Park open and close method. Wrinkles can be seen on the face during certain expressions.
It’s simply magnificent. The physics engine is too, though Valve has no problem of showing that off at every corner, perhaps a few times too many. Every puzzle in the latest Ep2 is some physics puzzle, either adding weight to a lever or putting a grenade under a slab of metal to launch you into the air. Valve, we all know that you make a damned good game, but pounding it into our heads any more won’t drive the point home.
The PS3 version is quite clearly not the same as that on the PC or 360. While the game remains identical in gameplay, loading times and slowdown are a consistent issue at certain points of play. Half-Life 2 and Ep1 ran well with only minor slowdown and moderately long load times. The other three didn’t fare so well.
Ep2 had enormous slowdown in larger battles, which made them nearly impossible to beat. Aiming while running at somewhere between 5-10 frames per second takes far too much practice than should be required. Load times after death are also a huge bummer, nearly three times slower than its 360 counterpart.
Portal ran well most of the time, but once again load times after death were unbearable. Team Fortress 2 had a delay on explosives which was unfathomably uncomfortable. Explosives were basically useless unless everything was timed to how far off explosions should take place.
Portal placement is what it’s all about. Makes walking almost unnecessary
With a gun this big, who needs friends?
The Orange Box certainly displays some of the finest gameplay ever to be seen ever. Portal’s wonderful puzzling madness has already taken the world by storm and is a monument of ingenuity. Half-Life 2 is an FPS to be reckoned with and never forgotten, but obviously Valve’s stance on the PS3 shows, even though they didn’t work specifically on this version. Its flaws can be forgiven, but not forgotten, yet the awesome game makes it worthwhile.
Top Game Moment:
THE ORANGE BOX VERDICT
to this FPS in its grandeur, style or attractiveness. Even after more delays Thanksgivings, the Orange Box is a tribute to all that is great in gaming today.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Running over three consecutive Hunters only to shoot down a Strider, all with less than 10% health.