The Orange Box - 360 - Review
Special. Just one simple word that is used to describe many different subjects. In gaming, special usually implies a game that morphs into more than a just a game. The player begins to feel an almost personal connection to the game which soon becomes more of an urban legend than video game. Mario, Halo, and Final Fantasy are just a few of the gaming legends that have made the ascension to legendary status of Special. Half-Life is another gaming franchise that is considered special by many gamers due to the amazing story telling and gameplay in Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2. Now with the release of The Orange Box the Half-Life legacy has transcended into another description of gaming, Amazing.
The premise of The Orange Box is quite simply brilliant. This isn’t just a simple port of a three-year-old game with a few extras thrown in as a quick gimmick release. Instead The Orange Box gives us Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. Yes indeed, that last run-on sentence is correct; all of those games are included on one disc. The Orange Box doesn’t even include the Xbox 1 version of Half-Life 2; instead we get a version of Half-Life 2 built especially for the Xbox 360. Episode 1 has never been released before on Xbox 1 or the 360 while Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2 are brand new releases included in The Orange Box. To break it down you get Half-Life 2, which was released for the Xbox 1 and four new games that have never been released for the 360 or Xbox 1.
Half-Life 2 (HL2) is the sequel to what many consider to be one of the greatest first-person shooters (FPS) of all time. HL2 picks up after the events surrounding Black Mesa incident in which your character, Gordon Freeman, played a pivotal part. Now Gordon is brought back to City 17 to discover that the world has been taken over by the Combine, an alien military force. You, as Gordon, soon begin fighting against the Combine in hopes of helping civilization return to normal. Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and 2 continue the story of Gordon Freeman along with Alyx Vance, a character you meet near the beginning of Half-Life 2. Gordon and Alyx continue their struggle against the alien Combine in hopes of saving civilization.
The first game is a combination of FPS, driving and puzzle games with an excellent storyline. Episode 1 and 2 are shorter “episodes” that focus more on the action in the game instead of the story. Think of the first HL2 as the movie, while Episode 1 and 2 are the 1 hour television specials. However, the gameplay in Episode 1 and 2 are not limited to just one hour. Each Episode has between four to eight hours of gameplay, which can fluctuate depending on the gamer. Some gamers might be able to breeze through each episode under three hours, while it could take other gamers longer to complete each episode.
For many gamers Half-Life 2 is old news since you might have played the PC version or Xbox 1 version. If you enjoyed HL2, then you will find Episode 1 and 2 just as fulfilling as the original game, just shorter. If you’ve never played, or finished, HL2 then The Orange Box version is a great way to experience a true classic in gaming. For me the only big gripes about the HL2 games was the loading between areas (which wasn’t an issue on the PC) and weapon selections. Choosing a weapon is done by pressing the directional pad, which becomes burdensome as you get more weapons in your inventory. Speaking of weapons, yes the Gravity Gun is still amazing and is put to good use in both Episodes (especially Episode 1).
Next up in The Orange Box is Portal. Think of Portal as the FPS puzzle game to end all puzzle games. Quite simply, Portal is the puzzle game that is almost mind numbing in getting you to think outside the box. The premise is very straightforward for anyone to grasp, you enter one door, or portal, and you come out another door at another location in the room. The game starts you off by introducing the general principals of the portal doors by having you move from point A to point B walking through the portals. Later you get a gun that allows you to create portals almost anywhere in the room. You can shoot a blast to create a portal across the room and then create the other portal on the wall next to you. Walking through the portal immediately takes you to the other portal across the room. The game really starts to mess with your mind by using the portals to transport energy blasts from area to area and by jumping through portals to increase your momentum for a longer jump.
Portal is both amazing and brutal when it comes to the puzzle designs. Some of the puzzles require some fast reaction times to make sure you hit the exact spot at just the exact time. Just like other great puzzle games there is usually a moment of clarity where you’ll say to yourself “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that sooner.” These moments are usually after you’ve spent several minutes, or hours, on the same level trying to figure out what to do. Good puzzle games are usually all the same, easy to learn but a challenge to master. Portal is just that type of game that sucks you in immediately only to throw you off the cliff with nothing to stop your fall except your intelligence.
The last game in The Orange Box is the extraordinary Team Fortress 2. This is where your multiplayer Xbox Live fix will be met for all you Live junkies. The name says it all when it comes to Team Fortress 2 (TF2). This is a team-based online multiplayer game that is heavily influenced by the character classes. The characters are broken up into three categories: Offense, Defense and Support. While each category helps in describing the characters in the game you’re never limited to use a character as you want in the game. Currently there are two game modes in TF2, Capture the Flag and Control Point. Capture the Flag has you capturing the enemy’s intelligence while Control Point is a King of the Mountain style game. Your team has to capture and control all of the Control Points on the map in order to win.
On Offense you have the Scout, Soldier and Pyro. On Defense you have Demoman, Heavy Weapons Guy and the Engineer. Support has the following three characters: Medic, Sniper and Spy. As you can probably tell the name of each character class gives you an overview of the characters abilities in the game. For example, the Scout character can run faster than another of the other characters in the game. The Engineer can build four different building types that can assist your team on the map. While the Spy has the ability to disguise himself as a character on the other team or use a cloak to become temporarily invisible. Each character has three different weapons to choose from during the fight and the characters have a primary and secondary fire option depending on the weapon selected. Since each character has their own specific weapons and abilities working with your teammates is vital for success. However, since you have nine different classes you can have a near limitless variety on how you play a map. For example, do you have everyone play as a Scout because of the Scout’s speed? Or what if you had one Scout while the rest were Medics? The game allows you to change character classes at any point in the game which keeps the possibilities going of never playing the same map the same way twice.
The Orange Box has raised the bar when it comes to value for your gaming dollar. Sure, we get collections of older games released all the time, even some with improved visuals, controls, music, etc. However, The Orange Box has proven that gamers are entitled to a collection of AAA gaming content without having to break the bank to pay for it. Half-Life 2 is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time and we get a version optimized for the Xbox 360. Episode 1 and 2 are fantastic games that continue the Half-Life 2 story just with a shorter gameplay time. Portal could almost be described as the game that redefines the puzzle genre. Team Fortress 2 proves that good things do come to those that wait with an amazing team-based online shooter with incredible characters. Having all of these games in one package is similar to opening a birthday present that contains five more presents. Sure not all of the games are as long as the original HL2 but that shouldn’t be something to keep you away from this unbelievable gaming package.
|Review Scoring Details for The Orange Box|
Except for the small issue of changing weapons in the HL2 games all of the gameplay in every game is incredible. The two Episodes really push the intensity of the Half-Life experience, while Portal will bruise your mind trying to get you to solve the next puzzle. Team Fortress 2 is almost limitless when it comes to how you want to play the game.
There are a few moments of slowness and pop-in during the Half-Life 2 games. Usually these moments were during key events during the game, usually when large parts of the screen were affected. The facial animation of the characters is still impressive and does a great job of expressing the emotions of the characters. Portal is the most simplistic-looking game in the collection with only some simplistic-looking walls and items to look at during the game. Team Fortress 2 is probably the shining star of the collection due to the characters. All of the visuals reminded me of the movie The Incredibles by Pixar/Disney. The characters keep the same cartoonish looking style to them at all times during the game which helps keep the mood of the game lighthearted and fun.
All of the voice acting, sound effects and music in all of the games were top notch. The voice acting in the HL2 games did a great job of keeping the story believable without any “oh man, why did they say that” moments. I loved all of the catch phrases used by the characters in Team Fortress 2. One word of advice, get a bunch of Demoman characters in the room together and start spitting out the catch phrases. You will love it!
Anyone that has played a FPS game before should have no problems getting into HL2 or Team Fortress. On the other hand, Portal will probably be more of a challenge.
This game proves that we don’t have to get gouged by paying $60.00 for a new game. We get a Game of the Year winner in Half-Life 2, two extensions of HL2, a puzzle game that will be hard to beat with Portal and an online multiplayer game with near limitless gameplay possibilities in Team Fortress 2.
For me the only bad part of Team Fortress 2 is the lack of extra gameplay modes. We only get Capture the Flag and Capture Point, at least for now. I wouldn’t be surprised if downloadable content adds some additional modes at some point in the future.
If you’ve never played Half-Life 2, go out and get The Orange Box. If you’ve already beaten Half-Life 2, go out and get The Orange Box. If you’re a die-hard Halo fan that can’t stop playing Halo 3, go out and get The Orange Box. If you’re going to buy an Xbox 360 tomorrow, make sure to get The Orange Box with it. Finding another collection that matches the quality of The Orange Box is next to impossible. Make sure your Xbox 360 collection includes a copy of The Orange Box.