Review by Kafkaligula

"4 unforgettable sci-fi games and Team Fortress 2? Own this."

If you haven't played Half-Life 2, this fairly priced box set is an essential purchase. You're going to get about 35 to 40 hours of masterful gaming for around $30. Half-Life 2 itself has been hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, and often called the best. This is understandable, because the game is so well-paced, original and flat-out intense. Compared to the first Half-Life, HL2 does have less weapons and enemy variety, but it's made up for in stellar environments, atmosphere and drama.

You play as the silent theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman once again. The story picks up right after the ending of the first game, and the antagonist is still the obscure G-Man. The G-Man is an official looking guy who has the ability to slip into Gordon's consciousness, even freezing time. He usually has mystifying things to say regarding Gordon's actions and considering him for a diabolical plan he may already be executing. This mystery sticks with the whole game as it plays out.

Missions range from leading resistance movements, commanding squads, vehicle combat, saving hostages, infiltrating bases and kill-em-alls. There's a great variety to what Gordon has to do, and when you suddenly get a new weapon the gameplay can entirely change. An example of this is the glorious Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator, or, gravity gun. With this weapon you can pull items towards you and blast them away, or with the secondary input, just blast objects forward. You will fool around with this gun in a very counter-productive manner, I guarantee it. Mission briefing is minimal, yet it's usually obvious as to what you must accomplish. My favorite missions were point A to point B missions where I simply didn't know what to expect. This exploration aspect of the game is one it's best qualities.

The only frustrations I had with the game were teammate AI, which you don't have to put up with much, and the vehicle sections of the game. Your squads don't take cover well and drop like flies. "Here Gordon, take some health and ammo, I'm going on a hellride. Peace." Good riddance. The vehicles handle like they're on ice. I was constantly backing up onto rocks and going too far in one direction while trying to blast enemies. The frustration was augmented by the mounted weapon's limited movement range. These parts do have their moments and they're always over as soon as you start to get sick of it.

As Half-Life 2 ends on a cliffhanger, the two expansion packs included are more than welcome. Half Life 2: Episode One and Two introduce a few more creatures, graphical technology and different environments. The story and missions in these two expansions offer the best of the series, especially Episode Two and it's mindblowing ending. I anxiously await Episode Three.

Once I finished Half-Life 2 thoroughly I started Portal. I quickly realized this is one of the coolest concepts for a puzzle game due to it's platforming elements. In white sterilized rooms and chambers, you are equipped with a gun that shoots a blue and orange portals. Once you step into a blue portal you create you come out of the orange portal no matter where you've shot it. You can see where you are going to end up through the portal when you look into it. Say you shoot a blue portal high up on a wall, and you drop an orange portal on the ground in front of it. When you jump into the orange portal you'll come through the blue and land back in the orange creating momentum that shoots your character up to higher platforms. You also must direct energy orbs and place crates on buttons via these portals. A robot instructor humorously guides you through the levels and through the end of the game, which is about 3 or 4 hours. At this time, more Portal levels have been released on XBox Live Arcade and I hope to play them soon, because I had a lot of fun with these levels.

Rounding off the box set is Team Fortress 2, an online multiplayer FPS. This is a class-based shooter on the Source Engine. There aren't many gameplay types or maps so the game sort of stagnates after a couple hours but it's fun to play with friends. There are nine classes to choose from that all have three weapons and an ability unique to them. These are the scout, soldier, pyro, demoman, heavy weapons, engineer, medic, sniper and spy. Most of these are self-explanatory but the scout is a quick soldier type, the demoman puts together scrap materials into traps and such and the engineer creates turrets and teleports for your team. Each class has a specific appearance and personality, which is kind of cute I guess. There's not too much variety, but the emphasis on teamwork and ability to switch class at any time create a solid game.

The PS3 version of the Orange Box has a very useful autosave feature, but there are some bugs for sure. The game froze on me a few times, which never happened to my friends with the 360 version, nor did they see as many glitches. Some objects bug out and shake, sometimes the game will slow down a bit and the loading times were longer than the 360 version. Still, everything is there and if you have a 360 or PC go for those versions, as the 360 version also supports higher definition. The Orange Box is simply a great deal with a lot of good gaming.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/02/08

Game Release: The Orange Box (US, 12/11/07)

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