If you own a PC or an Xbox 360 and enjoy playing video games on them, you owe it yourself to go out and buy the Orange Box, the latest installment in the Half-Life series. Because it’s really five games in one, it’s one of the best deals you will find all year.
Granted, two of the games, Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode 1, aren’t really new. For buyers of the PC version that already own these games it’s annoying to have to pay for them again. Valve, the developer of Half-Life, kind of makes up for it by allowing you to “gift” games you already own to someone else, but I shouldn’t have to pay for it in the first place. Even if you do own those two games, though, the sheer quality of the other three games should be enough to merit a purchase.
Portal, what was the least heavily anticipated of the three new games, really outshines the other new games. The player controls a test subject at Aperture Labs, using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, which allows you to shoot portals to get past obstacles, in a hybrid of first-person shoot and puzzle gameplay. To get past certain obstacles you often have to use strange physics, like jumping in a portal on the floor that exits on an adjacent wall to go through the floor portal again to build up momentum. The puzzles in Portal are never so difficult they lead to frustration but are difficult enough as to still be fun to figure out. The freshness of the gameplay and black humor of the admittedly short, but not too short, story really make Portal a game I honestly couldn’t think of any way to improve.
Team Fortress 2 is one of the most anticipated games of the decade. Almost 10 years in the making, Team Fortress 2 is a class-based, online-only multiplayer game. The bright and cartoony graphics actually really work with the fast-paced feel of the game. Valve balanced each class just perfectly so that every class is fun to play. The only complaint I have with the game is the rather low number of maps available packed with the game. For the PC version this isn’t much of an issue, especially seeing as I started seeing new maps within days of the release, but Xbox 360 owners don’t have much recourse in the way of obtaining new maps.
Half-Life 2: Episode 2 is the final new game, and while the gameplay and graphics have been polished to a stunning brilliance, the formula of Half-Life is starting to fall a bit flat. It doesn’t really feel like there’s anything new or exciting in Episode 2. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments, but in comparison to Portal and Team Fortress 2-shining examples of trying something new-Episode 2 just seems sort of average.
Still, five games for the price of one is a hard deal to beat, especially when all five of the games could be marketed on their own. Portal, alone, would be worth the price of admission for any fan of good games.
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