When you get five top quality games bundled in a little orange box at less than a grand, you don’t need a reviewer to tell you that it represents tremendous value for money. But I’m going to tell you this anyway—The Orange Box is possibly the best deal in the market at the moment, not only because it’s a bargain at the current price but also because the games it contains are among the best you’ll play.
The Orange Box consists of three new releases: Half-life 2: Episode Two (the newest in the Half-life universe), Portal and Team Fortress 2. It also includes Half-life 2 and Half-life 2: Episode One, so if you haven’t played Half-life 2 before, you only need to pick up this box to have the entire collection.
Half-life 2: Episode Two continues the adventures of Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance as they battle their way to the White Forest, where the rebels are making their stand against the Combine troops. It appears that the destruction of the Citadel in Episode One has caused a super portal to appear above the ruins, and the information they escaped with seems to hold the key to it all. Episode Two is a bit bigger and meaner than Episode One. There are new vehicles to drive, new Combine technology to battle against and more varied terrain to battle through.
However, the game that really stands out in The Orange Box is the Portal. It’s probably the most bizarre, wacky, and mind-bendingly fun game you’ll play on any platform this season. The plot is simple: you are a test subject in a lab at the uber-tech Aperture Sciences, which is conducting experiments with portals. A portal allows you to travel between two disconnected regions in space. There are two portals actually—blue and orange. You can walk through one portal to emerge from the other. The portals themselves can exist in any orientation—on walls, floors, ceilings, et al. So you may drop into a portal on the floor to reappear from a wall on the far side. Early in the game, you’ll gain the portal device that allows you to create your own portals, allowing you to choose your own path through the levels. You are guided by a disembodied, feminine electronic voice that is apparently monitoring your progress and as the game progresses, the comments from the guide turn decidedly funny and dark as you realize that there is more to it than meets the ear. The game itself consists of 19 levels of increasingly difficult challenges that require you to navigate from Point A to Point B using the portal device, weighted cubes (to hold down pressure pads), energy orbs, and all the wit you can gather for the task. And since this will often involve figuring out some complex series of operations to pull it all off, you’ll be gibbering like an insane idiot by the time you get to the final level where, as the guide informs you, a “cake” will be awarded to you for your achievement. Play the game to find out exactly why the “cake” bit is so important.
The Orange Box gives you all three Half-life games so that you can battle your way through the White Forest
Team Fortress 2 is the other game included in the package. It’s a class-based multiplayer only game featuring an Incredibles-like visual look which, on the whole, feels refreshingly new among all the blood and gore centric multiplayer games in the market. There are various classes—scout, soldier, pyro, demo man, engineer, medic, sniper and spy. Choosing which class to play depends on your style. If you like all-out destruction, the demo man or the soldier will be your characters of choice. If you prefer stealth and speed over all else, you’ll likely prefer the spy or the scout. Each class has its strengths and weaknesses so, when playing in a team, you’ll want to team up with characters in such a way that everyone balances each other out. This brings a strategic element to an otherwise all-out, over-the-top action game.
Game: The Orange Box
Platform: PC/XBox 360
Available at all leading retail stores.
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