365//365: Day 207 – The Orange Box (360)

07.26.2010

theorangebox

Valve released perhaps the greatest compilation of titles that the gaming world has ever seen. Five quality laced titles in the form of Half Life 2, its two “episodes”, a quirky, yet intelligent first person puzzle game Portal, and an online only FPS in Team Fortress 2. While each title had their strengths, the uncanny aspect of this bundle is the fact that each title had so few, or such minuscule shortcomings, that it further strengthened the overall package in such a way, that it will be years before any compilation matches it. Lets take a gander at each title, and why they help build the best package deal in gaming today:

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Half Life 2

The long awaited sequel to the smash hit on the PC, Half Life 2 helped to redefine what storytelling was all about in a single player atmosphere. Although Gordon Freeman doesn’t say anything, just like silent protagonists before him (Crono from Chrono Trigger, Mario from Super Mario RPG, McDohl from Suikoden), his actions speak loudly, as does his supporting cast, and the game world its self. Even by today’s higher standards, HL2 is absolutely gorgeous, with some of the best scenery yet in a video game, along with a new physics engine, aided along by a new Gravity Gun. Using this gun allows you to pick up certain items and effortlessly blast your opposition clear across the screen with it, all with a more proper set of physics to it. The experience does come to a crawl towards the mid to late portion of the journey, however the impact of the combined efforts of the story, characters and world around you will stay within the fast tracks of your mind for a long time to come.

Several years after Half Life 2 was officially released, the visual presentation remains some of the greatest in gaming today.

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Half Life 2: Episode One & Episode Two

The continuation of the story will bring you to a few different locations, including some underground portions, rural areas and even some more elaborate interior sections. You’ll go from cliffhanger to cliffhanger trying to stay alive throughout all the twists and turns that come your way. During these two episodes, you’ll end up being saved by Alyx, as well as returning the favor back to her in a way you didn’t see coming. While there’s not a whole lot in the way of expanding the innovations set by the first title, these episodes are essentially extensions of core game. The gameplay remains as solidly structured, giving you several hours more game time with each episode in the world of Gordon Freeman.

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Portal

A clever and innovating take on the puzzle genre, Valve created an accessible, yet challenging game with Portal. Using a gun that fires two different portals, stepping through one end will place you outside the other portal. You have to use this device to escape various laboratories and experiments, with your ultimate goal being your own freedom. There’s a thought process that’s involved in Portal that you rarely encounter in gaming as a whole, as you’re required to use your surroundings to the best of your abilities in order to escape to the next portion. You might have to drop a platform onto another platform by creating a portal underneath said platform, with the second portal o the ceiling above the second platform. The execution of the concept is sound, but the games length is a major problem, as it can be defeated within hours, from beginning to end the first time around. Once you beat it, there’s almost no real incentive to go back, as the novelty wears off soon after, especially with no DLC to alleviate this. Probably the weakest title of the bunch, but still worth experiencing.

The complexity and depth of Portal is astounding. It's a shame that once you experience this marvel, you'll really have no urge to do so again for quite some time.

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Team Fortress 2

TF2 had the potential to be the singular reason as to why you should own The Orange Box. Unfortunately, server issues, which includes crippling lag and random drops (rare) really hamper the experience. When you’re in a solid game with a strong connection, TF2 is one of the best console FPS titles ever. Each character plays out a certain class, ranging from your mostly useless Sniper, to a rather potent Medic, right on to the camping elite Engineer. Each class has their own perks, such as the Spy having the ability to disguise himself as a member of the opposing team, or the Scout having some insane foot speed. Although you cannot pick up any weapons from a fallen friend or foe, each class has their designated main weapon, as well as a secondary weapon. This sounds a bit meager, however with such diversity amongst the line up, you’ll find the oversight to be pretty minuscule. It’s unfortunate that Valve has decided to focus on updates for the PC crowd and leave the console gamers behind, but with what’s available now, and if you can get into a lag free game, Team Fortress 2 is definitely one of the most enjoyable games in this package

The pristine cel-shaded world further diversifies Team Fortress 2 from every other online first person shooter title.

Separately or combined, The Orange Box has value across the board. There hasn’t been a compilation quite like this in a very long time, and it’s hard to even think of any possible competitor. You get five worthwhile titles for the price of one and more bang for your buck than you’ll ever come to realize. For the story lover, the online FPS nut, the puzzle player or for the true gamer, The Orange Box will satisfy all your game cravings.

Rating: 9.5

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Jason V.

I am the Co-Editor-in-Chief here at Chocolate Lemon. Over the last 15 years, I have been writing gaming articles here and there, including my time with GameSages, a then IGN affiliated video game code database that's now owned by IGN, as well as my near four year stay on this very site. I'm quite the gaming enthusiast, have a somewhat "old school" soul, and enjoy a wide variety of geeky shows, movies and so on. Follow me on Twitter @Jas0nVelez