PC game review: The Orange Box
Rating: ***** (out of 5)
Review by: Alexander Smith
A ridiculous name for an awesome game; The Orange Box is actually five full-length games in one. These comprise: Half-Life 2, HL2 Episode One, HL2 Episode Two, Portal and Team Fortress 2. The Orange Box was essentially a platform for the release of HL2 Episode Two as the previous episodes of Half-Life had already been released in 2004 and 2006.
When Half-Life 2 was released in 2004 it set a new standard for intelligent first-person shooters. Gone were the days of collecting an assortment of guns and shooting down an assortment of baddies in an assortment of sizes linked by a weak storyline. Half-Life 2 added a gripping storyline and physics-based puzzles to the mix and what evolved was well and truly ground breaking. Its two successors capitalised on this rock solid foundation resulting in possibly the greatest games trilogy yet seen.
In Half-Life you play Gordon Freeman; not the traditional muscle-bound gun-toting protagonist, but instead a geeky, glasses-wearing scientist who isn’t too good with the ladies and probably had his head flushed down a lot of toilets at school. The initial episode takes place in City 17, a dystopian environment run by the oppressive Combine Civil Protection. You join an underground movement and work with various allies, both human and non-human, in order to overthrow the Combine.
You eventually manage to destroy the reactor at the heart of the Combine Citadel, which is where Episode One starts off. You then have to stabilise the reactor so that the population of City 17 can escape before it explodes, and then escape yourself. Episode Two starts with a full invasion of Earth by The Combine, which you must suppress at all costs. The graphics are breathtaking, the game play is superb; this trilogy alone will keep you glued to the monitor for many happy hours.
The other two games in the box, Portal and Team Fortress 2, were only ever intended to be side dishes for the main course that was Half-Life. Team Fortress 2 was a regression of sorts; it went back for a more ‘guns and ammo’ approach to game playing and makes for a superb multi-player game, with a variety of classes to choose from and a degree of co-operation involved in order to beat the opposing team.
Playing solely as a soldier won’t get you very far, but with a scout up front, a medic in the rear and a sniper watching over all of you, you’ll soon realise that this game is more about tactics rather than how many rounds of ammunition you can empty into the opposing team. Very reminiscent of the free, and yet highly addictive, Enemy Territory PC game from 2004.
Portal took the opposing stance from Team Fortress 2, focussing exclusively on physics-based puzzle problem-solving and a storyline with nary a BFG or nail gun in sight. The idea of a first-person shooter with no actual shooting was probably a risky one on paper, but the final product ended up taking first-person shooters into a new untapped corner of the genre. You start off the game with a case of memory loss trapped in a laboratory run by an unseen caretaker, a computer by the name of GLaDOS. You navigate through various tests like a rat in a maze; each new test compounds on what you learned in the previous test with an added dimension of complexity that you must solve. So you progress from test to test until, as any rat will attest to, you reach the conclusion of the maze in order to obtain the cake that GLaDOS has promised all the while (the cake is a lie). Portal is the small sparkly gem in The Orange Box; an amazing game, but rather short in length.
Quite simply The Orange Box is the game every PC gamer should own, being unsurpassed on both quality and quantity.
The Orange Box (Official site)