30 Reviews in 30 Days, Day 18 – The Orange Box
Yes, you read that right. I am treating all of The Orange Box as one review for the 30 Reviews in 30 Days feature. Why? Because honestly, though I could wrote 5 separate reviews for the games in this collection, this is how they were released, and they just go together. Sure, Half Life 2 and Half Life 2 Episode 1 were both released on the computer before The Orange Box came out, but the Box represented their first appearance on the 360, and that is how I initially played them. In the end, it just makes sense to lump them together.
The series that needs no introduction
The cornerstone of The Orange Box is the Half Life Series. The first game redefined the first person action-shooter, and Half Life 2 just continued where its predecessor left off. You once again take on the role of scientist Gordon Freeman, brought out of stasis by the mysterious G-Man years after the events of the first game. The world is now under the control of the Combine, which are headquartered in the mysterious City 17. You enter this city and are soon reunited with some of the survivors of the Black Mesa incident. You also meet Alyx Vance, a prominent member of the human resistance forces and a valuable ally throughout the series.
Half Life 2 and its episodes are games every gamer should play.
What happens next is a congruence of events that only Valve can weave together. You find yourself making your way through the back alleys of City 17, the grim streets of the zombie infested Ravenholm and many other varied locals in your attempt to help the human resistance. The spot-0n gameplay and story that never takes you out of the first person experience make Half Life 2 a great sequel to the original game and a must play for fans of first person shooters/adventure games. Oh, and the gravity game is just way too much fun.
Then there is the episodic content, or at least what was supposed to be episodic. Half Life 2 Episode 1 picks up right where Half Life 2 left off, forcing you to deal with the effects of what occurs in the other game. Then there is Episode 2, which many argue has one of the more amazing ending sequences in all of gaming.
The argument could be made that these three games alone would have been ebough for a compilation like The Orange Box. Valve was not satisfied with that, however. There were still two other games to add.
A new take on a classic
Team Fortress was originally a mod of id Software’s Quake engine. Its popularity grew so much that there was another mod made of it, called Team Fortress Classic, using the engine for the original Half Life. You can still find people playing it today, and later versions of Half Life included the mod as a Valve sanctioned multiplayer mod for the game.
Considering the popularity of the original game, it was no surprise there was a lot of buzz surrounding the release with The Orange Box of Team Fortress 2. This time, Valve was going to do the programing, taking the classes that were so popular in the first game, balancing them out even better, and making one of the best multiplayer games ever made (some might argue the best). Along the way, the art style was completely changed, replacing the realistic style of the original with a cell shaded, cartoony verizon that has belies the serious gameplay within the game itself.
Vlave chose the cartoonish look so character classes could be recognized from a distance.
What makes Team Fortress 2 stand out from other online shooters are the classes. Players can choose to play as a scout, sniper, demo man, heavy, soldier, spy, engineer, pyro or medic, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. What is so impressive about Team Fortress 2 is, unlike other online shooters with classes, no class is superior to any other. A good player will often switch classes several times within one game, choosing the one that is best suited for the situation at hand.
So The Orange Box has the sequels to one of the greatest PC games ever made and the improvement on what is truly a classic among online shooters.
And yet, as good as those games are, it was a relatively unknown game in this collection that gained all the attention.
The newcomer takes the cake
With all the hype surrounding the big titles that were a part of The Orange Box, many were surprised to find the true hidden gem in the collection was Portal. Portal is a truly unique game; a first person puzzle game in which you use a portal gun to traverse through the testing grounds of the Apeture Science facility. Sure, this seems easy enough, but throw in major hazards, humorous sentry guns and a slightly maladjusted AI named GlaDOS, and you have the making of a gamplay experience unlike any you have ever played.
Just what is it about Portal that made people take notice. Was it the gameplay, which lead you to test and defy the laws of physics like never before? The twisted humor throughout the game? The Companion Cube? The memorable showdown against GlaDOS in the end? Or maybe it’s the ending credits song “Still Alive?”
Portal is a game that must be played to be believed.
In the end, it is probably all of these things. This game is one that even jaded game reviewers found just too much fun to ignore. Some were even arguing it alone was worth the price of the collection, and that can definitely be argued now that you can pick up The Orange Box for $20.00 if you look hard enough.
The Half Life 2 games, Team Fortress 2 and Portal. Do you need any other reason to own The Orange Box? If you have not picked up this collection, what are you waiting for? The Orange Box gets a 5 out of 5.