November 13, 2007

The Orange Box Beats the Competition

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What’s inside the Orange Box? The anticipated next episode of Half-Life 2 that falls short? Valve’s shiny little gem that won over our hearts? The decade-in-the-making highly worthy sequel to one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time? Yes. In addition to Half-Life 2 and Episode 1, just in case you missed out, you get Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2, as respectively mentioned. It has been a full month since the release of The Orange Box. Has it been worth it?


Ironically, the supposed ‘highlight’ of the package, Half-Life 2 Episode 2, is actually the weakest component. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but some of the stagnant, travel sections of the game are a little too long and boring, and the plot developments are only mediocre. The game ends with one epic battle, which I consider the best moment, but the cliffhanger that leads to Episode 3 makes me feel like I’ve been cheated. Don’t let this put you off, however. The rest of The Orange Box redeems it and makes the package entirely worth the money.

Portal is a physical puzzle game that is short and cute. I did not find it tiresome or boring at any point through the game, though it only takes around two hours for most players. The AI’s sense of humor is just icing on the cake and provides some extra entertainment. Portal has much potential for replay through the advanced and challenge modes, and custom user content.

The true highlight of The Orange Box is, in my opinion, Team Fortress 2. While I may have spent a total of 10 hours playing the single-player components of the package, my cumulative time with Team Fortress 2, including the beta offered with preorders through Steam, approaches 400 hours. The gameplay is has been laboriously play-tested, and has achieved a delicate balance that continues to be tweaked and perfected with time. There is something for almost every playing style in this class-based teamplay shooter, and the feeling of pulling out a win by careful team coordination is extremely satisfying. There are only six maps that come stock with the game, but that number will most definitely rise, and creations using Valve’s familiar SDK are already making a large impact. In addition, mods will contribute extra flavor or gameplay elements, in case the special need arises. The mod pictured above adds party hats and balloons to players.


If you haven’t already tried the legendary Half-Life 2, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than The Orange Box this holiday season. It delivers nothing short of a trio of incredibly well-received games at a very modest price. If you have any questions, or are a fresh Steam user and don’t know where to start, please leave a message and I’ll be happy to help.