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The Orange Box Review

Not a cheesy supermarket brand but five games based on the Half-Life 2 engine.


Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 7th January 2008

The Orange Box

  • Developer: Valve
  • Publisher: EA Games
  • Release Date: 19th October 2007

While it sounds like a box of supermarket own brand cheesy corn puffs The Orange Box from Valve and Electronic Arts in fact represents one of the best deals in computer games history!

The Orange Box is a collection of five games Team Fortress 2, a brand new game Portal, Half-Life 2 Episodes One and Two. Just for good measure the award winning Half-Life 2 is also included.

Unless you’ve been hiding away under a rock for the last few years you have more then likely heard of Half-Life 2, which is reviewed else where on this site. Half-Life 2: Episode One and Two play the same as the original game mixing first person shooter action with an immersive storyline.

Episode one follows on directly where Half-Life 2 left off, as you take up the role of Gordon Freeman once more as he flees City 17 before the Citadel collapses. Episode one is probably the weakest of the three Half-Life 2 games as action can be sparse at times and you often find yourself having to do the same tasks over in order to move on. There also seems to be a few bugs with object clipping, like getting stuck when trying to go through doors. This can be more then a little annoying!

Episode Two follows directly on from where Episode one ends, with Gordon and Alyx still fleeing from the Combine forces! Alyx is soon fatally injured by a Combine hunter and in need of a cure that can only be found in an Antlion nest. For this part you team up with a Vortigaunt until Alyx can be heeled. Episode Two is much more intense and gives you a big dose of action very similar to the gameplay of Half-Life 2, including some good vehicle sequences in a powerful but rather tatty V8 muscle car. Overall Episode Two is a nice addition to the Half-Life series.

Portal is a brand new game and could be described as a cross between a first person shooter and a puzzle game. The game is set in the confines of Aperture Labs, in the game you take up the role of a test subject who must complete a series of tasks, such as moving blocks onto buttons, clearing barriers and avoiding turret drones. Sounds simple so far!

The difficulty comes in mastering the use of the portal gun that you are equipped with. Blocks are some times placed in impossible to reach locations this is where your weapon comes into play. The portal gun is capable of generating both entry and exit portals and this allows you to move yourself and blocks from one area to another by allowing you and them to drop through walls, ceilings and floors. The gun can also be used to clear high barriers, for instance placing an exit portal in a high location and then an entrance on the floor will result in you flying through the air and over the obstacle when you pass through it.

Portal is an extremely addictive game that will have you hooked, however the game is only 19 short levels long that any competent gamer should be able to clear within two to three hours.

The final game included in The Orange Box is Team Fortress 2 a multiplayer game based on Valve’s source game engine. This is a nice addition as the game has often been regarded as vapourware, due to its long nine year development! It was first announced way back in 1998 as a sequel to Valves Half-Life mod Team Fortress Classic?

The game pits two rival construction companies against each other, Reliable Excavation & Demolition the RED team and Builders League United the BLU team. Both factions are equally matched with the exact same nine units available to each one. Units fall into one of three categories offence, defence and support. Offence is made up of the Soldier, Pyro and Scout units, the support categorie includes the sniper, medic and spy while the heavy gunner, demoman and engineer make up the defence team. Each unit has its own unique strengths and weaknesses for instance the solider is a good all rounder while the heavy gunner provides a devasting attack but moves very slowly, the spy allows you to mimic the opposing teams units but is only very lightly armed.

Team fortress 2 features it’s own versions of territory, capture the flag and invasion. On the games territory maps teams must take possesion of a control point before proceeding to the next, then there’s a version of capture the flag that sees the flag replaced with an intelligence briefcase and finally an invasion game where one team must defend a control point while the other attacks it within a set time limit. After this the teams roles are reversed. Twelve maps are included in the standard game but there is already a good community which means more should be available within various mods. Stats and achievements are also recorded for you as part of the games commhnity features, such as an award for getting revenge kills.

As all the games are based around the source engine they all look pretty much the same with the exception of Team Fortress 2 which is done in a cartoon style and resembles that of Pixar’s The Incredible’s. It’s a nice touch that adds comedy to the otherwise gory scenes of exploding bodies and multiplayer mayhem. The other four games all look pristine with rich enviroments and detailed characters. Portal looks a little cleaner then the Half-Life games but that might be something to do with the clinical environment it is set in. Portal also features some nice touches such as being able to see yourself entering and exiting a portals. The games seem to run pretty much trouble free, although there are some minor object clipping issues in the Half-Life 2 based games, however frame rates stay high in all games even when on screen action becomes frantic.

Sound in all the games is excellent Team Fortress 2 features some great comdey voice actiing that complements the games unque graphics style. Sound effects and music are both of the highest standard and help add depth to the games excellent storyline.

It’s not very often something like The Orange Box comes along! I for one am happy when one game on it’s own is good and enjoyable, but five in one box is exceptional and a true must buy for fans of first person shooters and truly one of the best bargins in videogames history.

Review Score: 9.4/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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