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Posted on Sep 1st 2013 at 10:35:51 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Xbox 360




The Orange Box
Valve Corporation, 2007
Xbox 360


I was pretty late to the party as far as Ďmoderní First Person Shooters go. I think this had to do with the fact that the rise of Halo and similar games seemed to happen during a time when I was paying a lot less attention to gaming. However once I did finally get exposed to Half-Life a year or so ago, I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed it. A few months back I played through Half-Life in its entirety for the first time ever and that only led me to start delving deeper into more of Valveís output. So what better place to do that than The Orange Box - a single disc with three full games as well as two add-on episodes?

The first game I decided to play was Portal. Although I had started it (and enjoyed it immensely) a year or two ago, I had never managed to finish it. So I figured Iíd just start it over again from scratch. Although I knew the good old Ďcakeí meme, what I didnít know was how long the game was. This created a really cool experience, always wondering how close I was to the end. And although it only took me two sittings to play through, I had an absolute blast.


Iíve just realized that Iím writing this with the assumption that everybody in the world got around to playing Portal before I did. Just in case thatís not the case, you should know that Portal is basically an FPS without the ĎS.í Or to be more accurate, the shooting you do is not a gun filled with bullets that are taking out aliens, zombies and soldiers. Instead youíve got the ingenius Portal-gun which shoots - you guessed it - portals. Enter one and exit there other. Simple, right?

This is the sort of game that offers up puzzles that you might breeze right through, or then sit there for fifteen minutes trying to make sense of everything and then feel like the smartest person alive for doing so. Itís also full of hilarious personality. And although deaths can happen in Portal, for the most part itís a first person game with very little action. Itís a game that encourages you to move around slowly and explore and think. And although itís a short game, I can honestly say that the last level alone is just as much fun as everything leading up to it.




Arguably, the star of The Orange Box would be Half-Life 2 which is included here with its Episode 1 and 2 expansions as well. This was my first experience with the game. The original Half-Life I had played a year or so ago for the first time, and only actually beat it earlier this year. But in that time I grew to really love the game, and consider it one of my favorite FPS games of all time. With that in mind, I was certainly looking forward to playing the sequel.

Iíve yet to actually beat Half-Life 2 (which means Iíve also not played the expansions yet either), but the solid time I have spent with it has been great. I will say however that Iím not yet convinced that I like it better than the first game. Although HL2 definitely improves upon its predecessor in many ways, itís also hard for me to shake the excitement of experiencing the world of Black Mesa for the first time. I also think I lean towards liking the claustrophobia of the research facility more than the more open-world given to you in the sequel. Iíve also noticed that Half-Life 2 feels a lot more ďsurvival horrorĒ than the first game. Ammo seems a bit more limited here for instance.

But all that aside, Half-Life 2 is an incredible game as I said. It looks glorious and runs smooth on the 360. And of course this is just personal preference, but the 360 pad is definitely now my preferred way of playing FPS games. Sorry keyboard & mouse purists. One thing that really stands out in the second game is the writing. The characters definitely have a lot more personality than in the first game. Oh, and the barnacles still creep me out.

Interestingly enough I had recently started playing Halo for the first time ever (seriously). And one thing that really stuck out to me about Halo was just how bad the driving sections were. I just could not grasp them and constantly found myself crashing when I should have been cruising. As it happens I hit the driving (a boat) part of Half-Life 2 around the same time and it was night and day compared to Halo. Thankfully the driving section there was actually really fun, even if a bit longer than need be.

One addition to the sequel thatís really nice is the Gravity Gun. This thing lets you pick up and shoot objects that would otherwise be far too heavy or too far away for you to do so. In that regard, Valve successfully incorporated puzzles into a true FPS similar to what would be come the standalone game of Portal. It definitely makes you think about how to approach certain sections. For instance in one area I was low on bullets, but there were saw blades all over the place stuck in walls. Turns out you can suck up a saw blade with the Gravity Gun and send it violently shredding through a zombie (these are zombies, right?).



As a bit of a diversion I figured I should at least see what this Team Fortress 2 game was all about. So I hopped on the XBLA server one weekend morning and to my surprise, there were several games going on. What started as a simple capture-the-flag game with a red team and a blue team quickly turned into a pretty decent time-suck. A half hour or so later I realized the appeal to such a game. And now that I was feeling at least somewhat comfortable controlling an FPS, I could even enjoy such a game! Of course I was only playing with strangers, and Iím sure that a much bigger bit of enjoyment would come from playing with a group of friends. Something Iíll have to look into in the future.

And speaking of the future - not only does this mean that The Orange Box has this online game that I can enjoy indefinitely (or until the servers are shut down), but Iíve still got Half-Life 2 to beat and the expansion episodes to delve into. When you look at the number of quality hours of gaming that are on this single disc, it becomes quickly apparent that The Orange Box is one of the finest compilations you get on the 360.


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Comments
 
I've had this one sitting on the shelf for a really long time. I had already played Portal, so the others didn't really call out to me much. The Gravity Gun sounds a lot like the Kinesis power in Dead Space, so it sounds like it could be fun. Maybe I'll pop it in and give it a whirl.
 
Awesome bunch of games.  HL2 and it's expansions have managed to age rather nicely, both in terms of graphics and game play.  I would highly recommend playing through Portal 2 while the first game is fresh in your mind, as it takes the concept of the first and nicely turns it up to "11" without being over the top.  More laughs, more fun with the puzzles, and much more story.  I can pretty much guarantee you'll be satisfied by the time the credits rolled.
 
I don't know what all features are missing from 360 TF2, but TF2 without pyrovision goggles is a much lesser experience. Nothing beats cupcake and cake health packs.
 
Thanks for reminding me that I have this title...

...for the PS3.

Don't be hatin', now-- I got a really good deal on it.
 
@Bomba: I actually started Portal 2 not long after finishing the first game. I'm a few hours in, and already feel that the sequel manages to improve everything I loved about the original which is saying a lot. Heck, the opening half hour found me literally "LOL'ing."

@SirPsycho: I don't know much about TF2, but it's apparently F2P now on Steam so I'll plan to download.

@Zag: No shame! Personally I prefer 360's controller, so will get most of my games there. But I buy all my fighters on PS3 (since most of my fighting game buds do the same) and there's no denying the library of quality PS3 exclusives.
 
Episode 1 is one of my favorite action titles.  I recently played through Half Life 2 again and remembered how much I love the first hour of that game.
 
I'm sure I'm one of the few, but I didn't like Portal. The gameplay just ended up feeling flat to me after a while. I loved the characters/story, but just couldn't get into the gameplay much.

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