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Posted by moonhead on Nov 6, 2007
The Orange Box Xbox 360 Valve/EA

The Orange Box Xbox 360 Valve/EA

Let me get something off my chest about this, first why have they called this The Orange Box its a lazy, crap name and the box art is rubbish also. Quite how developer Valve and publisher EA have come up with this I’ll never know especially as Gabe Newell’s Valve team normally has production and artistic values that are very high quality (Just play the games for proof of this).

Right now that’s done let me me state that this game, or should I say games represents the best value for money in one box ever. Five games in total in one box for as little as £37.99 if you shop around and even less if you buy it for the PC is an absolute steal. Then when you add in the quality of the games included it becomes an even better deal.

All of the games in The Orange Box are of real high quality! First off you have Half Life 2 the multi award winning former game of the year FPS. It continues the story of everbody’s favourite everyman nerdy hero Gordon Freeman and his battle to beat the Alien Combine threat he helped unleash upon the world in a botched science experiment at Black Mesa in Half Life 1. Even though the game is starting to show its age now it can still be held up as one of the finest FPS experiences ever made. The physics engine, level design, voice acting, story narrative and characterisation all still stand head and shoulders over nearly all of its more modern competitors (Bioshock withstanding of course). Also this is the fully fledged Half Life 2 experience on the Xbox 360 not the fudged compromise of last gens Xbox version and it is all the better for it.

On top of this you also have Valves further continuation of the Half Life universe with Episodes 1 and 2. These are new to the console fraternity and are Valves attempt at episodic gaming content. Each episode offers 4 – 6 hours of gameplay placing you once again in the shoes of the iconic Freeman and his HEV suit. Episode 1 follows directly on from Half Life 2 with you fleeing the Citadel. You will have a sense of deja-vu with the scenery and areas you see but now that you spend nearly all your time in the game partnered by the gorgeous Alyx Vance you will hardly notice. Also the set pieces and pacing are excellent so you don’t realise it looks so similar. The lighting and animation’s have also been given a bit of spit and polish with the facial animation in particular impressing.

With Episode 2 Valve have kicked it up another notch again, gone is the regurgitated scenery of City 17’s tower block slums from Episode 1 and in come open forest expanses and rolling hills. This change of scenery has major impacts on the gameplay as well, especially noticable is the vehicle combat which is now vastly improved that it is off road and not as linear. They have also added to the roster of enemies with the inclusion of the Hunters which are like the stunted dwarf brothers of the 30 foot tall tripod Striders. These Hunters prove to be tough nimble enemies that add to immensley to the combat. Once again the graphics have been spruced up slightly from the last episode with paticular attention paid to the lighting. You also spend this episode fighting alongside the alien Vortigans who prove to be as able and interesting a sidekick as the wonderful Alyx, and it all adds up to you waiting with baited breath for the final episode of the trilogy. This will presumably be download only but knowing Valve we are in for a long wait as, quite rightly, they do not rush anything.

Now onto, for me the real star of the show, Portal. This game is pure unadulterated genius, it has you cast as an unamed unknown human lab rat in the mysterious Apperture Science Labaratories. Your task with the aid of the Portal gun is to overcome various trials and physics based puzzles from a first person perspective. The Portal gun allows you to open up two gates one entrance and exit and that is all you have to help you traverse this weird clinical looking world. This game although not overly hard will have your head spinning round in a whirl as you try figure out how to get to the ever elusive exits in each room. The level design is tip top, with a genlte difficulty curve that teaches you the techniques needed gradually so by the end your ready for all the mind bending, gravity altering later levels.

The controls are also well worked and smoothly implemented with movement on the analogue sticks, a jump button and the two portals acivated by either trigger button. Special mention must go to GLaDOS, the robotic sounding overseer that guides you through the game. The script is absolutely sparkling and hysterically funny, in fact the dialougue from her is some of the best I have ever heard with some truly laugh out loud moments. The game itself is short at around 4 hours in length but while it lasts it is an absolute blast and some of the best alternative FPS gaming ever created. I look forward to seeing a sequel to this in the future.

Now for the last part of this awesome gaming feast the impossibly long delayed and hotly anticipated Team Fortress 2. The follow up to the original Quake and Half Life mods Team Fortress 1 is the daddy of all class based shooters. This online multi player only title sticks close to the original format but tightens the experience all up and wraps it up in some of the most gorgeous cartoon visuals ever seen, it looks like Pixars The Incredibles on steroids. With 9 different distinct classes the great graphics plus the ability to easily spot and see the differences between them and also add comedy value to proceedings. It really is very funny to see the massive Heavy class take a battering from the tiny but nimble Scout. The audio also helps with this with each character having their own taunts and crys as they deal out their digital death. There are 6 maps which may not sound like a lot but with the variety and size on offer does not really make this an issue and there is the usual slew of multiplayer modes all are team based such as capture the flag or capture the intelligence.  As with the rest of this package, Team Fortress 2 is quality gaming at its best and adds a much neeed multiplayer facet to the strictly single player proceedings.

In all The Orange Box offers the kind of value for money normally only found in bargain bins or on Ebay. With 5 games that I would rate individually at 9 or more out of 10 a piece and offering countless hours of high quality gaming this really is a must have title. I’m sorely tempted to give this game full marks but honestly feel that 10 out of 10 scores are not a reality as nothing is perfect so I’m splitting the difference (See below). Get out there and buy it you know you want to.

Overall: 9.5/10

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2 Responses to “The Orange Box Xbox 360 Valve/EA”

  1. Tom Hall says:

    zzzzzzzzzzzz

    Mutton dressed as lamb

  2. moonhead says:

    Here speaks a man that did not even play Portal. Tut tut

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