Beauty and the Best

The Orange Box

The Orange Box - AGT Mini Review

Orange Box Cover
To this day, one of the absolute best values in gaming is Valve’s offering of The Orange Box on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac. This is a video game compilation including Half-Life 2 (the full game), Half-Life 2: Episodes One and Two, Team Fortress 2 and the first introduction of Portal. Any one of these games by themselves is probably worth more in pure entertainment value than most first person shooters on the market, even at of the time of this mini review’s posting.

Since the introduction of the Half-Life series in November of 1998, Valve took skeletal animation and enemy A.I. to a completely new level and drew gamers into the engrossing underground Black Mesa facility. Players took control of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist and MIT graduate, armed with a Hev suit and an array of incredibly cool weapons. What’s probably most endearing are the companion characters Gordon is always happy to either battle along side or convene with after a series of intense firefights. From the mysterious Vortigants to the enchanting and tough Alyx Vance, Valve has gone above and beyond to create one of the most memorable experiences in video game history.

Then there’s Portal. I had no idea what to expect when I started playing Portal because I’d been deep in production and hadn’t done my research to even know what it was. Hadn’t even seen a preview video. I was immediately addicted to the first person puzzle gameplay based on the use of the portal gun. By the way, Portal 2 (not part of The Orange Box) takes it to an entirely new level if you like this type of gameplay. One warning though – it’s not a shooter. It’s about using your brain - in the same way some of the original Tomb Raider games were about entering a room and figuring out what was needed to escape and avoid certain death. And if nothing else, Jonathan Coulton catchy song, Still Alive, will be nearly impossible to get out of your head. By the way, he’s not a one hit wonder. Coulton’s got lots of other great songs written in his signature sardonic tenor that are not related to Portal but equally is witty.


And last but not least – Team Fortress 2. For those of you who can’t get enough multiplayer action, this cartoon-styled shooter dishes out a healthy dose of capture the flag and base defense modes to appease even the most jaded gamers. As sequel to the original Quake mod, they just amp it up another level.

Unlike movies, games have the daunting task of trying to predict various potential interactions of their audience, which often leads to scripts splinter out into 500 plus pages. With Half-Life 2 especially, Valve manages to guide the player through a world that feels open while simultaneously building a narrative that’s more engaging than most feature films. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, horror, dimensional riffs and rebel skirmishes against fantastic alien and cybernetic organisms, the Half-Life series is for you. And Portal and Team Fortress stand well on their own as more than the icing on the cake.

Bookmark and Share

Site logo