Album Review :
Half Life 2 The Orange Box

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Game: The Orange Box
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rating: “M” for Mature- Blood and Gore, Violence, and Some Language

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This is our first video game review here at IVM and what better way to kick it off than to review the best video game deal in history. The Orange Box is actually five complete games put into one compilation. It contains Half Life 2 and its sequels Episode One and Episode Two; it also contains a first person puzzle game called Portal which ties into the Half Life universe; and finally the multiplayer slug-fest Team Fortress 2. I’m going to break this review down into five smaller reviews, critiquing each game, and then I’ll sum it all up at the end.

Half Life 2

            While the game itself is three years old, it is still a blast to play. The Half Life series has one of the most engrossing and engaging storylines in any first person shooter I’ve ever played. You’re dropped into this dystopia where a mysterious alien race rules over the remaining human population. Your character is thrusted into leading a rebellion against the aliens in a rundown Eastern European city. The atmosphere throughout the entire game is depressing and lonely. Sometimes the game can be downright creepy as you face overwhelming odds against creatures that want nothing more than to bite your head off.
            The game play is different than most first person shooters. The physics engine is a big deal in this game, as your main weapon the “Gravity Gun” takes any reasonably sized object and makes it a deadly projectile, basically making the environment your weapon. The developers did a good job of breaking up combat with interesting and sometimes challenging physics puzzles.

Score: 5/5

Half Life 2 Episode: One
            The sequel to Half Life 2 sees you fleeing the city and regrouping with your allies. This game updates the graphics and provides a more developed AI companion for you throughout the game. The character will actually respond to what you do in-game and will interact with you in other ways outside of combat. For instance, there is a point in the game where you have to traverse an area that is in a complete blackout. She’ll make creepy noises when she stands behind you until you turn around and shine your flash light on her.
            While this game is a great add on to the series I was kind of mad that the improved graphics slowed the game down, and they didn’t seem to agree with my graphics card all that much because I had a few crashes happen while playing. Some of that is of course my fault using a computer that’s not designed for gaming.

Score: 4/5

Half Life 2 Episode: Two
            The latest update to the Half Life series introduces wide open environments and HDR lighting which is the pretty lighting effects you might have seen in the game The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. The wide open environments provide for some frantic game play as more enemies are capable of coming at you from multiple directions. The Gravity Gun is always a major game play element and it is even more so in this sequel. A new style of bomb has been made to take out the armored vehicles that your enemies use. You use the Gravity Gun to launch the explosive so it will stick to the vehicle then you detonate it with a shot from your pistol.
            I had issues with this game as well. This time it wasn’t my fault. Apparently, an update for one of the games on The Orange Box created an error for some people while playing Episode Two. I just so happen to be one of those lucky people. An error message pops up and the game exits out to the desktop. Luckily, there are ways around the error, but you may miss some of the side conversations and immersion into the story line because of it.

Score: 4/5

Portal
            Portal is a cool little game that ties into the Half Life 2 storyline. This game has a very twisted sense of humor as you interact with the only other character in the game, a super computer who is overseeing your progress. Basically, you are a lab rat for a corporation’s new project. You have a gun that can create two portals at any one time, and you must use the gun to get around to each of the different rooms. Sounds easy? Think again. There are automated gun turrets shooting at you, balls of energy bouncing around the rooms, doors that are set to close on a timer, pits full of radioactive waste to get in your way. The portal gun was such a good idea though and makes for awesome ways to get around the obstacles.
            While solving the puzzles with the portal gun is fun it can be a little nauseating at first. As you pop out of the portal your perspective could completely flip upside down. But once you get over it the game turns out to be a solid gem.

Score: 5/5

Team Fortress 2
            Team Fortress 2 is the one multiplayer game on the compilation. It takes class based multiplayer and turns it upside down. Each class has a unique weapon and ability. For example, the scout class is extremely fast and carries a shotgun, while the medic has an energy weapon. Valve used cell shaded graphics for this game, making it a cartoonish, vibrant blood bath. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to spend much time with this game yet, but what I’ve seen so far has been pretty entertaining.

Score: 3/5

The Orange Box is definitely for the mature audience though. With cursing found in most of the games as well as graphic violence; I wouldn’t recommend this game for younger kids. Overall though, this a great deal for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 or the computer. You get over $120 worth of games for just $59.99 for consoles and $49.99 for PC’s. Each game is a blast to play and will keep you happily occupied for hours during the holiday break. I highly suggest this game.
Overall Score: 9/10