One Box, Five Times the Fun
Valve Software has made a name for itself by creating some of the most engrossing games ever. Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat have won numerous awards. The Orange Box, the company's latest offering, not only offers a unique approach to game packaging, but it's also another Valve title destined for greatness.
You get not one, not two, but five games: Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. Although Half-Life 2 and Episode 1 have been out for a few years, the Orange Box is a great way for players to explore the Half-Life universe.
The Orange Box features the U.S. debut of Episode 2. Brilliant level design complements the enemy's excellent artificial intelligence, and the end result is a surprisingly long (four to five hours) and action-packed episode. And just like at the end of Episode 1, you're left wanting more.
Portal is the best thing about the Orange Box. Combining first-person action with next-generation puzzle solving, it is the ultimate in mind games. You play a woman who awakes in a test facility, and your objective is simple: get out. But you must use portals, openings that can appear on walls, floors or ceilings. Using a portal gun (which makes portals appear), you're forced to find creative ways to exit a room. Early puzzles are simple; others require you to factor in weight and momentum. Once you beat the standard game, more advanced puzzles are unlocked. Though not impossible, they can challenge even the most seasoned player.
If online multiplayer capability is what you seek, try Team Fortress 2, in which two teams battle in frenetic gameplay. There are six maps, each with its own set of objectives. The game features one "capture the flag" map, while others involve capturing and defending various locations.
What sets it apart from the other squad-based games is its class system. You can choose from eight classes; picking the right one is imperative if you want to win. For example, the Scout can run the fastest, but he has virtually no armor. The Heavy Weapons guy packs the most punch, but he moves slowly. Other classes are Medic, Spy, Pyro, Engineer, Demo and Soldier.
Team Fortress 2 also has a distinct visual style. Instead of ultra-realistic guns, environments and player models, it uses over-the-top cartoonish characters with amazing animations and lots of personality. Combined with awesome level design, superb sound effects and well-balanced gameplay, Team Fortress 2 shines.
-- Tom Ham
The Orange Box Mature; Xbox 360 ($60) and PC ($50) EA Games/Valve Software The Orange Box Mature; Xbox 360 ($60) and PC ($50) EA Games/Valve Software