The Orange Box

5 out of 5

Written by Dr_Worm on on October 29, 2007

One of the best deals you'll find ever when it comes to videogames is The Orange Box. In it, you'll get some of the best first-person shooters of the year packaged together for only $49.99 on PC and $59.99 on Xbox 360 (coming next month to PS3).

In Portal, you awake in a glass cell only to find out that you are a test subject for a device that creates portals in walls so you can move around in a very M. C. Escher fashion. Your goal is simple, reach the end of the level. It's not as easy as it seems, however, as at a certain point in the game, you notice your job is more dangerous than you probably thought. Good luck getting pension while your dissolving at the bottom of an acid pit. While the levels themselves are linear, how you complete them is up to you most of the time. When traveling the misleading mazes, you're often instructed and teased by a female robotic voice, which can be really helpful and really funny, providing the assumption that they think you're insane. She's definitely one of the best parts of the game and her dialog is very well-written. A huge downside to Portal is the length. It'll only take you about 3 hours to complete this game. However, bonus levels, a commentary mode, and challenges add a great amount of depth to replayability. As well, Valve promises downloadable levels and, just recently, added support for its Hammer level editor. Portal is great for just about anyone who's interested in first-person shooters, puzzle games, or something completely unique.

Team Fortress 2 is an online multiplayer class based first person shooter and may be the best multiplayer game of the year. Don't be turned off by the cartoonish visuals, in fact, they add a lot of depth to the gameplay. The best part of Team Fortress 2 is the class selection. You get to choose from 9 different yet fairly balanced classes. There's no caste system here; Each class has their own strengths and weakness and each are very fun to play. For example, the Scout can run faster than any class and counts as 2 people when taking points, but isn't very powerful or tough. The Pyro can light enemies on fire (except other Pyros), but is limited to close range combat. Referring to the visuals, each class is so distinct that you'll immediately know what class that player is. The death cam feature is a nice addition to Team Fortress; after you die, the camera will fly over to the guy who destroyed you, providing a nice photo-opportunity almost every time. After someone kills you a few times in a row (or vice versa), you'll become Rivals. It's really satisfying knowing you just got revenge on that guy who keeps stabbing you in the back or slaughtering you with their sentry gun. There are only Capture the Flag and Control Point maps out right now, but hopefully Valve is working on some new ones for us to play.

In terms of single player first-person shooters, you can never go wrong with the Half-Life series, and Half-Life 2: Episode 2 continues one of the greatest stories in gaming history. You still play as Gordon Freeman, former Black Mesa research assistant and alien invasion resistance legend. The well-written story is told beautifully by the amazing digital acting Valve created. Accompanied by the well-done voice acting, you're really immersed into the game, as everyone is well-convinced that their hardships have come to an end. Music is timed perfectly and sets the apocalyptic atmosphere nicely. The controls are spot-on and highly customizable to your preferences, ensuring that the variety of weapons at your disposal feels like you're really doing some damage. Of course, this is all old news if you've already played Half-Life 2 and/or Episode 1. The nearly flawless Source graphics and physics engine has been subtly improved, so some things look a lot better and react more realistically. My only real complaint is the length; only around 5 hours. Despite the brief length, it's possibly the most revealing game in the series in terms of the story. Overall, this might be the most enjoyable part of Half-Life 2's current story.

As you can see, The Orange Box is packed full of great first-person shooters. It also includes Half-Life 2 (arguably the best PC game ever) and Half-Life 2: Episode 1, so there's really 5 great games total, and although the single player offerings are short, there's a lot of it to go around. 5 out of 5.