junior_ain's Orange Box, The (Xbox 360) review

Valve has made us an offer we just can't refuse.

 Maybe what Valve thought on doing was simple. They had Half-Life, a "good-ass" game like some would say, they had two expansions for Half-Life only available for PCs, and they had Team Fortress 2, which is a multiplayer game with some interesting game mechanics. You add Portal, the one exclusive barely-released game and we have a deal, a great deal. Adding such good games at a reasonable price, a price of one actually, sounded too good to be true; maybe not quite, but it was damn good. They actually went ahead and did it , if anyone overlooked any of the games listed then he ought to purchase this, even if overlooking is not the case, Portal is already a good motivation, the rest you get to play all over again to re-experience each moment.

Half-Life 2 is first, and this game was beautifully ported for the Xbox 360. It has survived the test of time, in fact, maybe one of the best examples of that. The graphics are as good as they were for the PC and things like face expressions are still amongst the best ever seen in video-games, with everything flowing at solid framerate. The physics was the aspect that most caught the eye when it was released, thanks to the Havok engine, and it still amazes people up to this day, even the most veteran gamers. What actually enhances quite a lot, and stands as the one thing that sets this game apart from the rest of the first person shooters out there, is the Gravity Gun, without this little insanely practical device this game wouldn't be the same. Story-wise you assume the role of Gordon Freeman as he attempts to save what's left of the planet from an alien invasion, it's up to Freeman to lead the remaining citizens into a final act of resistance against the alien oppressors. This was released in 2004 but it still feels fresh, certainly aged graphics and gameplay are no excuses for anyone to overlook this amazing game, and with a deal like this, it's no excuse at all.

The two Half-Life 2 expansions included are brief but will give you some more gameplay time that will feel like enough in the end. Both are good and follows the story and gameplay mechanics of the original, but they are also inherently distinct. In Episode One you have sudden change of atmosphere, right away, most parts of the first episode will have a certain survival horror feel, a never-changing impression especially boosted because of the underground parts with no light and the possibility to not use ammo at all and just "run away" from enemies. The Episode Two puts you back into the action, with more imaginative places, new enemies and different kinds of challenges, the story also develops in a more meaningful way in the second episode than it does in the first. In addition, the Episode Two is slightly longer than Episode One. Different is good, and in the case of the two expansions it is true, if you've played Half-Life 2 already, there's really no setback on trying these two up, let alone not liking them.

Portal is the big surprise, it uses the physics found in Half-Life to create a game truly innovative. The concept is actually simple, but opens space for many possibilities in terms of puzzles. You have a gun that shoots two portals, one blue and one orange, and create a link between them, it's up to you to use these two portals to overcome the puzzles in the 18 stages of the game. The increasing difficulty is well calibrated, the game itself is challenging but nothing major. When you finish it you'll be able to replay many of the courses using different approaches; like the advanced maps, which are basically 6 of the maps found in the main game with some modifications adding extra difficulty. You can also have a race against the clock trying to finish the maps in the least time possible; less portals use, trying to finish the map using the least number of portals possible; and least steps, when you attempt to finish a map with the least number of steps taken. What makes Portal shine is its simplistic easy-to-learn gameplay added to complex stages, making the difficulty entirely in-game while trying to overcome what's imposed. Portal ends up being a really fun game which is not shadowed at all by the high caliber releases also found in the pack, and holds up pretty well even alone. Although short, it's a satisfying experience with good replay value.

And for last, and certainly not least, we have Team Fortress 2, which is an exclusively multiplayer, you can play through the internet. The game has a sharp look, often mistaken with cel-shade, which fits nicely. There are 9 types of classes to be chosen, as well as 6 different maps. The objectives depend on each map but they often have something to do with territory attacking and defensing, and also infiltration. What makes this game different from others is that each class has its own weapons and skills, and you'll basically want to have most of them in your team so you'll have more tools for reaching your goal, good communication is essential for success as well. Team Fortress 2 is has a good dose of multiplayer fun, and serves right for the deal, since none of the previous games have multiplayer. Definitely a worthy inclusion that, given you have internet connection on your Xbox 360 and a gold membership for Xbox Live, you'll certainly enjoy quite a lot, especially because it has a little more of the fun factor than the average online multiplayer first person shooter.

It sounds only fair, first you have what I should call the main meal of the 5, Half-Life, alongside with its two released expansions; the fact that you get it complete is good enough. Then you have Portal, which would be the dessert, quick and sweet. And of course we have the multiplayer, which could be described as an after-meal gathering with everyone in the living room, happy and fun. Entrée anyone? Well, still sounds like a hell of a meal.

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