Valve's Orange Box is one of the greatest gaming packages we have seen to date. The bundle packs in full versions of Half-Life 2 and its expansion packs -- Episode One and the new release Episode Two -- as well as the addition of the unique puzzle game Portal, and the extremely long awaited and highly anticipated Team Fortress 2.
Episode Two will have you outside more this time round.
Episode Two is the second instalment in the Half-Life 2 Episode trilogy. Following on from Episode One, Gordon Freeman and your trusty companion Alyx are on the run from the Combine after securing some of their vital information. The blast wave from the Citadel explosion has plunged your train off a bridge leaving you stuck. Be aware -- if you haven't previously played Episode One, let alone Half-Life 2, there are some plot spoilers to be revealed below.
In typical Half-Life fashion, you will fight your way through dark deserted underground networks and run into your common zombies and Antlions along the way. There is however, the inclusion of a new fierce Combine enemy known as a hunter. The hunter is in a way a much smaller and faster version of a strider, who will take a good amount of your ammunition to take down. However, unlike Episode One, a majority of your time isn't spent in these dark areas. You will fight your way to the surface to make your way to White Forest to rendezvous with Alyx's father Eli and your old friend from Black Mesa -- Doctor Kleiner. As always in Half-Life 2, Alyx accompanies you on your course. She will assist you with hacking her way into Combine security fields and doors along with watching your back, picking off a few zombies who a want bite of you. While Episode Two has a good pace with dialogue and new discoveries unfolding along the way, it comes in under five hours of playtime (which is a bit better than Episode One's four-hour completion time).
Gordon's usual arsenal of weapons are available. The gravity gun is still your tool to live by at most times, but no new ones are introduced. We were excited for a moment when Doctor Kleiner discovered the Aperture Science vessel, but unfortunately, there was no inclusion of the Portal gun as we had hoped for. We are still going to keep our fingers crossed for that in Episode Three.
Portal can really bend your mind at times.
Portal is the little added extra inside Orange Box. Once we had our hands on it, it was impossible to stop and we ended up completing it in one sitting, taking under four hours to complete.
At the beginning, you wake up to find yourself in a glass-encased room inside a laboratory of Aperture Science. How and why you are there is uncertain and it is unknown if you will ever find out. Not much more can be said about Portal's story line, as it is non-existent. While being shuttled between testing chambers, you never encounter another person, only to be directed and humoured by a disembodied female voice speaking through the rooms' speakers.
Portal is one of the most innovating puzzle games we have played to date. You are presented with the dynamics of the game and the use of the Portal device quite gradually. This is taken in steps through a series of testing chambers where play becomes progressively harder and some new factors are introduced. Different ways you might use the device become more apparent. Some chambers you step into will look almost impossible and the friendly guide of a voice will not always encourage you. Inside you will be presented with any number of obstacles that need to be overcome and more than likely you will use strategies taught to you previously. Once you get onto the longer and tougher chambers this is where your wits will really be tested -- timing and planning will be needed as one misstep could kill you.
The actual use of the Portal device is straightforward. You left click will open a blue portal and right click will open an orange. There is no difference between the two and opening either can be done at any time.
Visually, Portal looks great and that is because it is running on an updated Source engine, which was introduced with Half-Life 2. However, there is not a whole lot to take advantage of since the entire game you are moving through rooms which all follow the same design scheme. There are no outdoor environments, explosions, fire-fights, or added eye candy to get excited over.
It has been little over eight years since Team Fortress Classic was first released and there was always talk to whether or not its successor would be released. Well, eight years later and our wishes have been granted, Team Fortress 2 has come and it is even better than we expected. Team Fortress 2 is a class and team-based multiplayer shooter. There are nine classes to choose from, each with your own unique abilities.
A medic's Ubercharge will render you invulnerable for a short amount of time.
Across the game modes, there are only six maps available. The popular Capture the Flag (CTF) map 2fort has been brought back, where you are to defend your intelligence from the enemy capturing it, and in turn steal their intelligence and return it to your base. The dominant game mode is Control Point, where each team has a turn at attacking and defending a set of control points. If however, the attacking team is unable to capture all the points in the allotted time, the match goes into sudden death overtime to decide the winner. Another game mode that is similar to Control Point is Territory Control. In a Territory Control game, the map is spit up into six sections where each team is attacking and defending on two control points per round. Both teams are to push to control the other side's points and hold their own at the same time. This makes for a very fast-paced battle, which usually ends up in a stalemate in a team's base.
All classes are incredibly well balanced in Team Fortress 2, which is vital for any online team-based game. Essentially, no class is better than another is; this is because each provides their abilities to the game in one way or another. Classes are broken down into three groups: offensive, defensive, and support. The offensive group consists of the incredibly fast Scout, whose main weapon is a shotgun and is able to double-jump but has very low health. There is the rocket launcher touting Soldier and the Pyro, who is extremely deadly at close range with his flamethrower.
In the defensive group, there are the heavy hitting classes -- Heavy, Demoman, and Engineer. The Heavy is the slow, 300-hitpoint, chain-gun wielding tank, who works wonders when teamed up with a medic. Grenades and sticky bombs are the Demoman's specialty, which comes in useful when clearing a room. Thirdly, the Engineer is on the brim of support and defensive. He can build turrets that can be upgraded two stages with bigger machineguns and rocket launcher add-ons, then support wise he can build dispensers of health and ammunition, as well as a teleporter for fellow team-mates to use. This leaves the final group -- Support -- with the Sniper, Medic, and Spy. The Sniper has a scoped rifle, which may gain extra shooting power if you remain scoped for a few seconds before firing. With a device that can channel healing to a targeted team-mate, the Medic is a strong asset in the game. The Heavy can be turned into a regenerating tank with a Medic at its side, and the Medic can turn himself and his friendly target invulnerable for a short amount of time once his Ubercharge reaches 100 percent. If you are one who enjoys sneaking behind enemy lines and backstabbing unsuspected enemies, then the Spy will be your pick. Being able to cloak himself for a period, disguise himself as a member of the opposing team, sap enemy turrets and dispensers, and taking down an opponent with a single backstab are all in the Spy's arsenal.
Like the Orange Box's Xbox 360 counterpart, the PC version also includes 17 online achievements to be unlocked, such as, the Team Doctor, where you must accumulate 25,000 healing points as a Medic or setting five enemies on fire in 30 seconds will award you the Flamethrower achievement. Also recorded are your individual class statistics and overall records.
The characters have a cartoon look which looks like something directly out of a current animated movie. For previous hardcore Team Fortress fans, you will be happy to know that map architecture remains the same for all your big favourites such as dustbowl and 2fort. Yet, the character looks have been completely revamped and look nothing like their originals.
Team Fortress 2 is definitely the best team-based multiplayer shooter this year.
Overall, Team Fortress 2 is one of the best first-person shooters to date. The fresh new and interesting look is definitely something that brings a new spark to the gaming world. Not only does Team Fortress 2 look fantastic but it also plays like a dream. All classes are easy to figure out and discovering which your favourites are will not take long at all. Class balance is normally an issue in class orientated multiplayer games. Team Fortress 2 however, has done the perfect job where each class has its specific role to the game and trying to sway from it will rarely work out. Valve has done a great job developing an online team game that after an eight-year wait for some people it has come out and blown away expectations.
As previously said, the Orange Box is the one of the greatest gaming packages we have ever come across, and there is incredible value inside for an exceptional price. There is a wealth of playtime included, especially if you want to play Half-Life 2 and Episode One and Two from start to finish. Plus, even though Portal is reasonably quick to complete, you will in no doubt replay it repeatedly and attempt the difficult advanced levels. If you are a fan of online multiplayer action or one of the many people who has been hanging out for the release of Team Fortress 2, you will not be disappointed. Team Fortress 2 is going become one of the top multiplayer games with its fast-paced, hilarious, class-based shooter following in the footsteps of its predecessor, Team Fortress Classic.