The Orange Box Review - Half Life 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2
Platform: Xbox 360 (also available for PC)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Game Resolution: 720p/60
Display: Panasonic PT-AX100
Style: Shooter, Game Sub-Genre: Compilation
Rating: Teen - Mature (Blood & Gore, Violence, Language)
Welcome to the Orange Box! The box is actually the standard Xbox green with a very orange label. If you actually want an orange box, you'll have to buy the PC version for $10 less. Now that the colors are out of the way, the "Orange Box" contains not just one or two titles, but five! Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode 1, Half Life 2: Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 are all part of this deluxe game package. It really feels more like 3 games, as all of the Half Life 2 games follow the same story.
The Half Life 2 story begins with the mysterious G-Man talking to you in a creepy voice and dropping you on a train that is on its way to City 17. You, being Gordon Freeman, have been around since the original Half Life where a physics accident led to the crossing of dimensions that results in a bunch of alien creatures in our world. Once in City 17 you are greeted by the ominous Administrator on a big screen and your quest to right the world begins.
Portal is a very cool game that gives you a single gun. The gun allows you to fire 2 portals which connect to each other so that you or other objects can pass through. This is a fantastically clever idea and there are 19 main levels to complete. They throw in some good humor with this title as well, and there is a really nice twist to the game.
Team Fortress 2 has been long overdue. This game has been in development over the last 9 years. Now, I am guessing it's been though a few iterations in that time frame, but it has some interesting visuals and online team play to keep you going back for more killing fun.
If you have played any PC games in the last three years, than you have probably already seen this game in action. The graphics are exactly the same as the PC version, only you don't have to mess with your drivers or tweak the anti-aliasing or the anisotropic filtering, etc... I played these games on my 720p projector and it was a nice change over having it on the small screen. However, since my projector is quite a bit lower in resolution than my computer monitor, the edges weren't as clean, and it was obvious that the anti-aliasing was only minimal. Even though Half Life 2 is nearly three years old, this title is still a nice looking game. The graphics seem a bit old-hat, but the environments are elaborate and make good use of color and lighting effects. As you progress through Episode 1 then Episode 2, the environments seem to get more involved. It is still using the Source graphics engine for the entire game however. The Source is a good solid engine, but it can't have too huge of a game section loaded at once. There are frequent Load screens during the game play that are a bit distracting. I guess I have gotten used to virtually no loading on games like Crackdown. Even Halo 3 has some load time, but it seems more excessive in Half Life 2. However, the lighting effects and details in textures help to make up for some of the wait time. Portal is also using the same engine, and the rooms seem more simple than Half Life 2, but the first time you jump down into a hole that makes you fall from the ceiling back into the same hole, you'll appreciate the power of the Source engine. Team Fortress 2 has to be using some modified form of this engine, as the characters all look like they came from The Incredibles. They aren't as smooth and refined as the Pixar graphics, but have an interesting visual style, none the less.
I was both pleased and disappointed with the sound in these games. The surround sound engine works much better than any sound output have used on my PC, even though I have 7.1 on some crazy Creative Labs card. On the 360, it always seemed to pan smoothly to the sides and rear as I turn and walk around. Even the rear channels in my 7.1 theater system seemed distinct even though the 360 is only a 5.1 device. The musical score is heavy on the techno, and builds a good sense of stress when something is about to happen. The music has a good full range sound, as well. I had to turn the sound down a bit when the music came on as it overpowers the in-game sound. The sound effects were repetitive and none of them seemed to hit the LFE like they should. When I shot a fuel barrel, it would catch on fire with a nice crackling of the flame, but when it exploded, there wasn't the tactile response from the LFE channel like I was expecting. Anyway, the sounds are also repetitive between games. I think they short-changed the sound in Portal and Team Fortress 2 by just copying some of the sounds from Half Life. So, some good, some bland, but not unfulfilling…
The game menu system is laid out in a logical manor. The Game menus are also consistent across the 5 games for the most part. The menu system in TF2 is a little bit different but still easy to access. There are some Developer Commentaries on several of the titles which talk to you in the actual game environment. This is almost like walking through a movie but having the director talk directly to you as you interact with the world. Also, there are some options for sound volumes, screen brightness, and TV/Monitor for the gamma setting. Some of the menu options are grayed out and can only be changed from the 360’s dashboard. On to the games…
The Half Lives
This is a good solid first person shooter that plays exactly like the PC version, only you have a controller instead of the keyboard and mouse. The plot line is interesting, and the characters in the story keep you interested as well. Hello Alyx Vance! I didn't feel like I had very precise control, however. I wanted to use the pistol in the enemy's face for a quick kill, but found it a little difficult to hit right where I wanted. Other games designed for consoles seem to have a small margin of error to make shooting a little easier, but not so here. I wasn't a super awesome shot on the PC version, but the controller is just a bit more awkward with this title. In any case, I'll still be playing through for dozens of hours until I reach the finish at the end of Episode 2. It's a single player battle and the story doesn't really allow co-op anyway, so I didn't feel the need to have a buddy hop on into the game.
This is great game that I actually played all the way through before writing this review. It has a fresh and compelling twist on the standard FPS. A computer voice is your guide at the beginning of each of the 19 levels. It doesn't provide you with much help, but it does like to harass you and adds some good humor to the game. Each level seems to kick the difficulty up a little more than the last. You have to use different techniques to get to different locations or to disable turrets or to manipulate platforms. I really loved this game, and I'll be playing through the levels several more times. You can increase the difficult level once the game is complete, as well. I would honestly say that this game is worth at least half of the purchase price just by itself. I played through in about 5 hours, but the game play was so unique and compelling! Did I mention “twist” earlier? You’ll just have to play it to the end and find out for yourself.
Team Fortress 2
I was really looking forward to playing this game with my friends and having some great team battles. I was very disappointed that this game is only one player per 360. Yes, that's right, you can't have an 8 player match on 2 screens and 2 360s like you can with 95% of the other FPS games out there. “Disappointed” is the wrong word... Actually, “angry” is the correct word. I am angry that I won't be playing this game hardly at all as my multiplayer interaction is primarily game parties. It has some interesting styled graphics, 9 player classes, and 6 maps with their own team objectives. The potential for TF2 is huge, but the multiplayer is pretty much limited to online only. Yeah, if you have 8 TVs and 8 360s you can have your buddies over, but I am used to 2 projectors and 8 players for my LAN parties. Gone are the days of one man per device and this game should have supported the console platform that it is released for. I did play a few matches online to get a feel for it. The graphics are smooth on a local game, but on the internet, the lag issues translate into stuttering frame rates and untimely death. I tried it on two different nights and I have a decent internet connection but still found the frame stuttering to be very annoying both nights. Other multiplayer games handle lag in a better way that doesn't result in 10 frames per second. Ugh! There are lots of stats and interesting things to keep some interest in this title, but I'll be going back to Halo 3 for my multiplayer killing. Buh Bye TF2!
I will settle for a 5.1 PCM but when I force PS3 to use only Dolby/DTS/PCM 5.1 I see the same problem in my reciever it does not understand the codec. Am I doing something wrong? Or Orange box supports some Dolby True HD stuff only?.
Any help is appreciated.
Really? You don't think there is firmware updates for the consoles?
Yeah, the PS3 has had a ton of updates.
So what is the difference???
Computer gaming, IMO, is much nicer, faster, better graphics (by far), and is never stuck at 'what it is, is what it is.'
Have you guys NEVER heard of a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse?
I use mine at 20 feet away from the computer in another room.
(21 feet actually)
In other words, the computer never needs to be moved
Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed many years of consoles (NES, SNES, PS, PS2, etc..).
But they are always behind, so I have stopped spending my money on them.
That said, I've only played TF2 on a friend's 360 copy so far, and the experience was so horrible I decided to just skip it for my pc collection. Not to mention the graphics.. that "beautifully inventive" visual style just reminds me of cartoony gamecube shooters, not the graphically stunning stuff I'd expect off a high-def console game.
So much better stuff has been coming out that its really a waste, and GOTY is going to be a heck of a competition, unless they cave to the same huge beef previously noted and/or just give it to Orange Box because its 5 games in one and Valve's already won it x# of times with HL2.
Yes I there is a after market device that allows connected mouse and keyboard to the 360 for around $80. Thought about it about for Halo, but playing Half Life ep. 2 and Portal now on PC, which I prefer.