Upgraded to Orange
February 15, 2007 – Half-Life is a game that has always been at the forefront of innovation. The original set standards for First-Person Shooters, creating an experience that was both immersive and entertaining. Half-Life 2, though a long time in coming, didn’t disappoint gamers with its stellar graphics, superb storytelling, and the insanely fun gravity gun. However, only PC gamers were satisfied. The Xbox version of Half-Life 2 was disappointing to most gamers because of its downgraded graphics and frequent loading times. Developer Valve Software is planning to make this disappointment up to their fans in a big way this year with the release of Half-Life 2: Orange Box.
The Orange Box takes Half-Life 2 and places it where most gamers thought it should have been anyway: on next-gen consoles. By placing Orange Box on the PS3 and the Xbox 360, the game won’t have to suffer the liabilities that the Xbox version did and will also benefit from improved graphics and a number of new features. The most exciting of these features is the inclusion of the expansion packs, Episode One and Two as well as Team Fortress 2 and Portal. With all of these additions at a mere 59.99, Xbox Half-Life 2 owners should feel positively gypped.
Half-Life 2 continues the story of scientist turned freedom fighter Gordon Freeman, the unvoiced protagonist from the original. Despite his unassuming origins, Gordon is the only thing standing in the way of the alien threat completely overtaking the earth. Using standard weapons like shotguns and pistols as well as some unorthodox methods like the beloved gravity gun, Gordon challenges the alien invaders that have conquered the earth with the help of an underground resistance that is determined to oust their alien persecutors. With top-notch storytelling that conveys everything without cutscenes or even having to leave the FPS viewpoint, Half-Life 2 is a deeply absorbing gaming experience.
In addition to having the entire Half-Life 2 experience, Orange Box also comes with Episodes One and Two. Episode One chronicles Gordon and his friend Alyx’s escape from City 17 and picks up immediately where Half-Life 2 ends. Episode Two will, obviously, pick up at the end of One and will offer new weaponry and vehicles. The addition of these two expansions will add hours of gameplay for those who have already finished Half-Life 2 and are looking for new content, and will make the experience longer for those playing for the first time.
One thing that was outstanding in Half-Life 2 was the use of physics. The most pronounced aspect of this was in Gordon’s use of the aforementioned Gravity Gun, which allowed Gordon to lift most objects and fire them as projectiles. Gordon could use the gun to manipulate explosive barrels, firing them into crowds of foes and watching the ensuing explosion scatter the remaining pieces of the enemies, or blasting pallets at human foes to knock them over. The physics engine in the game made sure that everything reacted realistically, and gamers everywhere were stunned as they were able to manipulate mattresses, barrels, crates, and even bodies with eerie realism.
This use of physics travels over well to the puzzle game, Portal, although it isn’t a puzzler in the traditional sense. Portal is an FPS that has the unnamed protagonist making their way through a series of puzzles using a gun that creates portals to help them proceed. The player can create portals on the other side of a chasm, allowing them to instantly appear on the other side of the otherwise impassable divide. There are also more imaginative uses for the portal gun, such as creating a portal under a crate and then dropping that crate onto an active turret, knocking the turret over and making the passage safe to cross. The number of applications of the portal gun are numerous and can become heady, especially when you can create a pair of portals and chase yourself into them ad infinitum. As the player progresses further into the game, the puzzles become more challenging, forcing the player to experiment and innovate with the portal gun.
The final addition, Team Fortress 2, is the multiplayer game included in Orange Box. Since Team Fortress 2 uses a different visual style than the other games in addition to being multiplayer, it feels quite distinct. The characters sport a cel-shaded, cartoony look in addition to simple but fluid animation. This multiplayer game requires the players to choose from a number of different classes with different strengths to compete against others in online battles. The classes vary widely, with a bazooka toting soldier, a stealthy spy, a swift scout, and clever engineers. Each class has different talents, like the engineer’s ability to set up a turret to ambush foes, or the spy’s ability to blend in with the background. Considering the popularity of Team Fortress, Team Fortress 2 should be a lot of fun.
With the leap to next-gen, gamers can expect the visuals to be upgraded as well. When it was released, Half-Life 2 stunned gamers everywhere with its realistic and detailed visuals, and while the Xbox visuals were stunning for the time, the next-gen versions should be much more appealing. The Xbox’s atrociously recurring load screens should be obliterated as well, creating a more cohesive and enjoyable gaming experience.
Although it has been delayed regularly, gamers can believe that they are getting closer to the release of Half-Life 2: Orange Box for their favorite next-gen console. Whether they prefer to play HL2: OB on the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, or their PCs, the Orange Box bundle is too good to pass up. Hopefully we’ll see its release (barring any more delays) this September.