Half-Life 2: The Orange Box

The key word that’s being tossed about at the moment when The Orange Box is discussed is ‘value’. For the price of one game, you’re getting a heck of a lot of gaming goodness that is sure to keep you entertained for a long time to come. In fact, one of the only bad things you could say about The Orange Box is that the box art is pretty terrible.

Here’s what you get when you purchase The Orange Box: Half Life 2, the first two episodic semi-sequels, the puzzle game Portal, and the online tactical shooter Team Fortress 2. I’ll break things down and explain each individual game:

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Half Life 2

What more needs to be said about Half Life 2? It’s one of the best first person shooters ever created, and produced a veritable storm of praise when it was released back in 2004. While the graphics have become slightly dated in places, and a couple of newer FPS games have improved on some of its gameplay elements, it’s still a blast to play through.

Half Life 2: Episode One

The first new episode for Half Life 2 continues the storyline, beefing up the role of your sidekick Alyx and giving you a few new levels to go through. However, nothing is really wrapped up, and many questions remain unanswered – something that is to be expected, but it would have been nice if something more exciting happened. The episode is pretty short, clocking in at just a few hours of gameplay time, but seen as one part of a greater whole, it does what it needs to do.

Half Life 2: Episode Two

This is where Half Life fans looking to continue the story will start getting excited. Episode Two is brand new, and it shows – the graphics have been updated, and there are a good handful of great set pieces that players will enjoy.

Overall, Episode Two is a big improvement on Episode One. It’s longer for a start, and the story elements – particularly the role of Alyx – are more satisfying. The levels also feel a bit different compared to anything the series has done before. Overall, it’s a lot tighter than the previous episode, and will leave gamers craving Episode Three – the final in the Half Life 2 story arc.


But wait – there’s more! As if all that Half Life goodness wasn’t enough, you’ll also get to play through a first person puzzle game that is mind-bendingly fun. Using the Half Life 2 engine, you must navigate through a series of rooms using the titular portal gun, which allows you to create – surprisingly – portals from one part of a level to another. You’ll really need to apply your brain to some of the situations that are presented – things can get pretty hairy if you get up to the hardest puzzles.

It also helps that the game is pretty hilarious, thanks to the computerized female voice that helps (or hinders) you. While you’ll finish it in three or four hours, you can unlock harder versions of older puzzles, and the gameplay itself is fun enough to warrant coming back to this one again and again.

Team Fortress 2

And finally, we have Team Fortress 2, an online class-based shooter in a similar vein to something like Battlefield. While there are only six maps, and various game modes can only be played on some of them, there’s still plenty of fun to be had here. The game is at its best when a few people choose appropriate classes and work together as a team. The classes include a scout (fast yet relatively weak), a soldier (generic shooter), and a pyro (with a very fun flamethrower!).

Probably the most distinctive thing about Team Fortress 2 is its graphical style. The cartoony art is great, from the over-the-top character classes to the levels themselves. It’s actually a welcome break from the typically realistic look of other games of this type, and only adds to the fun.

So there you have it – five fun slices of an extremely delicious pie. If you’ve never played Half Life 2 before, this package will keep you occupied for some time to come, and rarely makes a wrong move. And even if you’re a long-time fan of the series, there’s still so much to play with here that you might still want to pick it up. Alternatively, you can just download each game separately from Steam if you so desire. Either way, if you have even a passing interest in first person shooters – or good games in general – this is an excellent package to look into.

"A high quality box full of gaming goodness!"
- Half-Life 2: The Orange Box
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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Comments Comments (2)

Posted by BlackRetina
On Thursday 14 Aug 2008 11:15 PM
TF2 is a noob game imo.
Posted by KravenMore
On Friday 14 Nov 2008 2:49 PM
I got the Orange Box on special for $60, at that price it was an awesome deal. I had partly played through HL2 but going through the whole thing including the episodes is just great. One of the best games in a LONG time.