The Orange Box

The Orange Box Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PC

Half-Life 2 compilation including the newly released Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 and Portal.

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9Out of 10
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This could be the best value next-gen game to date
This could be the best value next-gen game to date

This could be the best value next-gen game to date

I completely missed the boat with Half Life 2. Back in November 2004, when PC gamers were heralding Valve's FPS as the greatest game ever made, I was pumping hours into Halo 2 on the Xbox. When HL2 was finally ported to the original Xbox a year later, it was all too little too late - the Xbox 360 was out and that was commanding my attention. So when I was asked to review the insanely good value The Orange Box for the Xbox 360, which includes the original HL 2 from three years ago, its two expansions, puzzle FPS Portal and online only FPS Team Fortress 2, all from a console-gaming Valve noob point of view, I felt more than a little intimidated. This is supposed to be PC gaming at its finest after all. I also felt a little aggrieved. I'm taking Halo 3 out of my 360 disc drive for this. Time to see what all the fuss is about.

First off, I found it hard to know where to start. I chose the beginning, HL2, although if you played the port of the game on the Xbox you might want to head straight into Episode 1, TF2 or even Portal. But since the name Gordon Freeman meant about as much to me as theoretical physics, I felt like I'd be better off getting as much back story down as possible.

The game opens with a mysterious, suited man who has a strange reptilian voice calling for you to wake up. His name is G-Man, a shadowy, vampire-like figure from the original HL who fans of the series will know well, although I hadn't a clue who he was at first. You're on a train - again, I had no idea why. Turns out that in the first game a dimensional portal was opened in a secret lab triggering an alien invasion. The G-Man, who orchestrated a government cover-up of the whole incident, makes you an offer you can't refuse - work for him or die. The you is Gordon Freeman, HL's hero. He's a scientist who, while working at the Black Mesa lab doing dodgy experiments for the government, unleashed the totalitarian alien infestation called the Combine (yes, as in combine harvester). In HL Freeman leads the fight back, and even goes to the alien's home word Xen to have it out with the slimy buggers.

So, back to the train and the beginning of HL2. You're one of a few workers being transported to City 17, somewhere in Eastern Europe. G-Man had you in stasis until he needed you, and now he's calling. The city is a dump, with peeling walls, crumbling ceilings and rubbish flying about the streets. Oppression is everywhere. There's a looping video of a white-bearded man on a big screen, badgering on about suppressing our instincts and not making babies. There's these genuinely scary beat-down Metrocop guys all over the place, who have gas-masks for faces and muffled electronic voices. Add to that flying cameras that blind you with annoying regularity and what you have is the kind of environment and storyline George Orwell would have concocted if he had chanced his arm at game design instead of literary excellence - and been born in the 70s of course.

'HL2 is quite a slow-paced affair. It doesn't open with a sprint, instead more of a carefully considered stroll. You don't even get a gun for about half-an-hour.'

HL2 is quite a slow-paced affair. It doesn't open with a sprint, instead more of a carefully considered stroll. You don't even get a gun for about half-an-hour. You're slowly and subtly nudged in the right direction without arrows or flashing lights or lines on the floor. You're encouraged to consider your surroundings, take in the atmosphere and feeling of City 17, marvel at the little touches, like when a Metrocop makes you pick up a can and put it in the trash just for his own sick pleasure, and gently nudged deeper and deeper into this engrossing, dark, science fiction nightmare.

You head for the centre of the resistance, meet up with a mate of yours who's working undercover as a Metrocop and make a break for it along City 17's rooftops when the Combine come calling. It's all doomed to failure - you're surrounded and beaten to the floor, but someone comes to your aid - a woman, Alyx Vance, the daughter of your long-time lab partner Dr Eli Vance. She leads you to safety and a lab where there's a crazy old doc type with this alien face-hugger thing for a pet messing about with a transporter. You get your HEV suit at this point, providing you with a shield, super speed and other augmentations. In the first few hours of the game you'll speed away from a stalking helicopter on a sludge-skimming airboat, pick up the Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator (also known as the gravity gun), perhaps the greatest weapon in FPS history, and take on the alien zombie horde in the creepy town of Ravenholm. It's a frenetic, panicky beginning of the game where you never feel fully in control of proceedings. You'll also quickly encounter the main zombie alien threat, which reminded me a lot of the Flood from the Halo series. Quick-moving headcrabs attach themselves to people, then, with their heads submerged and actions fully zombiefied, they stumble about hell bent on your destruction. It's freaky stuff - you can even hear their muffled screams coming from somewhere within the headcrab's stomach.

Console FPS gamers will instantly take to HL2. The controls are classic 360 pad layout - analogues to move and look, A to jump, B to reload, triggers to fire. But one thing that took me a while to wrap my head around is the ability to pick things up with the X button. You can pick up barrels or crates or whatever, which will then appear in front of you, and then carry them around a bit, drop them or throw them. But it's not until you get the gravity gun, HL2's ultimate creative tool, that you'll start to realise why HL2 caused such a fuss back when it first came out. The physics engine is absolutely amazing. Concrete blocks carry real weight, crates drop, fall and tumble as they should and structures collapse into a million tiny pieces. You can pick up flammable barrels, fire them at a group of Metrocops on top of a wooden platform and blow them up just at the right time to see the splinters fly. None of it feels fake. There are puzzles where you have to use the physics engine to progress, for example making ramps by weighing down planks of wood with blocks, or rising submerged platforms with air-filled bottles. Finally, I started to understand why PC gamers reckon HL2 is the pinnacle of game design. This isn't an all action frag fest. This is a physics lesson playing out in gorgeous HD. HL2 proudly stands up to its younger, more aesthetically pleasing cousins with its chest pumped out even today.

Episode Two is the pinacle of the Half-Life series to date

Episode Two is the pinacle of the Half-Life series to date

Saying that, you can tell the game is a few years old by the graphics. While the art direction is fantastic, beautifully capturing the feeling that Earth is held firmly in the grip of an evil totalitarian alien force, the graphics don't compare with say BioShock, Gears of War or Halo 3, which is what most 360 gamers have been playing for the past year. That's not to say they're bad, the facial textures and water effects are some of the best I've ever seen in a game, but 360 owners coming at HL2 fresh won't be blown away by the looks. The handles on the hovercraft mysteriously move themselves and turrets seem to move of their own accord too - where's Freeman's hands? There's also some noticeable pop-up. While the graphics get better in Episode One, and better again in Episode Two (see our full review here), don't expect anything mind blowing.

There were also a few very frustrating instances where I felt the game suffered from a physics engine that was too good for itself. When sprinting away from enemies I sometimes got trapped for no apparent reason. You'll frantically look around and eventually discover some rogue piece of wood or stray fragment of a barrel that you've snagged your foot on. But it's too late - you're dead. Because everything has a place, weight and effect in the game, from hunter helicopter to the tiniest plank, the environments can sometimes frustrate. It's also quite easy to get lost, since the HUD is so clean from clutter. While this is great for admiring the scenery we could have done with a few pointers once or twice.

The loading is worth pointing out. Whenever you approach a new area, the game pauses and loads. This feels distinctly last-gen, especially compared with FPS of the moment Halo 3, which seamlessly loads new areas without pause. It's a slight niggle, but 360 gamers who swap Master Chief for Gordon Freeman will notice it.

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Xzalander's Avatar
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Half Life 2, I agree is slow paced. On both PC and 360. The graphics are slightly low but not far enough to call dated. You can still get new releases which can look alot worse. However the review on its gameplay is almost on the nail. Perhaps you should have mentioned how useful the Grav Gun is. Its not just for picking things up and lugging them at enemies. You can use it do Item Jumps, play tennis etc.

Episodes 1 & 2 : I love how they have managed to stay fresh. My main gripe is that in every HL2 game you end with a massive amount of artillery only to have an "accident" in which they all mysteriously vanish.

Portal : quite lacking at the moment as a 360 release. The PC version is far more superior purely because of the free map releases by the public. On the 360 we shall have to wait for Valve to compile a new set and end up being charged. However as it stands it is a novel game to play through atleast once, GLaDOS should have been harder to defeat and it could have been slightly longer but you just can't get enough of GLaDOS's humor :D

TF2 - Team Fortress 2 : If you buy the OB on the 360 this is basically what you are paying for; as it has the highest replay value.

The game personally is far more enjoyable than say Halo3. It can be just as tense as H3 or GoW - However if you find the right group of people you can just have fun messing around.
Bugwise the 360 is still waiting for the fixes and updates that the PC received ages ago. It has had the basic Lag updates and some bug fixes.

Gameplay : My main note is how in certain cases (usually with less confident players) you may end up in a stalemate with both teams "turtling" with sentries.No one can attack. Usually though some player will rouse their team into a frenzy and go for the assault. So yes it does Ebb and flow. Regards the matchmaking system > I AM SICK of it. I do not need an invisible number to tell me how good/bad I am. Also playing against other people with the same number will not improve my game.
I actually prefer playing a game against excellent players. Yes you may curse the other team has the top five players in 250+ points but thats because they are good, they work as a team and you should strive to do the same without that stupid H3 "Handicap".
There still are gamebreakers such as Skywalking and Facestabs however those who skywalk with an intent to win usually lose and facestabs regardless are funny recipient or not.

Graphics: Excellent! I am tired of seeing ultra-real terrain and detail, the simple surroundings and cel shaded characters allow you to quickly Identify what is important/moving and can make you feel more the fool if you dont.

Audio: Ample enough. There is no music, however If there was It would clutter up your audio cues. When playing youre listening for that injured team-mate yelling Medic, or that beep of a sentry, and just to p-you off... so you can see that Demoman lift his codpiece and then hear him yell "KA-BOOM!" when you die from a sticky. And lets not forget the Heavy - "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR" xD
Posted 11:51 on 07 December 2008
TRBO RAD's Avatar
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Well i think HL2 is amazing it has a great story amazing graphics and keeps me playing and playing over and over i have prob beat it about 6x or more its just that much fun and that doesn't come along often i don't undestand why u say Halo 3 has bttr graphics nvr played bioshock... but i definitely think Half Life has bttr graphics than HALO 3 its graphics are great but they are no where near as top notch as HL2 i don't think and portal is awesome prob the best part of the orange box fun and funny
Posted 05:39 on 28 November 2008
psp_dude_09's Avatar


what is tf2? i have bft2 but thats bravo fire team 2

i think the best game is portal because the game includes a teipotation matrix and i think in graphic matters it's a real hard thing to acheive in graphics.

oops thats teliportation matrix
Posted 00:49 on 07 May 2008
Bob's Avatar
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Review, I hope this clown isn't the one doing the PC versions review, I don't think he's ever played a PC game in his life though so no worries...

TF2 sucks hard on 360 in comparison to the PC version..
Posted 18:44 on 23 October 2007
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100@ Adam

Originally Posted by Adam
Compared to what, exactly? This review is fairly poor, the gameplay is top notch and the value is outstanding, but comparing Half-Life 2 to any FPS right now does not feel dated.

The dated comment relates to the graphics only, not the gameplay. And I'm sorry but Half Life 2's graphics are not as good as Bioshock or Halo 3. The review actually praises the gameplay and the value, agreeing with your comments.
Posted 20:26 on 19 October 2007
Adam's Avatar
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Compared to what, exactly? This review is fairly poor, the gameplay is top notch and the value is outstanding, but comparing Half-Life 2 to any FPS right now does not feel dated.
Posted 18:08 on 19 October 2007
kev's Avatar
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I just wanted to comment on your comment that there are no grenades in TF2. There are indeed grenades using the demolition guy. In fact, not just grenades, but a grenade GUN.. so you can pump out lots of grenades at once.. very fun. Just had to correct you on that
Posted 03:10 on 18 October 2007

Game Stats

The Orange Box
Out of 10
The Orange Box
  • Great value
  • The complete HL2 story to date
  • Portal and Episode Two are amazing
  • Half-Life 2 feels slightly dated
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 19/10/2007
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 2,727 565
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