The Orange Box Reader Review
After hurriedly typing out a brief overview of the orange box for the forums I was inspired to embark on a series of brief, time limited reviews.
Remember, I do these things so you don't have to, do not try this at home.
Having completed all 4 of the orange box's single player campaigns I thought I'd offer a brief summary of each.
Lets start with the original, and still best of the 'trilogy' shall we, half life 2.
When I first played this game back in 2004 I was blown away, jaw dropping visuals, believable characters, realistic and satisfying weapons and a breathtakingly authentic physics system.
The game still holds up today, the graphics have aged well but the cracks are beginning to show. It's the feeling of isolation that really steals the show in this game. Even the much maligned boat level creeps me out. Stopping at deserted outposts, the story of the place told not through cut scenes or dialogue but the environment. Magnificent.
On the downside there is some serious pacing issues throughout which become more noticable after repeat playthroughs. I was never a fan of the gravity gun either and stick to conventional weapons where ever possible. Unfortunately only a few of the conventional weapons are fun to use (ironically the shotgun and smg in this game are two of the most satisfying weapons I've ever witnessed in an fps).
Still just about worthy of a 10, even by todays standards.
I was hoping episode 1 would see a continuation of the second games strengths, unforgiveably it seemed to concentrate on everything that was wrong with it. The terrible citadel levels, boring, repetitive zombie battles and confined corridors.
The 3 hours or so it took me to finish it constituted the single worst fps experience I have had this year, a real dissapointment.
I was hoping Episode 2 could be the episode that would redeem valves policy of 'episodic' content. Luckily for me, and the thousands of half life fans it was an emphatic justification of that policy.
Even though the game starts of with a fairly enjoyable slog through the twisting burrows of an antlions nest I was ecstatic when I finally made it outside. The greater emphasis on wide, open spaces the developers had promised was evident.
Unfortunately, although she is a wonderful character the inclusion of Alyx as a partner throughout almost the entire epsiode robs it of that lonely feeling the second game had.
Vehicles made a welcome reappearance too. Though the controls are difficult to master, having a quicker means of transport than simply walking means the developers are given free reign to expand the environments.
Up until the last battle I couldn't stop smiling. Sadly the final encounter prooved to be one of the most frustrating experiences in the series so far, though the ending had me hungry for more.
Portal is a strange game. I'm not someone that enjoys the average puzzle game but was looking forward to this after all the hype. Surprised to say it almost lived up to what I'd heard.
I say almost, there were a few occasions when I died through what I felt was no fault of my own and due to it using the source engine the jumping puzzles weren't always easy to judge.
I've got no qualms saying this is the best puzzle game I've ever played though, not least because of it's incredibly well told story. A satisfying, compelling tale and one that resolves the plot whilst still leaving the gate open for a sequal. Oh, and not only will you be humming the theme song for weeks after you'll have to bury your head in the sand if you don't want to keep on hearing the genius 'memes' from the game on 'teh intawebs'.