Monday, 12 January 2009

The Orange Box (pt. 1): Half-Life 2

"At first I was afraid, I was petrified..."
When I was 15 I tried playing a demo for a game that had already been out for several years. I'd installed the demo on my Father's dodgy Advent Win '98 desktop, the one with an Athlon processor from when they were of dubious design, and the hard drive that had died three times, DVD-RW drive once, and the graphics card once.

The game didn't kill the PC, but it scared me so much that I never did end up playing the full version. The crab-like aliens that wanted to mate with the protagonist's face did nothing good for my nerves, and oh how I felt that a wrench was far too inferior a weapon for dealing with the fiends that surrounded me.

I had no idea what the protagonist looked like, but from the appearance of my surroundings (a military-esque laboratory installation, with new residents, and blood splatters), I knew that we were in trouble.

In the present day
Seven years later and I've played through that game's sequel, I'm not as scared of the aliens now and what they do to hosts. I have enough gaming experience to figure out how to get through the puzzles presented to me, and shoot things in the right place.

It's orange and a box
What am I talking about though? Just what is this 'Orange Box?'

A couple of years ago Valve, who brought the world Half-Life, unleashed Half-Life 2 (again, it had been out in 2005), some more sequels (well direct follow-ons from the second game, but not huge games), an online team game, and a 'puzzle' game. They bundled all this loveliness into The Orange Box, which was available for PC, PS3, and XBox 360.

So inside the box you get: Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2.

After playing through Half-Life 2, I can't help but feel satisfied with a visually stunning game, a great storyline and fantastic game play. Oh, and I played it on the 360.

You play as theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman, who mysteriously ends-up in City 17, in the middle of an Earth being 'raped' by alien forces. From what I can tell, things didn't end fantastically in the first game, and Freeman was presumed lost. Yet once in City 17, you help Freeman to find some familiar faces, and then fate sets about turning Freeman into the guy who is going to save everyone.

FPS and puzzles
There is a huge first person shooter element to this game, but unlike a lot of recent and old FPS games there is quite a puzzle element as well. However, you will find in this game that when you're fighting an enemy that seems pretty much unstoppable, you do need the 'big guns' and puzzles are not involved, only the question of where's the next ammo cache.

Save often
I really appreciated how the game autosaves at appropriate moments, but also it allows you the option to save the game whenever you want as well. I recommend saving often.

The coolest 'weapon' in this game is the Gravity Gun. The things you can get up to with it are amazing. Throwing furniture around never seemed so fun. My other favourite tool is the 'bug bomb' you get near the end of the Sandtraps chapter, after all, who wouldn't want to be in control of legions of dismembering-happy giant bugs?

Essential gaming purchase
As far as essential gaming purchases go, The Orange Box for PC and XBox 360 is a must have.

Not scared now
So, I'm no longer scared of face hugging aliens, and I like bug bombs (you will too), and gravity guns.

Check back at a later date to find out how I fared with the other beauties in the box.

Related links
Official Orange Box website
Valve's official website

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