Half-Life 2 and the Orange Box

Posted on Wed 05 August 2009 by alex in geek

The Orange Box certainly represents the best value for money for gaming in a long time. I think we picked it up for the PS3 for about £12 which in an era of £55 for a new release is welcome in the credit crunch.

People make much of the fact the PS3 port was out-sourced but certainly I've only noticed frame-rate issues once so far and that disappeared on re-load. I've long gotten used to playing FPS games with console controllers to the point I suspect I'd find it hard to play with the PC mouse/keyboard combo. It's also a fairly old game so it probably not making the most of the graphics hardware. However to be honest I don't think I'd notice, graphics reached the point I stopped caring about them a long time ago. I can still jump when some unspeakable horror surprises me in a dark corner and I'm not sure any extra pixel shaders would be noticed as I reach for the shotgun.

On to the game itself. The original Half-Life was fairly ground breaking at the time. Along with Deus Ex it was one of the few PC FPS games I played all the way to the end. The combination of combat with in game scripted plot without resorting to cut-scenes made it a compelling play. The only reason I never bought Half-Life 2 when it first came out was the shift I was making away from PC gaming and single-booting my main machine on Linux. Having had the Call of Duty franchise remind me how much I enjoy the genre it was a fairly easy buy.

One of the things that stands out is a fairly complete physics implementation which allows the player to interact with the environment in more elaborate ways. I think the developers got a little happy with their new toys though having done several variations of the see-saw puzzle throughout the game. This aided by the addition of the Gravity Gun which you can put to good use in later levels and is especially useful in building quick barricades so you don't get overwhelmed by the occasional mass bundles in the game. It can make a fairly useful weapon as well especially when combined with things like circular saw blades. I've read it gets powered up later in the game but I've still to reach the last few levels.

The game is pretty faithful to it's horror roots and alongside the numerous set piece battles with human forces and various aerial contraptions there are mutant zombies, aliens and other twisted lurkers waiting to jump out at you. It is not a game for the faint hearted to play in the dark and it's certainly made me jump out of my seat more than once.

As I've noted previously I'm still in the main Half-Life 2 game. Once out of that I have another two episodes to play before I run out of straight shooting action. This is already far more single player game play than any individual member of the CoD series has delivered. However the other two components are Team Fortress 2 and Portal. TF2 is certainly a fun little multi-player shooter and I enjoy it's cartoon aesthetic and reasonable variety of game-play. However for multi-player I think CoD will still be vying for my attention. I have yet to play Portal but Fliss has been enjoying it immensely (not being a fan of horror shooters herself). It certainly seems to have a sense of humour which combines well with the pure puzzle genre.

So in summary if you are a fan of the FPS genre and for some reason didn't buy any of the components of the Orange Box before then I can highly recommend buying it now.