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Lots of Fun in The Orange Box

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageGood news for any gamers out there.  On October 10th Microsoft released what is sure to be the best value for your hard-earned dollars this year.  For $59.99, you can get five games for the price of one, and they’re all in The Orange Box.

Granted, these aren’t all full-length games each with the scope and scale of Halo 3.  It’s more like a main act followed by some very solid encores.  Included are Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode 1, Half Life 2: Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2.  It may come as no surprise that HL2 is the “star” of the show.  Originally released for PC, HL2 makes its next-gen console debut here with the Xbox 360 (The Orange Box is slated for release for the PS3 next month).  HL2: Ep1 & 2 are installments in what is essentially another sequel to the immensely popular FPS, but rather than waiting to develop Half Life 3, Valve Software is releasing this sequel in increments.  While Episode 1 was formerly available as a PC title, Episode 2 follows Gordon Freeman in brand new travails and adventures.  If you’re like me, this is a great way to finally immerse yourself in the Half Life universe.  But before you get lost in the struggle against the Combine and emancipating Earth, there’s plenty more goodness in The Orange Box.

Portal is highly entertaining and offers a surprisingly large amount of replayability for such a succinct game.  It was also developed by Valve, and in fact uses the same engine as Half Life 2.  But rather than a shoot 'em up, Portal falls into a new category: the FPP, or First-Person Puzzler (hmmm, I wonder if that's been trademarked yet).  You find yourself as an experimental subject for the mysterious Aperture Science Corporation.  Given the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (or more simply "portal gun") you are placed in a series of tests that require you to use the portal gun to pass.  The fun is not only in exploring all of the various ways to use the portal gun, but also in the quirky, disembodied voice that directs you through the tests. 

Team Fortress 2 is a multiplayer, team-based FPS that is played entirely online.  Interestingly, while it was originally intended to be a more realistic, military-style tactical shooter in the vein of Ghost Recon 2 and Rainbow Six:Vegas, the developers instead opted for a more cartoonish visual style that calls to mind the works of Pixar.  Adding to the game play are the nine different character classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.  The various combinations that can make up each team can turn a simple “capture the flag” game into hours of creative fun.

If you buy one game this year, why not buy five?  You can't go wrong with The Orange Box.