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Half Life 2: Episode 2: The Orange Box!

Gordon Freeman, one of the gaming worlds most known characters returns in a five-in-one gaming package that at first glance one would think to buy. Think again!

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Years Into The Future, And They Have Not Invented Any New Weapons: The Orange Box is a newly released game from Valve, once again featuring Valves own personal mascot, Gordon Freeman. This game contains almost every game in the Half-Life series, and some new unveilings. The Orange Box comes packaged with Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2, but first, lets look at Half-Life 2, and the episodes that come with it.

For those of you who have not played the hugely acclaimed Half-Life, let me sum it up in a few words, you are not missing much. If you asked most people of their opinion of Half-Life 2, most would probably say that it is fantastic, and to buy it now. But in reality, it really is not the Holy Grail of games. It has the same basic weapons that have been in use since the days of Marathon and Doom, basically just a roster of a 9mm Pistol, Magnum, Shotgun, SMG, and a grenade, with the exception of the Gravity Gun, a gun that lets you pick up curtain metal objects and people, and throw them around the room, occasionally using a plate of metal or a blade to kill your foes, but nothing new.

As for the Episodes, they add some new levels, some new allies, a few new puzzles, and advancement in the story, but other than that, the Episodes really do not add much. No new weapons, no new enemies, not even a big graphical overhaul. The least they could do is add one more original weapon, or put a new species of alien to hack down, but no.

Why Won't You Die: Episode One is really just the same stuff that is in HL2, basic weapons, ok story, and crazy hard puzzles, but with advancement in the HL2 story, and not enough hacking up your enemies with a blade by your Gravity Gun while suspended in the air. Episode One is a big disappointment in terms of, almost everything. The story for Episode One has Gordon once again, traveling with his "friend" Alyx, while the tension between them is intensified, in a bid to save the world, but in reality you will not really see any parts of the story progress. All you see are almost unsolvable puzzles, the same old stuff.

As for Episode Two, the story focuses on Gordon and Aylx traveling beyond the city walls of City 17, and encountering so-called new dangers, plus the increased tension between Gordon and Alyx. As for what E2 adds, well, it adds more than E1, but that statement does not say much, as E1 added nothing except a few new levels. E2 adds some new levels, and a couple of new foes to face, but the content in E2 is nothing to have a fatal heart attack about though.

More Games That Take Place In The Half-Life World: Now lets move onto the strange puzzle/mind game, Portal. There really is not much I can say about Portal, but I'll try. The first thing I have to mention so as to not waste your time is that Portal has no meaning. The only story that is associated with Portal is that the game takes place in the HL universe. And as far as gameplay goes, Portal is the most disappointing game of the bundle, and that's being nice. Why somebody thought that making a game about a person that runs around and makes holes in a wall is beyond me.

I Don't Get To Play TF2 Because I Don't Have Live: Now lets conclude this review with Team Fortress 2. Now, when you play a multiplayer game, especially a multiplayer ONLY game, you expect the game to have the usually standard split-screen feature, just in case you do not have friends that want to lug their Xbox 360 to your house for multi console gaming. You expect that you can just invite them over and have a merry time, right? Wrong! Team Fortress 2 has no split-screen multiplayer gaming.

The only way that less fortunate gamers without XBL could even think about playing TF2, is if they had a buddy that would bring his (or her) console to your house to play it. To the gamers that do not have the privilege of the glorious Xbox Live service, this is a huge deal. This means that these less fortunate gamers will most likely not be able to play one of the most anticipated multiplayer games of the year.

Top Of The Class: Team Fortress 2 brings two things rarely seen on Xbox 360: humor and good, class-based multiplayer. TF2 offers a cartoonish type style that nicely contrasts its brutal gameplay. Taking on any of nine different roles, up to sixteen players compete on a total of six maps in objective-based games.

The class system is what helps TF2 stand out among other 360 titles. The nine different roles are very unique from one another, so that playing a Soldier class and playing a Demo Man are very different experiences. As mentioned before, there are nine classes, built to match the gaming style of any gamer.

There are classes that are meant to be the mad killers best friend; The Solider who carries a Rocket Launcher, a Shotgun, and an entrenching weapon for close range combat, the Demo Man who obviously carries a Grenade Launcher, and Mines, the Heavy who wields a massive Chaingun with secondary weapons of a Shotgun, and his bare fists. And the Pyro who has an easy arsenal to figure out, a Flamethrower to engulf his enemies with fiery pain.

But do not think that TF2 only encourages mindless killings; there are also other classes that require more skill than kill. Such as the Scout who is a very fast moving class that prefers a lighter load than other classes by using a small Shotgun, a Pistol, and a Bat as weapons. The Engineer who is a repair based class that uses a standard load-out. A Shotgun, Pistol, and a Monkey Wrench that doubles as a repair tool and a Melee weapon.

As well as the aforementioned classes of skill, there is also the Medic, who carries a weapon that fires syringes, albeit very slowly, and can recover his health through time. In addition to those classes there are two other classes that require perfect timing and skill above anyone one else, the Sniper whose arsenal is self-explanatory and my personal favorite, the Spy.

The Spy has the ability to assume the form of any other class, and play the part of an opposing teams ally. This disguising ability will allow the Spy the infiltrate the enemy base and take down the opposing team from the inside by killing the other members of the team with his Revolver, Butterfly Knife, and an Electric Zapper. But looking like the enemy is not the entire role of playing the Spy. You have to act along with the disguise, meaning the Spy class will not be used by too many, but still loved and adored by all.

Control Freak: Controls in TF2 are very simple. You jump and fire weapons. That is really all you need to know. The left trigger is alt fire and the right trigger is primary fire. The bumpers switch weapons. The layout is simple, the kind of game that anyone can jump into and have fun with easily.

Match Play: Since there is no solo deathmatch in TF2 and with each class having unique skills there is a big emphasis on teamwork. Going solo is not going to help you win a Control Points battle on a large map like the Well. While PC gamers are often good at playing nicely together, that is not always the case with console owners. (You will know what I mean if you've ever played on Xbox Live). So this teamwork requirement could turn games ugly on XBL. But that is not Valve's fault in any way; it is just the nature of console gamers. That is why a deathmatch option would have actually benefited the objective-based games -- since those who want team play can group together and leave others to mindless mayhem.

Rent vs. Buy: In the end, The Orange Box is a decent package. I thought the included games were okay, but they don't bring anything new to the table that we have already not seen with the exception of the impressive Team Fortress. But, With the package being only $60 ($50 for lucky PC gamers) I think that this is a pretty solid deal. Even though the HL Episodes did not add much more than a few levels and Portal is a below decent game, I would still recommend it as a buy for solid HL fans. As for the rest of us, I would pass on it.

Report Card

In the end, The Orange Box is a decent package. I thought the included games were okay, but they don't bring anything new to the table that we have already not seen with the exception of the impressive Team Fortress. (Krakrabbit.com)

C+


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