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February 13, 2008
Half-Life 2: The Orange Box
PS3 Review Page 3
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
20/12/2007EA GamesEA GamesValve (Original) /
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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While we are on the subject of leaving marks on the crowd, it's time to talk about this delightfully unique and fun game. I am of course talking about the surprise smash hit, Portal. If you haven't heard anything about this game, then I really suggest you just play it. You know that line that guy says in that movie... “Unfortunately no one can be... told what Portal is... you have to see it for yourself.” Well, that delightful chap was right onto the money!

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Portal is certainly a highlight.
Imagine, if you will, that Black Mesa had some competitors who also were dealing with advanced scientific research in new and exciting areas. Now image that they were, in particular, dealing with teleportation and inter-spatial portals. Now imagine that a whacky AI computer killed with a somewhat worrying obsession with cake was left in charge of a seemingly deserted facility designed to test and educate a gun that shoots out these portals by putting subjects into puzzle-based areas that are impossible to solve without the gun.

Sound like fun? Well it is. This is pretty much the basis of portal. And when I say pretty much, I mean entirely. Portal is fun, innovative, fresh and damn entertaining. GLaDOS (the AI character) has a great dark sense of humour that will have you smiling all the way through the game.

The first portion of the game is set up in 19 puzzle chambers, where players must use portals to get from the beginning to the end. This will involve placing cubes on buttons, disabling turrets, overcoming obstacles, and so on. As with any puzzle game, they start out simple and get harder as you advance through the levels. After these puzzle chambers are all complete, there *IS* more... so don't just be happy to have the game end there as many people seem to have done.

First person platforming has been tried before. Some games even managed a half-decent job of it, but Portal eats those games up and runs away with them. Controlling Chell, the character, never feels uncomfortable or weird. Initially I had concerns with using a controller, as some later areas require very quick and precise movements that I thought would only be possible with the precision of a mouse. Luckily, as with all similar concerns regarding The Orange Box, this has translated perfectly to the SIXAXIS controller and feels absolutely natural.

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See the portals you've created?
I think there's only one thing you can really complain about with Portal, and that is how brief the experience is. The game can be finished in less than 5 hours, and for an experienced gamer, perhaps as quickly as 3 hours. However, there are some advanced levels (harder versions of some of the puzzle chambers), as well as some challenge modes (finish the level with the least portals, etc.). Also, as with Episode One and Two, there is developer's commentary for those interested in finding out more about the creative process Valve went through. All in all, Portal is only available as part of The Orange Box, so I don't think you can really complain about value.

One very nice aspect of the PS3 version is that, due to the way in which the levels are designed, this looks practically identical to the PC release. No sacrifices have been made, and it still runs perfectly. Load times are slightly longer, but still kept to about 6 or 7 seconds max. As far as aesthetics go, this is a winner!

Audio in Portal is fairly minimal, simply due to the nature of the game. However, what is there is great. My only complaint would be that the music is far too sparse, as what is there actually adds a lot to the overall personality of the game.

Yeah, this part of the review is short... but portal is, at heart, a puzzle game. Where it stands out is the simplicity within the game play mechanics. That's not to say it's boring or easy, but with no real flaws, how exactly can you expand on 'this game is great!'? This really is one game that all gamers should have a go of, because even though it is played in first-person, it is not a FPS. Even with it being exceedingly short, Portal is alone worth a full purchase price in my opinion (as are all four of the so far mentioned games included in The Orange Box).

Team Fortress 2...

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This is certainly a new graphics style for TF!
Team Fortress is a multiplayer only series that dates back to the original Quake game. A mod based on team-objective game types, players choose from a list of 9 classes upon spawn and attempt to either capture control points, or a briefcase (the latter being a form of Capture the Flag). The mod was later recreated as a standalone retail product running on the original Half-Life engine, and now Team Fortress 2 runs on the Source engine.

Never being a Team Fortress fan back in the old Quake and Half-Life days, this wasn't really a selling point of The Orange Box to me, but for the sake of this review and general curiosity, I gave it a go. However, for the first 2 weeks of owning, I was unable to even load up the game. In my normal account, it froze my PS3 to the point where it restarted itself. I did a little research and found that apparently there were issues and to avoid them you had to make a new account just for TF2. Tried that, still no luck. It never connected. A mate who also bough The Orange box confirmed, he was having the exact same issues. Over the course of about 12 days I tried at least every second day to get on without any luck. Finally, whilst writing this review, I managed to get online with my new Team Fortress 2 only account, but not with my normal PSN account.

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Sadly, the game runs like shit.
A few moments into the game it was very apparently how laggy the servers were. I had heard a lot of people commenting on this, but I always put it down to their connections or other issues, but I can now confirm, Team Fortress 2 servers are hands down the worst servers available in any online shooter. It becomes virtually unplayable. Not only this, but after reading all over the internet that this is the 'most balanced shooter to date' I was surprised to find that regardless of how I played the game, there was no way I could get anywhere because the enemy team 9/10 times set up sentry turrets covering the points we need to get to complete the objective. Even if I went as a spy class, disguised myself, got by the turrets, I could only complete the objective by taking the disguise off, and then dying from turret fire. But its okay, my team-mates seemed to use the exact same cheap tactics. As a result, we either got pummelled (when not using this tactic) or were stuck in a stalemate.

I'd like to tell you there is a saving grace of Team Fortress 2, as I hate to have any real negativity in the same review as Episode Two, Portal, etc. but I really failed to find anything that made this game enjoyable. It's a very one-dimensional class orientated team shooter that feels like it was made in the late 90s and has got a spot of new paint added to it. None of the weapons are particularly memorable, the classes all seem useless except for the one with the sentry guns, and the server setup is awful. How this game has got so much critical acclaim from other sites I really don't know. Perhaps if you live in America, where EA actually care about their gamers and provide decent server bandwidth, it magically becomes the best thing since sliced bread, however, I would go as far as to say this is the FPS equivalent to Lair. The only thing that makes this game worth considering is the company it keeps being a part of The Orange Box.

One thing that could have been nice is the overall feel of the game regarding graphics. It's all done using cartoony visuals that remind me somewhat of the old Outlaw western shooter game by LucasArts. Unfortunately, rather than coming off as quirky and delightful, they simply seem bland and undetailed. This goes also for the levels which seem very uninteresting.

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In fact, it's unplayable in Australia!
Audio is suitably cartoony, but far too simple for my liking. Even on a full surround sound setup, effects sound hollow and empty. Granted, this isn't usually a big part of multiplayer gaming, but it does hurt the game in my opinion.

Team Fortress 2 is a waste of space on the Blu-Ray disk that The Orange Box occupies. All the issues I have listed have been repeated to me from at least half a dozen other gamers, and I've heard no good thing said about it outside of American shores. I can only assume this is the type of thing that keeps all the McDonalds lovers, who are quite happy to fork out money for the same sub-par shit every single time, happy. As such, I will be more or less ignoring Team Fortress 2 in the score for this release. This is the epitome of crap.

The Orange Box as a Package...

Okay, so The Orange Box isn't perfect. Team Fortress 2 ruins that. However, all other aspects of the release are so good that I am going to completely ignore Team Fortress 2 for the purpose of scoring. There are, technically 5 games here, but it's REALLY only 4 games. However, with all 4 games being worthy of full priced purchases themselves, and all offering a second-to-none high-quality-in-all-areas experience with unmatched production values, The Orange Box really is as good as it gets. Okay, if you despise FPS you might only like Portal, and perhaps you might want to wait for a special price drop or something, but even then, if you have never played the Half-Life series, I urge you to give it a go. Half-Life and all the sequels really are unique in many ways and it is great that they have finally come to a nice release on consoles. There is very, very little sacrificed in the transition from PC to PS3 here and I cannot think of a title I could recommend more highly to any gamer. Go and get Half-Life 2: The Orange Box now! I'm serious!

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

GRAPHICSUnmatched visuals and effects in a FPS on the PS3. Some very minor frame-rate drops in one or two places over all 4 games.
SOUNDAmazing quality music, voices, and effects. Music is a little sparse at times, but what is there makes up for it. Killing inter-dimensional aliens never sounded so good!
GAMEPLAYUnique in every way. Each game in this package outdoes the last. Episode Two and Portal in particular are games that I don't expect will be outdone by anything coming soon, expect perhaps Episode Three... This is as close as we are ever going to get to a perfect PC-to-PS3 port, even EA didn't mess this up!
VALUE4 games for the price of 1 sound good? How about 4 AAA titles that redefine the genres they belong to for the price of one? This is as good as money in the bank!
OVERALLThe ONLY reason to not purchase The Orange Box is if you were only interested in online gameplay and nothing else. On that count it's a big loser. But Team Fortress aside, this is about as good as a perfect release. It still won't appeal to everyone – no game does; but you'd have to be a damn fussy gamer to hate this to the core.

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