The Orange Box (TOB) is the second of Valve's three episodes for the seminal half life 2, and while we may have had low expectations after the not-so-awesome episode 1, and we've had to wait a long, long time to play TOB, cast aside your worries and concerns: TOB is one of the best games of the year.There are five games here, three of which are new. The new games are Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. The older games are Half Life 2 and Episode 1. This means you're literally buying two games you already own, but that's really not a big deal given the overall price and quality of the package, and if you're fortunate enough to not own Half Life 2, then this is astounding value.
Episode 2 is probably the weakest of the three games, but to say it's also utterly awesome perhaps puts the overall quality of this package in perspective. The story picks up exactly where episode 1 left off. You're immediately thrown into a series of long and winding tunnels, utterly linear, with some simple physics puzzles here and there. The gunplay doesn't start proper until about an hour in, when you get to a small human camp. It's a great set piece involving turrets, friendly AI and a hell of a lot of antlions.
The game goes on like this, alternating between rather mediocre linear run n gunning with occasional physics puzzles which are simple, but serve as a pleasant distraction, and then the game throws a simply wonderful set piece at you. I don't want to go into details about them, they are best experienced without prior knowledge. But suffice it to say that while episode 2 is not the greatest of games, it is a worthy addition to the Half Life universe, and a game anyone fond of HL2 should play. It clocks in at about five to six hours, making it slightly longer than episode 1.
The second game in the collection is Portal, and for those of you not familiar with what portal is: you're in for a treat. It's a first person puzzle game where you can fire portals into walls, a blue and an orange, then step through one and out of the other. It's difficult to simply do the game justice with its basic description. The puzzles begin easy, with things like firing a portal across one side of a chasm, and another on your side to easily pass through. But an hour later you'll be pushing your brain and your finger to their limits.
The whole game is only around three and a half hours long, but it's an utter pleasure to experience from start to finish, it has a wonderfully dark sense of humour (and is probably the funniest game of the year) as you're guided by an unworldly computerised voice that is... eccentric. Without spoiling anything, the game also has a simply perfect ending.
Team Fortress 2 is the final original game in the package, and for anyone who even vaguely enjoys multiplayer FPS games, it's the highlight of TOB. It is in essence an objective-based class-based team multiplayer FPS. You'll select a class (each of which has strengths and weaknesses, and has to work effectively with the other classes to function properly), choose your team and jump straight into the game.
One of the greatest strengths of TF2 is that the individual focus of the player is not merely on kills and deaths, but uses a points based system which also factors in kill assists, headshots, dominations (awarded for killing the same person several times), revenge kills (killing someone who is dominating you) and various other things. This means you won't be preoccupied with your simple ability to kill the enemy, but will be more focused on helping your team as best you can.
Visually, the game is a pleasure to experience - it looks more like a cartoon than a computer game, and does wonderful things with the source e