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Half-Life 2: The Orange Box
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I am an old fan of the Half Life series, and played both HL and HL2 on the PC when they originally came out. This, the first Play Station rendering, was somthing I've been looking forward to buy for quite some time.
The Half Life 2 games are still amazing, and this package contains all three of them (the original, and the two episodic expansions). The gameplay is almost unequaled in the genre, with the physics engine providing many great puzzles. Their graphics are beginning to age slightly, but are still competetive even now, and are clear and effective. The plotline, whilst intrinsically simple, has a wealth of detail and setting behind it, and this, coupled with a great soundtrack-ranging from enemy comm-chatter, to random quips from your rebel teammates- leads to a very immersive, fun experience.
The new solo offering, Portal, is a fantastic game, marred only by its shortness. The addition of portals to the Steam engine provides a very playable puzzle game, whilst the wicked sense of humour and concept provide an unforgettable gaming experience. Not quite worth the £50 RRP all by itself due to its shortness, as part of this package, Portal is a must-buy.
Team Fortress is the area where I have had least experience, but neverthless, the multiplayer offering rounds out the selection, providing a light, entertaining bit of carnage. The team-play dynamics are well balanced, and the game is different enough from the other competitiors (Resistance and Call of Duty) to stand out. The cartoonish graphics are some of the best I've seen, and the bright, styalised gameplay is qutie refreshing after the atmospheric Half Life, and dowright disturbing Portal. The only problems I've encountered come with the rather limited map selection, and possibly the reduced player count, but again, these are minor gripes, and this aspect of the box is a strong addition to the product.
Having said that, I was nervous of buying this game due to all the negative press it was reciving complaining about lockups, frame rate lags, and even crashes. Having completed both Portal and the main Half Life 2 game, and made some headway in Episode one, I have to say these problems are overblown. I have had the game freeze on me a grand total of once. There are a few patchy framerate places, but these are rare and not serious, definately not game-breaking. Had I not read the reveiws complaining about these problems, I wouldn't have even noticed them. The one aspect I do agree with is the complaints about loading screens, but these exist even on the PC version, and they are annoying (as loading screens always are!) but again, nothing approching game breaking. Maybe the game is better played on the xBox, or even the PC. I wouldn't know, but this game, on the PS3, is still a must-buy title.
The games themselves deserve 5/5, and the five-in-one value pack makes it a great buy. The few technical issues, and the pervasive belife that maybe this could have been avoided with a slightly better port are enough to knock off a star, at most...