Orange Box is a strange name for a video game, except maybe for a video game about Nicole Kidman's lady garden. But it is the name Valve has chosen for its first release on the PS3; and what a release it is. It may be late, but this is better than ever. The Orange Box gathers together Half-Life 2
and Episode One
, both of which have previously been released, Episode Two
, Team Fortress 2
, and Portal
. Now how does that grab you for £50 (or less after dealer discounts)?
The Orange Box was originally to have a companion release, called The Black Box (no Halle Berry lady garden jokes here!). The Black Box was to have contained the new titles from the Orange box, without the previously released stuff.
I?m not going to review Half-Life 2
here, because the game has been out for over three years, and has been comprehensively reviewed on other platforms, as has Episode One
. Suffice to say, as First-Person Shooters (FPSs) go, Half Life 2
is something special. It eschews level-after-Abaddonesque
-level filled with Xeroxed infernal baddies and concentrates instead on narrative structure, and creative puzzles. It also combines a sophisticated physics engine with some very novel weapons. The result is an FPS similar to, but quite unlike, all the others.
Half-Life 2: Episode One
is a logical sequel to HL2
, which takes place immediately subsequently and is set in City 17, like HL2
itself. Episode Two
is unsurprisingly the third game in the series featuring the same universe, characters and overall game mechanic.
But what I?m reviewing here is the The Orange Box package, specifically with respect to how the Half-Lives
play on PS3, and what the "new" software is like.
So, what's new in Half Life
? Well... very little. The Half-Lives 2
on PS3 are extremely similar to how they were on PC. Indeed the experience is similar to how it was on a high-end PC at the time of the game's release, with the frame-rate being comparable for the screen size.
Early versions of the PS3 version reportedly suffered frame-rate issues. These have largely been addressed in the retail version and, although a few remain, they are not so common nor so annoying as to be significantly detrimental to the playing experience. This is with the exception of Episode 2
where, at points, frame-rate truly chokes.
Loading times can be distressingly long, breaking up the flow in a most unsatisfying manner. Though no worse than the loading times on an averagely equipped PC from the days of Half-Life 2's
original release, loading takes a good deal longer than on Xbox 360. Given the PS3's standard hard-disk, there's no excuse for this, other than it possibly being a slapdash port of the 360 version. Valve has apologised for these issues, and has asked users of its forum for feedback that will guide them in the production of a patch to be released some time in the future.
As with all marriages, as well as something old, we need something new, and The Orange Box delivers on that front - although it has failed us with things borrowed and things blue. Firstly (or secondly, I?m not really sure) there's Portal
, a strange little HL2
total conversion (TC) - a game that uses the HL2
engine with new characters and environments. Portal is an idiosyncratic FPP (First-Person Puzzler) that combines the trappings of an FPS with those of a puzzle game. It's a truly innovative use of an existing game mechanic and familiar themes to produce something that, while quite short is also extremely entertaining.