Reviews// Orange Box

Posted 7 Jan 2008 18:10 by
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.

Iím 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 Iím 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, Iím 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.
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Comments

PreciousRoi 7 Jan 2008 21:02
1/20
Excellent, well-written review....

except ths bit at the end.
Marcus Dyson wrote:
It has often been said that consoles do not offer a competitive platform to the PC for first person games because the mouse/keyboard is a far better control mechanism than a joypad. The Half Life games were originally written to use this control mechanism, since they were first released on PC. While Valve has done its best to make them playable via joypad, and in my opinion, done a great job, it's a shame they did not leave a keyboard/mouse option in the PS3 version, since the machine can accept either USB or Bluetooth input devices.


Which is of course complete ballocks. If the first statement is true, then enabling such would be completely unbalanced in favor of those using a kb/m control scheme, and if anyone managed to hack some kind of workaround (I think there was one for the Xbox) it would be cheating most foul. While I am normally a strong proponent of choice and favor complete customization of control schemata, Console FPSes are all about the dual analog stix from the couch or armchair. Personally, all the vaunted speed and precision of the kb/m setup is irrelevant...as long as everyone is using controllers, its competetively neutral, right? I love the feel I get when tracking a target while moving through all four axes with 'stix, the worst descision a game dev or platform manufacturer could do is encourage kb/m play (on consoles)...it would kill the Console FPS, and lay the gaming console bare as a (generally) nonupgradeable, limited capability, small form factor computer with built-in TV out. The nonupgradeability being a "feature", but that don't look so great on paper...or when you say it out loud. But seriously...it a feature.
Plasmoid 7 Jan 2008 23:51
2/20
Marcus Dyson wrote:
In the early stages of the game, your gun fires the Innie with one shot, and the Outie with the next. However, as the game progresses, your Ďweaponí is upgraded so that you can use separate buttons to fire each portal.


Wait what... did you even play the game. The basic gun at first fires a single portal, the blue portal. This is useless on its own, so turrets with another portal gun mounted fire the orange portal for you. Not only is this crucial to the gameplay, its explained repeatidly especially in the directors commentary... how the hell did you get it so wrong?

There is no Innie or Outie... there are orange portals and there are blue portals, both portals are two way. Only one blue and one orange portal can exist at a time... its that simple.

Ok maybe im being a little harsh... but in addition you made no mention of the great storyline, character ... singular, easter eggs or that its not a portal gun but a man-sized ad-hoc quantum tunnel through physical space with possible applications as a shower curtain. For shame. 2 Sentences on Episode 2 would have been nice as well.
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PreciousRoi 8 Jan 2008 00:41
3/20
meh...
DoctorDee 8 Jan 2008 11:01
4/20
Plasmoid wrote:
Wait what... did you even play the game. The basic gun at first fires a single portal, the blue portal.

Of course I played the game. I played it over Christmas, I wrote the review in early January, I drank a lot between the two, and I misremembered. My bad. But in all honesty, I don't think it's really that important. You go into one portal, you come out of the other. Early in the game, you can only fire one, later you can fire two. I don't mean to sound slap-dash, I usually go to great lengths to check my accuracy - but I played this on my own time, wrote it on my own time, and it was Christmas - give me a break!

Not only is this crucial to the gameplay

Here we disagree. I do not think it's crucial to the gameplay - certainly it affects the gameplay - but it's hardly crucial. You are faced with certain circumstances - you have to overcome them. Those early levels are just really training levels, and in the game proper - you get to shoot both portals.

Only one blue and one orange portal can exist at a time... its that simple.

Yes, but you go into one you come out of the other.

Ok maybe im being a little harsh...

A little, maybe! But you are right, I just don't think those things are really all that important.

but in addition you made no mention of the great storyline, character ... singular, easter eggs or that its not a portal gun but a man-sized ad-hoc quantum tunnel through physical space with possible applications as a shower curtain. For shame. 2 Sentences on Episode 2 would have been nice as well.

I wasn't that impressed with the storyline or the characterisation. Sure the whole cake thing is nice. And the goading. But to be honest, it would not have spoiled it for me if the player character had been a stick man, and the levels had been cell shaded. For me, it was the overall game mechanic and the puzzles that made it. It's an awesome game, but the story and the characters are not what make it awesome. I would love to see a longer portal game, or portals being incorporated into future Half-Life games.

There is so much to say about Episode Two and Team Fortress. Each of those games deserves its own review. But for the purposes of this review there wasn't space. EA didn't send us the game until after it was released, and you'd probably have read that stuff elsewhere. We just wanted to drive home the point that this is a BIG value bundle, and PS3 owners would be stupid not to buy it. And I decided to focus on Portal to get across the point that there was something here even for those who are not big fans of conventional FPSs.


OptimusP 15 Jan 2008 12:08
5/20
PreciousRoi wrote:

Which is of course complete ballocks. If the first statement is true, then enabling such would be completely unbalanced in favor of those using a kb/m control scheme, and if anyone managed to hack some kind of workaround (I think there was one for the Xbox) it would be cheating most foul. While I am normally a strong proponent of choice and favor complete customization of control schemata, Console FPSes are all about the dual analog stix from the couch or armchair. Personally, all the vaunted speed and precision of the kb/m setup is irrelevant...as long as everyone is using controllers, its competetively neutral, right? I love the feel I get when tracking a target while moving through all four axes with 'stix, the worst descision a game dev or platform manufacturer could do is encourage kb/m play (on consoles)...it would kill the Console FPS, and lay the gaming console bare as a (generally) nonupgradeable, limited capability, small form factor computer with built-in TV out. The nonupgradeability being a "feature", but that don't look so great on paper...or when you say it out loud. But seriously...it a feature.


Buttocks, the dual-analog set-up is a dead-born child with its over-complex nature and giving any similiar benefits. It has made FPS-gaming in general slower, less action-packed and removed any kind of strategic thinking only replacing it with some tactical thinking because of the complex nature and slower gameplay. It isn't about skill anymore, it's about who can abuse the auto-aim systems the best.

There is a silver lining offcourse, next generation everyone willl copy the Wiimote and we'll have a true alternative to the Mouse-keyboard set-up (maybe still not as fast but equally precies at least). Dual-analog doesn't define anything, it only defines why FPS in general has been watering down so badly.
config 15 Jan 2008 12:39
6/20
OptimusP wrote:
There is a silver lining offcourse, next generation everyone willl copy the Wiimote and we'll have a true alternative to the Mouse-keyboard set-up (maybe still not as fast but equally precies at least). Dual-analog doesn't define anything, it only defines why FPS in general has been watering down so badly.

Balls. Wii waving has proved itself to be a big, BIG disappointment in the FPS arena. Strafe and shoot just isn't happening, and that's a big negative.

I've really enjoyed the replay of HL2 and Ep1 using sticks. I've increase the sensitivity to get faster aiming, and it's pretty sweet. Certainly more accurate at zeroing in on a target than I've ever been able to with Wii remote - and I've had years of practice at the helm of the gyro mouse I use at home, which also was never any good for FPS.
OptimusP 15 Jan 2008 16:26
7/20
config wrote:
OptimusP wrote:
There is a silver lining offcourse, next generation everyone willl copy the Wiimote and we'll have a true alternative to the Mouse-keyboard set-up (maybe still not as fast but equally precies at least). Dual-analog doesn't define anything, it only defines why FPS in general has been watering down so badly.

Balls. Wii waving has proved itself to be a big, BIG disappointment in the FPS arena. Strafe and shoot just isn't happening, and that's a big negative.

I've really enjoyed the replay of HL2 and Ep1 using sticks. I've increase the sensitivity to get faster aiming, and it's pretty sweet. Certainly more accurate at zeroing in on a target than I've ever been able to with Wii remote - and I've had years of practice at the helm of the gyro mouse I use at home, which also was never any good for FPS.


Even more balls, strafing and shooting works like a charm in MP3. I've had years of practising with dual analog and i still hate it. I love the accuracy and the speed of the Wiimote and it doesn't force developers to slow their FPS-games down to a slugrate so you can actually aim with dual-analogs (plus all the auto-aim they put into it).

Clearly this is a battle of experciences and with what kind of game you've grown up with. well i'm from the TFC-stable, used to having blazing action, tons of explosions going on and high speeds. For me dual-analog and its harbringer Halo have soiled my beloved FPS-genre to great extent with slowing down everything and making everything kid-friendly (gameplay wise). FPS today have been so formulaic it's depressing, just do some bunny-hopping and the AI goes haywire and everyone is moving so slowly, raking up kills in games like Battlefield and COD is piss-easy.

I'm not saying my up-bringing is the right one, only that gamers with my kind of upbringing have been let down a lot lately.
PreciousRoi 16 Jan 2008 04:13
8/20
Seriously you're misremembering things and stuff.

First off its not "kids" that are driving the "slowing down" of FPSes its new gamers of many ages, many of them older, who don't care for the fast paced killtastic shooters you prefer. Halo's success was certainly not built on the backs of children. Also, in my personal experience its the 13-18 year old kids who favor the faster paced games not the other way around.

Also, Halo was not the harbinger of dual analog control...it was the harbinger of the current dominant control scheme which differed from what would be referred to from Halo on as Legacy. The Dual Shock (1998) and Medal of Honor (1999) hold that place in my personal pantheon.Apparently Sony had an earlier Dual Analog controller with a suspect single rumble motor (JAP versions only), and was later withdrawn in favor of the DualShock...so really...the actual harbinger could be considered to be the Sony Dual Analog Controller.

I completely resent your attempt to assert that the games I and my Generation X friends enjoy are somehow less than other games by slagging them off as "kid-friendly". Whoever brought you up should have taught you better manners.
OptimusP 16 Jan 2008 08:59
9/20
I could then say that you are wrong because there is no way you can prove your point, except for the obvious "but i know so many people that play it blabla" which can be easily countered by "but i know so many 11-year olds who only play FPS like Halo and Battlefield blabla" and offcourse "sure that's why you hear so many squaky voices on Xbox Live"

And by kid-friendly i don't mean "happy happy joy joy" friendly but being piss-easy and all about the flash and not the play. People whine on Nintendo for it's mainstream aim, well blame Halo as well, it's doing the same thing to the entire FPS-scene from my point. I never said kids drive the slowing down of the FPS, the dual-analog does that by its very nature because it doesn't allow any kind of speed or precision unless the game is going on a slugrate. Because of that the FPS have become kid-friendly and piss-easy.

If that means i insult your favorite games, so be it. Enjoy your non-challenge games, if you're having fun with them its all good.

LUPOS 16 Jan 2008 16:20
10/20
OptimusP wrote:
Enjoy your non-challenge games, if you're having fun with them its all good.


Soooo.... "fast paced game where everyone has the same control options and speed" = more challenging than "slower paced game where everyone has the same control options and speed". This of course makes total sense. Your obviously a much more talented gamer than a halo player cause you play faster things. Just like runners are much more talented than football players (US version for this example) cause they are moving faster. Riiiiggghhtt.....

___________
OptimusP 16 Jan 2008 19:31
11/20
LUPOS wrote:
OptimusP wrote:
Enjoy your non-challenge games, if you're having fun with them its all good.


Soooo.... "fast paced game where everyone has the same control options and speed" = more challenging than "slower paced game where everyone has the same control options and speed". This of course makes total sense. Your obviously a much more talented gamer than a halo player cause you play faster things. Just like runners are much more talented than football players (US version for this example) cause they are moving faster. Riiiiggghhtt.....

No, you misunderstood. Take for example Tetris with its adjustable speeds, now wich version of tetris is the harder one? The slow-paced one or the faster-paced one. besides, some football (the real one) teams, like the south-korean one, use sprinters.

Also the last remark was to be random and non-sensical, it really meant nothing.
PreciousRoi 17 Jan 2008 02:39
12/20
I honestly don't see what your problem is...the PC still has plenty of games that fit your requirements, and the consoles have never had much in that vein, and all of those have been dual analog...

You appear to be adamant that consoles must produce PC-type FPSes, when apparently the only people who want such things are people who would be happier playing them on a PC anyway.

Also, you never even pretended to address my main point, which was that:
IF "kb/m">"dual analog" THEN "permitting kb/m controls in console FPSes" = "horribly unbalanced".

You only substantive point appears to be:"I don't like it (so no one should have it, even though more people appear to disagree with me than agree)"

You are coming off as a complete PC FPS purist, and as such who the hell are you for anyone to care about your opinion on console FPSes...

Now, I'm not saying that PCs and consoles are completely and utterly imcompatible platforms from the standpoint of FPSes, and never the twain shall meet...but it shouldn't be forced, and it damn well isn't going to be a complete capitulation of every unique quirk that the console FPS has evolved in favor of assimilation back in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the PC FPS. We don't need no Counter-Reformation...

F**k that noise. Why not dedicate yourself to making the game you actualy do enjoy better, rather than railing against the games you don't even want to like? Nobody's forcing you to play Halo, go play Counter Strike all f**king day if thats what you like. But don't cry that because everyone else is having fun playing games that don't involve 1000 frags/min you're an opressed minority who needs affirmitive action, and the whole industry should change what they're doing to humor you.

edit:And where the hell did you develop the fallacious notion that a faster FPS was "more strategic". Thats just plain funny, the only way that works is assuming that a faster FPS would result in an almost complete lack of tactics (which is not completely unreasonable), then assuming that strategy would have to fill in the void (which is kinda stupid), on the further assumption that its a zero sum game(once again, kinda stupid). That just makes "an ass out of you..." , not me of course...I couldn't be that silly.
PreciousRoi 17 Jan 2008 02:45
13/20
Its like the quality of the game is dependant upon the average frags per minute in Deathmatch. Or better yet the approximate speed of the characters...Halo is bad becasue the Master Chief is so slow...

He prolly likes fighting games that reward button mashing too...
OptimusP 17 Jan 2008 08:45
14/20
There isn't really a problem, just my opinion i'm venting since this is a forum where you can vent, nothing more. i like it when people go searching more behind it ^^.

You're quite the ignorant one though, i said i was brought up by TFC and then you trow in Counterstrike...what the hell does Counterstrike have to do with it? TFC-players hate Counterstrike, it's only good for target practice in their eyes (and in mine, so is Battlefield actually). Not all PC-FPS are Serious Sam clones, seems you like to think that.

TFC is brim full of strategy and tactics: you've got to choose a class, then choose a role, then take position, use your grens to the fullest (wich differ from class to class), take out one kind of target so that teammate X in faster class Y can get the flag. It's utter chaos on one side and pure team-based action on the other side. Only ET has given me that same feeling.

I'm not saying console FPS have to be like PC FPS, just that dual analogs need to be trown out of the window because we have a better alternative. One that isn't quite like a m/bk and still has unique quirks and everyone is going to copy anyway. And I salute that!

Besides, you're a assumptionist fool too, me a purist PC FPS guy? I like a good console shooter aswell, i've played the Halo's and what not. It's the reason why i can say that Halo is killing the FPS genre and making it kid-friendly. Not because they're not like PC FPS games (there's too much difference between those as well to think of any kind of standard in the genre, you seem to think there is) but because Halo is doing the same thing that people are accusing Nintendo of. Offcourse you're not allowed to say that about Halo since it has space marines and guns. No way a game with that can do something like making a entire genre kid-friendly.
PreciousRoi 17 Jan 2008 11:48
15/20
But see, thats what you don't get...you say you like console FPSes, yet you despise everything that makes a console FPS different from a PC FPS. The Console FPS, as it is known today, was born with the advent of the dual analog. To claim that you cherish console FPSes but disdain the use of the dual analog sticks is patently ridiculous.

And whats with that bullshit earlier about "blah blah Nindendo blah blah mainstream blah blah blame Halo", seriously, in the past it seems like you've made more sense and have been able to express yourself more coherently (at least in my imperfect memory)...have you discovered drugs recently?

Halo didn't start out trying to be kid-friendly, mainstream, or slowed down. It was just one f**king game. If its success had an affect upon the industry, well thats show buisness for ya... There was no secret memo passed from MS to Bungie telling them to make sure small children and fraternity guys could play Halo. Halo was just a revolutionary, kickass game that the people who were already "mainstream" discovered and adopted. Halo didn't come to the mountain, the mountain came to Halo. And it was good. I think you're just jealous that the popular kids didn't pick your game. Personally I could care less what the "mainstream" does, I found Halo before they did (and I'm proud to say that out of the 1,00's of LAN and Live! matches I've played, less than 20 were splitscreen), their approval or lack thereof is meaningless to me.

Fine, I will amend my previous statement encouraging you to play your PC FPS of choice and leave us happy console gamers to our own devices, replacing CounterStrike with TFC, or whatever...chuckling at your accusation of ignorance...it was just an example, don't get your panties in a twist, I get it...CounterStrike is for n00bz, TFC is 1337, blah, blah, I could care less...

As for rampant overgeneralizations...brother clear the beam in thine own eye before you go worrying about the mote in Roi's...

I also laugh heartily in your face if you think that the wiimote is going to replace the dual analog controls in the hearts and minds of console gamers. Just becasue you don't like them doesn't mean theres not plenty of people who do, and I will reiterate, most of those who are most likely to agree with you are happier playing with a kb/m on a PC, so why should they even give a s**t about consoles?

Also, what the hell does having space marines have to do with anything?? Why are you so frigging hung up on this kid-friendly crap...I've got a hint for you...play some adults in ranked matches until you find some people at your level, if its so damn easy to beat the kids...or mebbe turn up the difficulty level in single player...you can't tell me Halo 2 on Legenday was in any way shape or form "kid-friendly".

Why does it all gotta be about Halo anyway, Rainbow 6 isn't expecially fast, yet I don't hear you bitching about it...
PreciousRoi 17 Jan 2008 12:13
16/20
Allow me to expand upon a theme I touched upon earlier:

Who are "these people" who have been "accusing Nintendo of doing the same thing Halo is doing" or whatever...What is it exactly that they're doing, what doesn it have to do with me or the discussion at hand, and why have you confused me with someone who cares. It seems like you're attempting to describe, without actually coming out and saying it, becasue then it would sound stupid, a vast conspiracy to *gasp* get children to play videogames. When actually the truth is even more insidious, its a plot to get EVERYONE to play videogames...Muh Huh Hah Hah Hah Hah Hah...

OptimusP 17 Jan 2008 13:51
17/20
It will kill us all! Oeh! Bejeweled gimme!
config 22 Jan 2008 16:47
18/20
So I've played through Portal, HL2, Ep1, Ep2. Last night I re-ran through Portal completing it in 3 hours with the Director's Commentary turned on (enlightening for anyone interesting in the evolution of a game's design).

Cannot recommend this package enough - I just wish one could change the controls for vehicle acceleration, as the final battle in Ep2 is a pig when trying to steer and gun the gas with the same stick.

I was expecting crippling slowdown during Ep2, as reported in the 'nets. However, I saw barely any slowdown in Ep2. The worst came during Ep1 in the water-filled basement, but it lasted all of a minute or two.

Clearly slowdown in a PS3 game when the 360 version was smooth is ridiculous, but for me wasn't all that bad.

The loading times, speshly in Ep2 last battle, are a joke of the frustrating, unfunny type.

DoctorDee 22 Jan 2008 17:06
19/20
config wrote:
I was expecting crippling slowdown during Ep2, as reported in the 'nets. However, I saw barely any slowdown in Ep2. The worst came during Ep1 in the water-filled basement, but it lasted all of a minute or two.

I got some quite intolerable slow down in HL2, quite early on in the airboat section, when the helicopter was chasing me. It lasted about 10 seconds, but it was abysmal, especially when sections with apparently similar graphical complexity had no slow down.


config 22 Jan 2008 17:48
20/20
Seems the culpits are the section with large areas of water, 'cause I noticed the PS3's fan running at max during the Antlion caves in Ep2.

Surely the refraction/reflection effects are within the capabilities of the RSX, which is much more powerful than the old Radion GPU I had in my PC when I first played HL2.
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