Gamer Update #5: The Orange Box (Xbox 360)

The Orange Box for the Xbox 360 has 5 games on one disc, and I played and beat 4 out of the 5 games. The games I played are Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode 1, Half Life 2: Episode 2, and Portal. The one game I didn’t play is Team Fortress 2.

The first game from The Orange Box I played is, of course, Half Life 2. I have never played the original Half Life, and prior to playing Half Life 2, for some reason I thought I didn’t need to play the original Half Life first. But after playing Half-Life 2, I do wish I had played the original game first (as of the day I write this blog post, I still have not played the original Half Life).

Half Life 2 has brilliant level design. At times, it feels more like a first person adventure shooter game, especially when you’re driving a car in the later levels, even though you’re still pretty much going down a linear path. The world feels a lot bigger.

The one thought that kept repeating inside my head as I was playing Half Life 2 is “This game is ahead of its time.” Originally released for the PC in 2004 and the original Xbox in 2005, as I was playing Half Life 2 on my Xbox 360, it felt like I was playing a current gen game. It didn’t feel like I was playing a game that was originally released on a last gen console. I don’t think the developers changed anything, other than perhaps give it a graphical upgrade, when they ported Half Life 2 to the Xbox 360.

One thing that surprised me a bit about Half Life 2 is that one of the levels has a strong horror element to it, which makes Half Life 2 a pretty good game to play around October/Halloween time. I did not expect to find any horror elements in Half Life 2, but having now read up on the first game, I believe that that game also had some horror elements in it as well.

The shooting mechanics in Half Life 2 are solid but aren’t as tight as shooting in a FPS should be. However, most people don’t play Half Life 2 for the pure shooting, they play the game for the cool level design and puzzles.

I also did not like the jumping in Half Life 2, as it’s pretty easy to misjudge the distance you will jump. Therefore that made the very few platforming sections in the game frustrating since it’s easy to misjump and fall off the area you’re jumping to, which results in either losing a lot of health or even death.

In the game you get a gravity gun to use, which enables you to carry things or move certain objects. You can grab something with the gravity gun and toss it towards enemies to damage them. And of course, there’s some clever puzzles involving the use of the gravity gun and this gun is fun to use at times.

But there are 2 problems with using this gun. First, unless you’re carrying something very small, whenever you carry something, it will mostly likely obstruct your view, which gets annoying. Also if you want to carry something up a ladder against a wall, as you are climbing up the ladder, most of the time the thing you are carrying will the hit a wall and fall to the ground.

Half Life 2: Episode 1 and Half Life 2: Episode 2 continue the story from Half Life 2, but now there’s the strong emphasis on having a female partner, Alyx Vance, who was first introduced in Half Life 2. The gameplay in Episode 1 and 2 is the same as it was in Half Life 2, so the same problems with jumping and using the gravity gun from Half Life 2 remain here.

While she is kind of cute in a tomboyish way, Alyx Vance isn’t the most attractive female character in videogames (and I don’t think the developers wanted to make her into a super sexy female character anyway), but her spunk and sweet personality eventually won me over. She is a very likable character.

Moving on to Portal, it’s a game that got critical acclaim and a lot of positive reviews. The game is creative and can be quite fun. I had a nice time playing Portal, but the thing that really hampered my enjoyment of this game is the jumping. The jumping is the same as it was in the Half Life games from The Orange Box, and just like in those games, I didn’t like the jumping in Portal and couldn’t completely get the hang of it. Therefore, a lot of the later levels and puzzles got really frustrating, because they required a lot of jumping, and it took me longer to complete these segments than I should have. However, other gamers who get the hang of the jumping in this game will probably have a more enjoyable time playing this game.

As I stated above, Team Fortress 2 is the only game from The Orange Box that I haven’t played. It’s online multiplayer game only, and it’s a game some of my friends have been raving about. Some of them are really addicted to it. I might give Team Fortress 2 a whirl someday, but right now I currently have no plans to play it.

To sum up, playing The Orange Box, especially the Half Life games, was a fun and great experience. I’m really glad I got the chance to play through Half Life 2 and the two follow-up episodes.

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