previewed on PC
Orange is good
Valve Software is giving gamers more than they bargained for with their latest addition to the Half-Life universe, The Orange Box. The Orange Box is a compilation of five games: Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. The game will ship on October 9 for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The PC version can be bought at stores in a retail box or downloaded via Steam.
Released in 2004, Half-Life 2 redefined the First-Person Shooter genre. Not only did it have graphics that stand up to even today's graphically-rich games, it also introduced players to an unparalleled physics engine that was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Despite these awesome features, the game isn't perfect. One problem that I and many other players had with the game was that it was too short. I completed the game in about 10 hours, while others have completed it in as little as six or seven hours. Another problem with the game was that the storyline left too many questions from the first game unanswered while raising many new ones at the same time (such as why the Vortugaunts are no longer your enemy, but are now your allies). Those two problems don't detract too much from the experience, but you are still left wondering what the hell just happened when the ending came around.
When Half-Life 2: Episode 1 was announced, it became clear that Half-Life 2 wasn't the full experience, it was just the beginning. Valve had decided to release the game in an episodic format. Episode 1 stepped the graphics up a notch from Half-Life 2 and tweaked a few features of the game. The improved A.I. and slightly enhanced Havok physics engine did not disappoint. Alyx Vance plays a more significant role this time around and will actually fight alongside you in more than just one or two areas. The game still leaves plenty of holes in the story and is just as short, if not shorter than the first installment but at least it clears up some of the confusion.
After escaping City 17 with Alyx, Gordon Freeman must set out across the White Forest to deliver secret information to Resistance scientists. As always, he is being pursued by an entire army of Combine forces. Valve seems to be really upping the ante with Episode 2. The first thing that players will notice is that the game is more beautiful than ever. Enemy and ally artificial intelligence is vastly improved over Half-Life 2 and Episode 1. There are also quite a few nice additions to your arsenal, along with a few new enemies to make Gordon's life a living Hell. One of the most notable of these is a new robotic creature that will actively pursue you and is extremely intelligent. Watch out for it as it may prove to be much more annoying than Combine Striders. So far these are awesome improvements, but let's just hope the trek across White Forest isn't a mere six to ten hour adventure.