::Insert Joke About Thinking Inside Box Here::

Game of the year for 2007. No contest. Screw you, Halo 3. Screw you, Call of Duty 4. Screw you, Super Mario Galaxy. Screw you, Mass Effect, God of War II, Crysis, Bioshock. ALL OF YOU! The Orange Box is all you need. If you were trapped on a desert island, this is the game you’d want to bring. It’s just so relentlessly awesome. There are hundreds of hours of play in this one disk. And while I could spend the rest of this review yelling “OMG! This game is SOOOOOOO awesome!” I won’t, and I’ll actually start reviewing it.

For those who don’t know, The Orange Box is actually made up of, essentially, everything the guys over at Valve have done with Half-Life 2, being the actual Half-Life 2 game, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2 and Portal. Each of these games is worth a purchase on their own…so having all five together should make buying this a no-brainer.

The main Half-Life 2 title is the centerpiece of The Orange Box’s smorgasbord of game. As the PC’s entrant into the Battle Royale of the 2004 holiday season, going against the likes of Halo 2, Metroid Prime 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater who were all defending their respective platforms’ honor, Half-Life 2 did not disappoint, and was commonly (but not unanimously) declared the best game of the year, and occasionally called the best game ever.

The gameplay had the feel of the original, with puzzle-intensive gun-slinging that was easy to cite as an instant classic, and had graphics that you could only dream of before then. Three years later, the graphics are not quite as stunning as they used to be, but have held up spectacularly well and the game is still very, very fun. In addition to this, the two expansion “Episodes” add a good deal of playing time while taking the game in new directions, with Episode 1 displaying almost survival-horror-like qualities and Episode 2 flashing some full-blown warfare sequences. And the value added to the story by these two sequels can’t be understated. The main Half-Life 2 game has about fifteen hours of total gameplay, while each episode has about eight. This translates into the Orange Box having a very large amount of single-player content, and it doesn’t end there.

Portal is like the new Katamari Damacy. It’s just such an inventive concept (but not really) which is so well-implemented that it just stands alone in its greatness. Portal, for lack of a better description, is a humor-laced, first-person puzzle game. Rather than any sort of actual combat, the game emphasizes serious critical-thinking skills by putting you through a series of levels where you have to solve puzzles using the now-famous “portal gun,” a rifle that launches a ball of energy which opens up rips in the time-space continuum that will lead you to the other ball of energy you shoot! Using this, you have to solve a series of puzzles as a crazy robot mocks and torments you with promises of cake.

Portal’s graphics, spec-wise, are about as good as Half-Life 2’s. However, the more I played the terribly cookie-cutter environments just ran together. For most of the game, you’ll see the same white-or-black walls, floors, windows and such with the occasional security camera thrown in, which doesn’t make the game as visually impressive as any other title in this compilation. Not that it really matters, as Portal would still be the same stellar game if it looked like Goldeneye. While the game doesn’t last long, ending only about four or five hours, it still has an incredible amount of replay value.

My personal favorite game of the bunch is Team Fortress 2. TF2 is an online, multiplayer-only FPS which, I think, is quite possibly the best game in the genre. There are several things which differentiate the game from every other shooter. Rather than some sort of scramble for some random weapons with a fixed spawn rate, there are nine different classes with unique weapons and abilities across several different play modes. Classes can be switched in-between deaths (or when you return to your base) include the Scout, a super-speedy, double-jumping “New Yawkah” who uses the scatter-gun (a more powerful shotgun) and a baseball bat. The Pyro is a deranged, gas-masked mush-mouth who fights with a flamethrower, shotgun and fire axe. The Soldier is a stereotypical crazed helmet, who uses a rocket launcher that can make him “rocket jump” onto ledges well out of normal range. The Heavy is a hulking behemoth who carries around a turret, a la Jesse Ventura in Predator. The Demoman is a “black Scottish Cyclops” who uses a grenade launcher and remote mines. The Engineer is a hardhat-wearing architect who builds turrets and teleporters. The Spy can disguise himself as enemy units (or as another class) to infiltrate the enemy base, or take out opponents with his butterfly knife. The Medic heals people using the Medigun, which can also grant ten seconds of invulnerability, allowing for players to punch through defenses. Last but not least is the Sniper…who snipes people…with his sniper rifle.

The game modes are fairly standard, with the likes of Capture the Flag (my personal favorite), and a few takes on Territories, but the game is just so impressively deep and strategic, it’s like a totally different experience. And all this is accompanied by a slick graphical style, great voices and all those highly amusing Meet the Cast trailers (Youtube them). Lag on the console versions can be annoying, with sharp spikes (what a surprise, right? A lag spike from a game sold on Steam?) that can seriously hinder gameplay at times. Between those, though, it’s an absolutely incredible game.

If you don’t already own this, you just…NEED to get it. It’s just a whole load of excellent games that. The single player alone lasts over thirty hours and is plain-and-simple compelling to the point where you don’t want to stop. I’ve clocked over one-hundred fifty hours into it (mostly TF2), and I’m still enjoying it. This is probably the best game of this console generation. So seriously. Go get it. Not even a million units were sold, and there are over 42 million PS3s and 360s out there. There’s no excuse for this to be such a low-selling game.

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