Valve's Orange Box is one of the greatest gaming packages we have seen to date. The bundle packs in full versions of Half-Life 2 and its expansion packs -- Episode One and the new release Episode Two -- as well as the addition of the unique puzzle game Portal, and the extremely long awaited and highly anticipated Team Fortress 2.
Episode Two is the second instalment in the Half-Life 2 Episode trilogy. Following on from Episode One, Gordon Freeman and your trusty companion Alyx are on the run from the Combine after securing some of their vital information. The blast wave from the Citadel explosion has plunged your train off a bridge leaving you stuck. Be aware -- if you haven't previously played Episode One, let alone Half-Life 2, there are some plot spoilers to be revealed below.
In typical Half-Life fashion, you will fight your way through dark deserted underground networks and run into your common zombies and Antlions along the way. There is however, the inclusion of a new fierce Combine enemy known as a hunter. The hunter is in a way a much smaller and faster version of a strider, who will take a good amount of your ammunition to take down. However, unlike Episode One, a majority of your time isn't spent in these dark areas. You will fight your way to the surface to make your way to White Forest to rendezvous with Alyx's father Eli and your old friend from Black Mesa -- Doctor Kleiner. As always in Half-Life 2, Alyx accompanies you on your course. She will assist you with hacking her way into Combine security fields and doors along with watching your back, picking off a few zombies who a want bite of you. While Episode Two has a good pace with dialogue and new discoveries unfolding along the way, it comes in under five hours of playtime (which is a bit better than Episode One's four-hour completion time).
Gordon's usual arsenal of weapons are available. The gravity gun is still your tool to live by at most times, but no new ones are introduced. We were excited for a moment when Doctor Kleiner discovered the Aperture Science vessel, but unfortunately, there was no inclusion of the Portal gun as we had hoped for. We are still going to keep our fingers crossed for that in Episode Three.
Portal is the little added extra inside Orange Box. Once we had our hands on it, it was impossible to stop and we ended up completing it in one sitting, taking under four hours to complete.
At the beginning, you wake up to find yourself in a glass-encased room inside a laboratory of Aperture Science. How and why you are there is uncertain and it is unknown if you will ever find out. Not much more can be said about Portal's story line, as it is non-existent. While being shuttled between testing chambers, you never encounter another person, only to be directed and humoured by a disembodied female voice speaking through the rooms' speakers.
Portal is one of the most innovating puzzle games we have played to date. You are presented with the dynamics of the game and the use of the Portal device quite gradually. This is taken in steps through a series of testing chambers where play becomes progressively harder and some new factors are introduced. Different ways you might use the device become more apparent. Some chambers you step into will look almost impossible and the friendly guide of a voice will not always encourage you. Inside you will be presented with any number of obstacles that need to be overcome and more than likely you will use strategies taught to you previously. Once you get onto the longer and tougher chambers this is where your wits will really be tested -- timing and planning will be needed as one misstep could kill you.
The actual use of the Portal device is straightforward. You left click will open a blue portal and right click will open an orange. There is no difference between the two and opening either can be done at any time.
Visually, Portal looks great and that is because it is running on an updated Source engine, which was introduced with Half-Life 2. However, there is not a whole lot to take advantage of since the entire game you are moving through rooms which all follow the same design scheme. There are no outdoor environments, explosions, fire-fights, or added eye candy to get excited over.