Friday, September 19, 2008

The Orange Box: Half-Life 2 (Xbox 360) Review

Last fall, Valve Software released The Orange Box to the PC, Xbox 360, and later the PlayStation 3 to critical acclaim, quickly earning top scores across the board rating it as one of the best titles on all the above platforms.

While that itself is an excellent achievement, the thing about The Orange Box is that it’s a compilation of games, not one game unto itself. For that reason, I personally can not justify reviewing The Orange Box itself, as it’s simply not a fair assessment when compared to other titles that truly are one game only. Thus, I will be reviewing the different titles of The Orange Box individually, rating them on their own merits.

Half-Life 2 is a game that needs no introduction. It's won critical acclaim and is presently rated as the highest scoring PC game of all time (according to Metacritic here). It's also a complete let down when compared to the revolutionary genius that was Half-Life.

However, since it's release in November 2004, I've ranted and raved about Half-Life 2 enough. Despite how I feel regarding it's inability to live up to its predecessor, the fact remains that Half-Life 2 is a good game in its own right.

The Orange Box contains every Half-Life 2 game released to date, and little has changed since Half-Life 2's launch, or from the November 2005 Xbox release, for that matter. You can read my very detailed review of the Xbox version of Half-Life 2 here as everything I wrote then still applies now; this is the same game, after all. For the purpose of this Xbox 360 review, I'll simple go over what has changed.

The major revisions I've noted is full use of HDR lighting, in addition to high resolution textures and wide screen support, which has really enhanced the overall look of the game. The Source Engine is capable of some really beautiful stuff, and this version of Half-Life 2 clearly demonstrates that. There's also been a slight enhancement to enemy AI. While most enemies in Half-Life 2 are still rather dumb and will plod along to their deaths with little effort needed on the players part (aside from pointing and shooting, that is), I did note Combine Soliders making better use of cover, and they seemed to have a little more depth in terms of self preservation; actually trying to avoid my fire from time to time, and making more frequent use of Grenades.

Of course, there's also a smattering of Achievements to be earned, many of which are simple enough to get, but some, like Zombie Chopper in which you need to play through all of Ravenholm using only your Gravity Gun, are down right challenging. In fact, even on Normal Difficulty, that was one of the most difficult Achievements I've ever earned.

Otherwise, Half-Life 2 is still Half-Life 2, and it's the same game I love to hate, even on my 4th overall playthrough. The story is still non-existent, character models still look exceptional, and the Air Boat is still a piece of junk (I. Hate. Water Hazard). But when all is said and done, Half-Life 2 is a solid shooter with some simple puzzle elements tossed in, and a great addition to The Orange Box.

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