Valve The Orange Box review
Not content with creating gaming masterpieces at every turn, Valve's newest release, The Orange Box, is enough to set most gamers dribbling with anticipation.
Rather than a new game, The Orange Box is a collection of Valve's latest releases - a Half-Life omnibus, if you will. For the very reasonable price of £27 you get the original Half-Life 2 bundled with its sequel, Episode 1, and the latest instalment in the Half-Life story, Episode 2. In addition there's the recent first-person puzzler Portal, and the team-based online shooter Team Fortress 2.
If you've never played Half-Life 2 or either of its superb sequels, you're in for a treat. You see through the eyes of Gordon Freeman, a scientist-turned-freedom fighter. Disturbed by visions of a dystopian future, you wake up on a train trundling into the oppressive regime of City 17. It's not clear where you've been since the events of the original Half-Life game, but something has gone disastrously wrong and you're the one-man army to sort it all out.
In the hands of a lesser developer, the Half-Life series might have become dull and derivative, but the magic Valve touch is still evident. Few games can boast even one truly jaw-dropping set piece, but Half-Life 2 and its sequels string one revelatory moment after another. Everything is perfect - the soundtrack is a treat for the ears and, while the graphics may pale in comparison with those of Crysis or BioShock, few games come so close to creating a living, breathing reality.
We could easily have forgiven Valve if the other two games, Portal and Team Fortress 2, hadn't been much good, but they're great games in their own right. Portal's darkly humorous tone sets the perfect mood for a brain-teasing puzzler, and Team Fortress 2 is simply one of the best, if not the best, online team-based shooters we've ever played. For just £27, The Orange Box will make for a very happy Christmas indeed.