It's been quite some time since I purchased a game and didn't have even a hint of regret. There are so many other colored boxes on my shelf that will likely remain there until an unsuspecting friend is lured in by the box art, borrows it, and I never ask for it back.
The Orange Box however is going under lock and key along with my copies of Warcraft III. Not only because of the level of enjoyment that I have so far found in playing the three games that make up the Orange Box, but because of the selflessness so uncharacteristic from publishers these days that is displayed by such a release.
Let's be honest, they could have beefed up Portal and TF2 somewhat and sold each of them alone for the price of the Orange Box. That's enough about that though, the point is it's a fantastic deal on three games that you will have an immense amount of fun playing. If you happen to be a fan of first person games in almost any capacity, just go buy it, you wont regret it.
The presentation, packaging and value aside, let's see how the games stand up on their own. I mean it's easy to lean on Half Life 2: Episode 2 and sell a million copies, they could have bundled the Barbie Fashion Show with Episode 2 and it would probably get good reviews purely by association.
Don't be skeptical though, these two "add-on" games are well worth your time.
Like many others, all I had seen of Portal was a 2 minute video that was released some years ago giving you a basic idea of what the game was all about. I knew what to expect when I loaded it up but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they took what could have so easily become a very gimmicky game and turned it into an interesting and fun campaign through the games various levels.
The basic premise of the game is that you're a lab rat in an experiment run by a corporation named Aperture Laboratories overseen by some sort of artificial intelligence that gives you tips, hints and witty commentary throughout your testing.
You have nothing but a single weapon, the primary fire shoots a bolt that opens a blue portal on whatever wall, ceiling, floor etc. that it hits (With the exception of some materials) and the alternate fire opens an orange portal. You can then walk through the blue portal and you'll come right out the orange side. For example, if you open a portal on the floor in front of you, and an alternate portal on the ceiling behind you, you will fall through the floor and come out of the ceiling. Portal's can be used in either direction.
You traverse through the games levels using your portals in increasingly complex ways to place boxes on pressure switches, avoid hazards, knock out turrets and numerous other obstacles.
It sounds simple, and it is. It could have easily been this and nothing more and it would have been a decent game that got decent reviews. What ends up making Portal truly great though (without giving too much away - small spoiler ahead) is that it actually has a storyline. The artificial intelligence that is guiding you hints at things along the way, you find clues by peering through broken panels in the testing chambers as you go, and just when you think you're nearing the end is when you find out the game has just started.
It's not a long game by any stretch. I finished it in one 4 hour session, but it was quite honestly the most refreshing game I have played in a long time. It's the first time since Warcraft: Orcs & Humans that I have played a game and really felt like I was playing something new not just playing a rehashed, recolored version of something else with some new models and a new button to press thrown in. If it were any longer it likely would have been a little repetitive, so I'm glad it ended where it did.
Once you complete the main campaign, several "advanced" levels are unlocked which are basically just single levels from the campaign that have been tweaked to be quite a bit more difficult. I am still working through these. There are also a few Time-trial levels but I haven't yet had a chance to give those a go. I am also very eager to see what kinds of custom levels people can come up with, I feel like this is where Portal will find it's replay value.
When all is said and done Portal is like a good made for TV movie. It doesn't have the flashy special effects, Orchestral Soundtrack or epic battles that a Hollywood movie would have, but what it does have it paces and presents perfectly. It leaves you with a sense of accomplishment, a smirk on your face and a desire for more. Bonus points for the ending song.
Team Fortress 2 and Episde 2 are equally interesting. Will get to them later!