Half-Life 2: The Orange Box Hands-On - Half-Life 2 and Episodes One and Two

We get to try out all three Half-Life 2 games that will ship in the action-packed The Orange Box.

It almost goes without saying that Half-Life 2: The Orange Box will ship with a ridiculous amount of top-notch gameplay in it. This compilation from Valve Software will serve up Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2 Episodes One and Two, the class-based multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2, and the slick puzzle game Portal. The Orange Box will ship on October 10, and Valve along with publisher EA gave us a chance to experience its many different components. This week, we'll cover the Half-Life 2 portion of the Orange Box, with Team Fortress 2 and Portal in the coming weeks.

Half-Life 2 was one of the most acclaimed and successful PC games of 2004, and while it was ported to the Xbox in 2005, the performance struggled on that last generation system. Now Valve's bringing the entire thing to the Xbox 360, where it has more than enough power to run. Half-Life 2 continues the adventures of series hero Gordon Freeman, and you won't need to have played the original Half-Life in order to understand what's going on. That's probably a good thing, since Half-Life shipped in 1998, and its dated graphics might make it difficult for newer gamers to get into. Basically, to sum it up, Freeman was a junior scientist at the government's top secret Black Mesa research facility when he, as part of an experiment, somehow opens a dimensional portal that unleashes an alien invasion. Freeman manages to defeat the alien invaders, but then is "recruited" by the mysterious G-Man. The end. Half-Life 2 picks up sometime afterward the events in Half-Life, and Freeman's efforts in the first game were for naught, as the alien Combine have conquered Earth and herded the remaining human survivors into urban centers. We won't get into the story spoilers of Half-Life 2, so you can discover the mix of action and puzzle solving that makes the series great.

Yeah, there's a ton of content packed into The Orange Box.

When Valve finished work on Half-Life 2, everyone expected the company to eventually work on Half-Life 3. Instead, Valve announced that it was going to make a trilogy of episodes that would follow-up Half-Life 2. Episode One shipped last year, and Episode Two will debut in the Orange Box, so we're only two-thirds of the way through the trilogy at this point. The episodes pick up immediately after the events in Half-Life 2. We will note that we played through the opening levels of Episode Two, which was the first time that we encountered much of that content, and there were a shocking moment, as well as a nail-biting battle against ant lions, giant alien insects that play a prominent role in the games.

If you haven't played Half-Life 2 before, we'll give you some things to keep an eye out for, like the array of convincing characters with amazing facial animations. They're voiced by an excellent cast that includes names and voices that older gamers will undoubtedly recognize from 1980s television and movies, such as Robert Guillaume, Robert Culp, and Louis Gossett Jr. And in terms of gameplay, keep an eye open for some of the cool physics-based gameplay. Consider that Half-Life 2 came out three years ago, the physics in the game still look cutting-edge. You'll be able to play around with the gravity gun, a device that lets you pick up and hurl heavy objects, and Half-Life 2 takes full advantage of that fact by factoring in a lot of puzzles that require you to manipulate the environment.

That's Alyx Vance, and that's your hot rod in Episode Two.

All three Half-Life 2 games look good on the Xbox 360, and Valve has gone back and added a few visual enhancements, such as motion blur when you spin around quickly. The controls map well to the Xbox 360 controller, and they're similar to those found in Halo. That's not a surprise, since Valve ported Half-Life 2 to the Xbox before.

Between Half-Life 2 and the first two episodes, you're looking at anywhere between 16 to 20 hours of some of the best first-person shooter action ever made. That's a lot, considering the average shooter nowadays only contains six to 10 hours of gameplay. And there's even more content in The Orange Box, but we'll get to that in the coming weeks. At this point, though, if you like shooters, you should definitely circle October 10 on your calendar.

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Discussion

232 comments
---n00b_kid---
---n00b_kid---

How did they cram 5 games on 1 DVD ?? Is there a need for blu-ray dics ??!!!! @harthj Halo 3 single player on 'legendary' difficulty is at least 10 hours. Get your facts right.

volpexpress
volpexpress

this will be awesome. defintily worth your money. especially since 5 games are on 1 disc and it will still be 60 bucks.

funbunny
funbunny

If this game runs at 720p, it will look better on the 360 than it does on my computer at 800x600. My computer is not that great.

harthj
harthj

I CAN'T WAIT FOR THIS! I got Halo3 and finished it in less then 8 hours on legendary and got every skull in the game. Multi player has me addictted too BADLY. BUT the half-life series IMO is way better then the halo series. Don't get me wrong HALO is still awesome. This is deffinently a buy when it comes to 360 owners. My only question is will HL2-ep1-ep2 support co-op? I HOPE SO!

Willceace
Willceace

I'm curious, Are they gonna have a pc quality half life 2, or are they gonna dumb it down and justify that by bundling it with team fortress and everything else?

saigondude63
saigondude63

i..................cant.............................WAIT MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Andrex1212
Andrex1212

jrett: "Man, I can’t keep up with this pace! The X360 is coming out with killer games like every couple weeks. BioShock, Halo3, Orange box, Mass Effect, etc, etc... I need a PS3 so I only have to worry about great games once or twice a year." Man, that is so funny but so true ahaha. I love my 360! I've got this pre-ordered along with Guitar Hero 3 and Rock Band so far and I still have yet to possibly get Assassin's Creed and a few other AMAZING games coming out for this system. Amazing how this year is only about 50x more profitable for Microsoft then last year was with the game and system sales. Thank god for Gears of War and Halo 3 ;) I hope that sony gets bought out by MS at some point so I don't have to get a damn PS3 just to play MGS4 :(

PS360Fanboy
PS360Fanboy

Amazing how they can fit 5 games on 1 disc

AnimeNewtype
AnimeNewtype

rosscero: "It's nice? I played HL2 for PC...but I hated it... maybe with Episode 1 & 2 the game will be more funny... for $60 I'll get it..." Uh, Half-Life isn't meant to be funny. WTF are you talking about? dryden555: "Or you can skip this and wait for the whole package including episode 3 in maybe two years from now." Or we can ignore you and your idea that may not even come to pass, and even if it does, it's years from now. If you don't want The Orange Box, don't get it. Simple as that. No need to tell others to do the same as you just because you'd rather wait two years for something that might not even exist.

dryden555
dryden555

Or you can skip this and wait for the whole package including episode 3 in maybe two years from now.

rosscero
rosscero

It's nice? I played HL2 for PC...but I hated it... maybe with Episode 1 & 2 the game will be more funny... for $60 I'll get it...

intrepidpooch
intrepidpooch

So am I right in assuming that Counter Strike will NOT come with the Orange Box?

shabab12
shabab12

is this all one one disk. personally id like them separately. i don't know why but i do.

jaredcrazy3232
jaredcrazy3232

i agree shabulia, although being the insane half life nerd that i am, technically portal is part of the half life universe, but yes this article is only talking about the Gordan Freeman story arc that begins in city 17.

shabulia
shabulia

Nike_Boy.... there is no need for you to insult Blastermaster like that. You have no business calling him names. This is supposed to be a friendly discussion, not a name calling session. If you want to call people names then I suggest you go to some chat room where something like that is acceptable.

shabulia
shabulia

I hate to say this but I am almost more excited about Half Life 2 the Orange Box than I was about Halo 3. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Halo 3. But Half Life 2 has always held a special place in my heart. And seeing as how my PC isn't storng enough to run Half Life 2 at full capacity, I will definately welcome it on my Xbox 360! I can't wait for Oct 10th just as I couldn't wait for Sept. 25th. What a year!!!

nike_boy
nike_boy

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

TheBlastmaster
TheBlastmaster

Am i wrong?! i've seen box art all over the net (and have looked into this considerably) isnt orange box actually including 5 games? original HL2, HL2:Ep1, HL2:Ep2, Portal, and Team fortress? basically everything but the very first in the series? If so why is gamespot saying in the headline that they are trying out "all three" games that come in th orange box... way to fail GameSpot.

ShadeZ
ShadeZ

I hope to God there isn't any major frame rate drops like the PC version this time... Wait Xbox is a PC *DOH*!

knightboat
knightboat

The Orange Box will ensure that I show up to work exhausted for quite some time :P I've played through HL2 a couple times and it never bores me. It's also perfect timing, since I'm not a fan of the Halo series but really feel the need to shoot something. Oh, and pipe down, you pesky little fanboys; you make my brain hurt. Besides, Colecovision is the best console available and you know it.

mattcake
mattcake

How is motion blur when you spin round an enhancement? Its annoying enough when a tft slightly does it, let alone build it right into the engine. On a diff note, I'll defo be getting this even tho I have it on PC - I find the xbox controller makes FPS feel very different and much more of a challenge than the way-too-easy mouse/kybd combo :) Oh and why is the only criticism of xboxes the fact they break? Ah yes, its cos you cant moan at the quality, quantity or price of the games unlike certain other consoles :P

supastaa88
supastaa88

Lol. Good point, super_hoops. Of course, both Sony and Microsoft make crappy consoles, and Sony's is far more expensive, so... Considering I've owned both, I say its financially smarter to get a 360. But, honestly, most of your parents buy you this crap, so you don't think about that till you pay out of pocket!

super_hoops1967
super_hoops1967

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

jrett
jrett

Man, I can’t keep up with this pace! The X360 is coming out with killer games like every couple weeks. BioShock, Halo3, Orange box, Mass Effect, etc, etc... I need a PS3 so I only have to worry about great games once or twice a year.

shiben
shiben

hav 2 get this, have to get THIS!!! cannot wait...akkk... choking...cant wait!!

Cubb7
Cubb7

Sweetness!! I can't wait. :D

thekey
thekey

I'm deffinately getting this. (As soon as the dust clears from Halo 3)

ALZex
ALZex

Give it to us on CD's again ..... and your the one who gonna pay!!! ;( On a lighter note: wonder if episode 3 will also come in a massive box type thing?? Maybe worth the wait!

ketsuatama
ketsuatama

So many good games; so little time as summer sports activities roll along! Must cut down on sleep!!!!

gedassan
gedassan

Yesterday my Steam applications stopped working, I cannot launch them, they start the launcher and then terminate. Reading about how the same company releases something new and sells it for money makes me angry. Get Steam working already.

DarkDamo
DarkDamo

mojahid_1st: And all this will cost only $109 au?... * gets down on one knee and prays * Since the OB for PC costs $49.95USD (Standard American pricing for PC game) and the console version will be $59.95 (Standard American pricing for console game) I think its pretty safe to assume it will be $100AUD PC and $110AUD for consoles (but there is still the chance that EB/others will screw us). Im happy with getting the OB off Steam for about $55AUD. BARGIN!

mojahid_1st
mojahid_1st

And all this will cost only $109 au?... * gets down on one knee and prays *

doominatorx6
doominatorx6

All 3 HL2 games, AND the other 2 games? Wow how does that all fit on 1 disc? Im definatly picking this up for my 360

Ash2X
Ash2X

Still looking for the sense of HL2...the first 6h had been awfully boring,thatnks to the almost non-existent story,but I´m looking for TF2....

funnyman101
funnyman101

omg shall this kind of combination should even be allowed? i think this is illegal!!!

ibanezdropd
ibanezdropd

i have this HL2 on PC. I am def buying this though. It's seriously such a great deal. i never played episodes either. so excited!

KingBahamut
KingBahamut

now I can get the whole universe minus HL1, brilliant

toxic_br
toxic_br

"Between Half-Life 2 and the first two episodes, you're looking at anywhere between 16 to 20 hours" weel, if you play trying to beat the game as fast as you can you will spend only this 16 hours, but i'm personaly spended about 16 hours to end half-life 2, more 4 hours in ep one, and i hope to get at least 5 hours in ep two.

Gohanmohan
Gohanmohan

This is an absolutely gob-smacking package, the likes of which the gaming world has never seen before. Every title in the package is of undeniable quality. This is one the best gaming bargains ever!

Sion_111
Sion_111

This looks like a perfect deal, i'll certainly be buying this as soon as it comes out.

termadoyle
termadoyle

Half life 2 didn't impress me as much as Doom 3 or Halo 2 did and the supposedly scary level in the haunted-like city was so annoying I had to leave the game for a few weeks. The level designs were annoying as hell and I got lost every two steps of the way but all in all I liked the game. I've just got to see how this version works in the reviews.

darkscorcher
darkscorcher

it took me, 16-20 hours just to beat HL 2, im sure for people that dont play on the easiest difficulty, it will be nearly 30 hours of content, in the single player alone.

-autopsy-
-autopsy-

buzzguy hl2 will neva be overshadowed by halo3, halo 3 is a crapy lil aracde game compared to hl2, hl2 will always rule hardcore gaming world, halo will always be a good game but not as half as good as hl2.

darkagent7
darkagent7

woo! lets celebrate only 15 days left! woo!

buzzguy
buzzguy

What a deal! Too bad it's being overshadowed by Halo 3. The amount of content you get is un-matched. If only they would have thrown Half Life: Source in with the rest. That would have been the ultimate!