X06: Half-Life 2: Episode Two Impressions

We meet with Valve in Barcelona and check out Xbox 360 versions of Half-Life 2 and Portal.

BARCELONA--Currently scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2007, Half-Life 2: Episode Two (working title) for the Xbox 360 is a compilation of five games that, believe it or not, will retail for the price of one. The five games in question, in the same order that they appear on the single disc's game select screen, are Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. We met with Valve earlier today, and although we weren't permitted to get our hands on a controller on this occasion, we did get to take a look at both Half-Life 2 and Portal in action.

The first game we checked out was Half-Life 2, which is essentially the same game that was released for the PC almost two years ago. The only difference, aside from the fact that you'll be playing with an Xbox 360 controller instead of a mouse and keyboard, is that the Xbox 360 version looks better. That's right, the Xbox 360 version of Half-Life 2 boasts visual enhancements that are available only in the subsequent episodic content on the PC, so regardless of how powerful your PC setup is, the Xbox 360 game will look better. To illustrate this point, we were shown a sequence in which you're riding through storm drains on an ATV and being hounded by an enemy helicopter--the lighting and particle effects were noticeably superior to those on the PC, and the water in the storm drain boasted a great reflection of the aforementioned enemy as it flew overhead. As impressive as that was, Valve's focus for X06 was clearly on Portal, so that's the game that we spent the bulk of our meeting checking out.

Portal was being shown at X06 by two of the young developers (now employed by Valve) responsible for the game Nerbacular Drop on which Portal is based. Set in the Half-Life universe, Portal will see you assuming the role of a test subject at Aperture Science Laboratories. The first teaser trailer for the game, which features diagrams explaining how the portal gun works, is in fact an instructional video from said laboratory, and the female voice that narrates it is the same one that will talk you through the game's storyline as you progress. Details of the storyline are obviously being kept under wraps for the moment, but you can rest assured that the Half-Life universe looks quite different from the perspective of a lab rat in an Escher-painting-like maze than it does through the eyes of Gordon Freeman.

Your goal in each level of Portal is to find and reach an exit, which will invariably require you to do a lot more than simply look around for a big green sign and then walk toward it. Rather, you'll find yourself in environments filled with hazards and platforms that can only be negotiated using the portal gun. The portal gun, in case you're not familiar with it, launches orange and blue portals (each mapped to a different button) that are big enough for you and for various objects to go through. When something goes into one portal, it'll come out of the other, and that's as true for laser beams and balls of energy as it is for boxes, weapon emplacements, and, of course, you. The portal gun can be used on any concrete surface, so although many of the levels in Portal feature surfaces that you can't pass through in places, you'll pretty much have the freedom to move between any two surfaces that you have a line of sight to from your current position.

All of the levels in Portal are brand new (that is, you won't recognize any of them from Nerbacular Drop), and when watching somebody else play the game, it's very easy to become disoriented and lose track of which way is up--until you start falling. Because of the game's unusual design, each level has to go through rigorous testing, and while assuring us that it's impossible to portal outside of the gameworld, the Valve representatives that we were talking to also pointed out that at no point will you be able to mess up so badly that a level becomes impossible to beat. There are multiple ways to beat most of the levels in Portal, and we're told that the last time a tester managed to get into a hopeless situation was several months ago. Worthy of note is that Portal features an autosave feature that kicks in every time you solve a significant part of a puzzle. The thinking behind this is that once you've gone to the trouble of figuring out and completing a puzzle (some of which require split-second reflexes), you probably won't want to do it again.

At the end of our meeting with Valve, we came away feeling suitably impressed with what must surely be one of the best value-for-money offerings on any release schedule right now. It's unfortunate that we didn't get to see anything of the other three games, and of Team Fortress 2 in particular, but rest assured that we'll bring you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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Discussion

136 comments
FLEEBS
FLEEBS

This games looks sweet! And yes, I meant "This games"!

Chef_Bretz
Chef_Bretz

To say I'm a tad excited about this 'Orange Box' collection on the 360 is an understatement!

dr_slim2004
dr_slim2004

and people who say xbox360 couldnt handle bf2 coz of ram are full of it the top end computers with a 1gb of ram run at about 800mhz xbox360's 512mhz is at 700mhz so dont give me that xbox360 could probly run bf2 with maps 3 times bigger than the pc version thats not xbox360 thats ea badcompanys fault.

dr_slim2004
dr_slim2004

excuse spelling lol , p.s bf2 isnt everything either

dr_slim2004
dr_slim2004

some guy said already played half life 2 on pc, you forgetting the whole point its got episode 2, full stop!! most these pc guys who post probly havent got an xbox360 so they got to hate coz they have nothing alse to do and they cant run bf2 hahaha i can nananana. think about the people who work and dont have tiome to mess around with computers can just pic up a console throw in this orange pack and have a blast at one of the greatest games of all time, and no dought the first xbox ran half life 2 choppy but your pc that did run it how much did that cost you way back then, i live in newzealand and it cost me nearly 2000 bucks plus ram and graphics cards, and this pc vs xbox360 debate is getting old, i havent seen a computer with 9.6 ghz ive seen one with around 7500 and that cost like 4 times more than an xbox360 xbox makes up with that little bit of ram issue with a whole nother 3.2 ghz and also g5's have more power than amd's aparently, and i ant spending that much money on a pc i just brought this one last year. get over it pc guys we know pc's have more pixel and battle field was bigger but that was old xbox this is xbox360 havent seen anything yet and battle field bad company looks like its making up for battle field with some wicked graphics and gun play thats good for me jets are cheap anyway....

Dassam
Dassam

wow this is so much better than pc. PC gaming is for poor ignorant people Team Fortress 2 on XBL= sweetness!!

fatjack04
fatjack04

i am very excite. this be number of 1 on my list for 2 thousand and seven. ...I'm sorry. borat got at my computer again. again, WE can't wait for this.

sepheronX
sepheronX

just so I can punch you stupid console fanboy's in the balls, there was a moder community that already worked on an update of the HL2 graphics. Also, WE get mods, you don't! HAHAHAHAH. So I get to play extended amount of time on the game, then you guys. Who gets to play NoMoreRoomInHell? I do! who gets to play D.E.A.D? I do! who gets to play......you get the point. And yes, you can easily update the PC's graphics as this is the reason: the game is all built on the same fundamental elements. All they do, is update their SDK pack! Why do you think that there are mods out their, coming out (like the corporation) that has this HDR capabilities and so many other stuff? its because its in the SDK pack, and Valve constantly updates it, and thus, allowing the moder community to make better mods and such with better visuals.

Crunchbox
Crunchbox

You've seen him in HD for years on PC....

emerio
emerio

This game will be sick. I can't wait to see Gordon Freeman in HD.

rocketman97
rocketman97

definitely looks like its going to be a must buy for any shooter fan.

Areola54
Areola54

how can they fit all this in one DVD?

al3333222111
al3333222111

does anybody know if counter-strike will come n the package as well?

Jaeme
Jaeme

At one point I had heard that the set would include Half Life :Source, a version of the first Half Life redone with the source engine. Now THAT would have made the package the most ultimate, perfect, wonderful package.

PeteMad
PeteMad

This is one great package that can't be beat. I played HL2 on the xbox, and I anticipate the 360 version will be far more better in the graphics and frame rate department. Well, I am worried about the frame rate. It'll be a great shame to see it run below 60 frames per second, and I certainly hope Valve will do everything in their power to make it happen. If they need more time to tackle that issue, so be it. I can wait for perfection. As for Team Fortress 2 and Portal, these are great additions. TF2 is your regular online fragfest and Portal, to me, is a cool puzzle type game that I can sink my claws into. AND ALL FOR $60. :)

rjcube
rjcube

Cant wait for this to come out. Well I gotta get a 360 first :-P. But this is going to Pwn like no other. Just wish they stuck CS:S in there :(

joelthebowl022
joelthebowl022

I would really like to have cs:s bundled with the pack and i would like the 360 to be able to withhold mods that would make the game awesome i love gary's mod myself and if they could mod that to the 360 you would have to peel me off my couch lol :-)

EtriusQuill
EtriusQuill

I'd be more excited if i could hook up a qwerty keyboard and a mouse to the 360. A lot more fun to play FPS like that, controllers SUCK for FPS.

pathogenb
pathogenb

"Congratulations, I suppose. It's a shame that us PC folk have A) Already beat the game years ago, and B) Have much better control than you console folk ever will. Oh, and if they're upgrading the graphics for the 360, my money is on them also updating it through steam on the PC. And have fun with paying for all of that "Downloadable Content" such as maps while us PC folk get it for free. Cheers." Congratulations for not enjoying the best on both consoles and PC. I loved HL2 on my PC, but the X360 version has the full game, both Episodes, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 for one price, while PC owners have already forked over $60 for HL2 and then had to pay extra for Episode One. Your point about paying for additional content on XBL just went right out the window (and just as many extras on XBL are free as they are available for a price). - Funny that you mention that PC gamers played the game years ago, but then try to make an graphical upgrade to that version sound like it would really matter at this point. To hell with that, I'll just pick up the X360 version and get all of the extra content for the same price of the PC version of HL2, and be able to play it on an HD set. - I don't want to hear about controls. It's old, move on. I like a keyboard and mouse for FPS's, but console controls have improved so much that it really doesn't matter as much anymore. Sitting in a big bean bag chair with a wireless controller in front of a widescreen 42" HDTV is a lot more enjoyable than being tied to a desk. I'll give up a bit of percision (b/c you need SO MUCH of it for most shooters... yeah) for a lot of comfort. if you're so obsessed with precision, maybe you should try not to suck so much. - Way to limit yourself. Cheers, indeed.

Rice_Krisp
Rice_Krisp

I'm really excited about this game

EtriusQuill
EtriusQuill

Actually, DX10 will improve graphics of games IF they take advantage of the new technology. Chances are, some fine individuals of the modding community will update on Half-Life 2's graphics using the new method thus removing the advantage the 360 will have. Just depends on IF they do it. That and there is already a mod out there for Half-Life 2 that ups the graphics significantly.

Talibantot3602
Talibantot3602

Just to let you know, Vista and DX10 dont improve the graphics really. More or less how it runs, so stop complaining fanboys....

_A13X_
_A13X_

its kinda funny how theyre releasing the same graphical update on the pc while rants about how it will look better on a pc

dantepitt
dantepitt

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

jhotmann
jhotmann

even though i have half life 2 and epidode 1 for pc i am definitely going to buy this package as soon as it come out!

macaulay000000
macaulay000000

no i don t think so when the vista comes out no console will beat it for visual don nt forget direct x 10 will be here

mike360gl
mike360gl

sweet cant wait till thsi comes out...team fortress 2 will be awesome!

KronikKilla
KronikKilla

Here here! I second Counter-Strike! New maps! Give us Counter-Strike!

ThnkU4thePoison
ThnkU4thePoison

How many Episodes were they plannin on comin out with?

IOTW
IOTW

I WANT COUNTER-STRIKE!!!!!! Give us gameplay video of Team Fortress Valve. 5 for the price of one is great but why not Counter-Strike?

XENOmorph00010
XENOmorph00010

Better-looking than the PC version regardless of how powerful your PC is eh? If they're not BSing us, then bring it on (as long as the framerate is much smoother than the Xbox version).

falconLP21
falconLP21

Man, this game is going to be great. But I think Counter Strike is the best game to play. The Xbox 360 should come out with a new version and upgrade the graphics. Anyways, Team Fortress looks awesome.

redfop
redfop

OH MY GOD THIS GOME LOOKS SO FRICKIN SWEET OH MY GOD MY 360 LIBRARY IS GONNA B PACKED AFER TEH "HOLIDAYS"

vuvussi
vuvussi

nev70 I ment for the 360 you dumbass

NeO10102525
NeO10102525

i wonder if achievements will be split around all 5 games? or if all 5 games will have their own acheivements!!! :D

veratronator
veratronator

They will probably release counter strike source with day of defeat later.

paullywog
paullywog

This could out-do Gears of War...

nsoufiani
nsoufiani

i cant wait to own the ones that are using 360 controllers with my mouse and keyboard lol!

CaribouLou5
CaribouLou5

rekm222 Great point. I think the 360 crowd would easily give up portal or TF2 to get CS:S (but why not have them all!). And it would be cool to play against them on the PC. It would be really nice to see a totally revamped version of CS since I think it's the best multiplayer FPS (or top 3) and although source was a great step up I am hungry for more!

rekm222
rekm222

I'm physced about HL2 coming to X360 (and Half Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 too). Played HL2 on the PC and it was superb, holding out for HL2: E1 on X360 instead of getting it now for the PC. Portal looks like a really cool addition, and TF's comeback seems like it'll be good too. But, and this is a big but, what about Counter-Strike: Source!? I know they're putting 5 games on one disc for the price of one, and that's great and all...but CS:S is one of the BEST FPSs out there. How can you not have CS:S in a release like this? Personally, I'd put $60 down just for CS:S on X360 alone, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. So what's the deal? Did I miss a post about this? Is it being released seperately or not at all?

flo20001
flo20001

I think it would be way cool if xbox360 players could play against pc players in team fortress 2 like that one game microsoft was developing i forgot what it was called, but I believe that's the future where console and pc can play multiplayer together.

Chaos_Daro
Chaos_Daro

Hermits are so far up their own arses it's unbelievable! Anyway, this is great news for us 360 owners and the hermits are just jealous (they really are). "But teh pr3cision" - STFU

The_Weekend
The_Weekend

Portal sounds really interesting and frustrating as well ... let's see how good it will be at the end!

MoreCowbell6924
MoreCowbell6924

So these games are going to be compiled into a $60 package? If thats the case there is no way I can't buy these games.

King_Louis51
King_Louis51

I absolutely cannot wait for this. This is going to be the best package deal the world has ever seen. GameSpot have to give this at least 9.8, 9.9 or 10! It's going to rule ass!

chiefmegadeth
chiefmegadeth

I dont like pc games i have a really good pc i built my self for games and halflife2 was the first game i got for it and unreal and battlefield2 and after i played for a couple of months i realized i dont like pc games kb and mouse suck,but if u like its cool,but not for me when i played pc games no one talked,i felt like i was playing the computer but xbox i feel like i really there playing and 360 has the power theres no looking back