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The Orange Box Review 358

Posted by Zonk
from the we're-out-of-beta-we're-releasing-on-time dept.
"PC Gaming is dying," the analysts tell us. "The Massive genre is the only viable business model left," websites report. That they're off the mark is obvious to anyone that's actually played a PC game in the last few years; games like Sam and Max , Battlefield 2 , or any of the numerous puzzle titles available online prove the flexibility and strength of the PC platform. Then, every once in a while, you get an offering like the Orange Box. A value-packed storm of content from Valve, this single sku offers five complete games at an amazing price. That would be great, even if the games weren't any good ... but they are. They're very, very, very good. Read on for my impressions of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, and (the cake is a lie) Portal.
  • Title: The Orange Box
  • Developer/Publisher: Valve
  • System: PC (360, PS3)
  • Genre: Story Based Shooter/Team Multiplayer Shooter/Shooter Puzzler
  • Score: 5/5 - These games are all classic titles. They transcend genre, and are worth playing by almost any gamer. Certain to be a part of many serious gamers' collections, definitely worth purchasing, and a great value for your dollar.
Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Given the amount of time it has taken Valve to release this, the next chapter in the Half-Life saga, it's not surprising that their thinking about episodic content has changed significantly. At this point, rather than being a continuation of Half-Life 2, Valve now effectively sees these episodes combined as Half-Life 3. That new focus is evident in Episode Two, in terms of storytelling and pacing. It picks up just a few moments after Episode One left off, with Gordon and Alyx picking their way out the wreckage of a train in the forest outside of City 17. The story almost immediately kicks into gear, hooking you up with members of the resistance, pitting you against an antlion hive, and forcing you to drive through trackless wastes on the way to your ultimate destination. Though there is plenty of action, the storyline of the Half-Life tale is greatly advanced over the course of the game. There are a few answers handed out but, as with any middle child in a trilogy, there are many more maddening questions raised by the events of the game.

More than a year has passed since the release of Episode One, and as a result numerous promises about Episode Two's gameplay have been muddied as a result. Many of the most-discussed new gameplay elements (Strider-busters, open environments) only come into play at the game's climax. Primarily, you'll be following the same sort of well-crafted (but very much walled-in) path seen in previous entries in the series. For some, this may be a disappointment - a more open environment was a much-discussed element of this title during its development. Personally, I was pleased by the game's focus. A Valve hallmark has always been tightly crafted progress, measurable movement through the gamespace. That focus is sharpened to a knife's point in Episode Two, with the intermingling of action, story-based downtime, and quick puzzles being better than ever before. And that climax ... it's essentially a race against time, putting every skill you've learned over the course of three games to the test. It's fantastic.

From an audio/visual standpoint, Episode Two more than meets expectations set by the previous chapters in the series. The new Hunter designs are deadly works of art, and carry a sound design to match their menacing appearance. The imagery of the portal storm left in the wake of Episode One dominates the skyline for much of the game, providing not only a visual landmark but a very concrete reminder of what has come before. The voice acting, as always, hits a high water mark for emotional resonance; and there's quite a bit of emotion to convey in this title. Once again, you're left with a very high opinion of Alyx Vance and the other members of the resistance against the combine.

For me, that emotional connection was the takeaway from this chapter in the series. The gameplay is just as solid as it has been in the past (essentially flawless). Other than hunting the Hunters (they don't like tires in the face much), there weren't a lot of stand out combat or puzzle elements. Which was fine, because I very much focused on the storyline as it unfolded around me. Much like Empire Strikes Back Episode Two ends on a down note, making you question what the future will bring in a hard and sometimes confusing world. Unlike that trilogy, though, the end of Gordon Freeman's tale has yet to be told. Just one more game to go before we find out the ultimate fate of the Freeman.

Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 is a substantial redressing of a venerable entry into multiplayer gaming. Built on the original Half-Life engine, the first Team Fortress game was one of the first examples of role-based team play on the PC. The older game, with its own quirks and peculiarities, is still beloved by thousands of FPS gamers; indeed, some of them feel somewhat put off by Valve's re-envisioning of the game. Grenades are no longer a weapon available to every class, each of the classes has undergone significant retooling, and the unique visual aesthetic more resembles a Pixar film than a hardcore multiplayer shooter. What those changes add up to, though, is one of the most approachable online shooters ever released for console or PC.

Valve has chosen to apply the same kind of design directives to online combat that it applies to the single-player experience of games like Half-Life 2. Playing the game online (there is no single-player component) is like a moment-to-moment tutorial. Nuances of play become obvious as you progress through a match in your chosen class. The Medic profession is the best example of this philosophy. The character's healing gun links him to a particular character, creating a bond between two players who (in all probability) don't know each other. Learning to play the Medic is an interplay between your positioning vs. your partner, your positioning vs. opponents, and deciding when to use the 'invincibility charge' that slowly builds up as you apply healing. As a member of another class you learn the nuances of keeping your healer protected or (if you're on the opposing team) that shooting the medic first is often the best approach.

This 'tutorial-as-you-go' experience applies to every one of the nine classes. The complete team roster is a balanced array of strengths and weaknesses. Assuming that your team can agree to not all play the same class, they should allow either effective offense or defense as the scenario allows. The other Valve hallmark shows up in these classes: they're all fun. Each offers a substantially different play experience, but you can have an amazingly good time with each of them. Whether you're dropping turrets into play or wielding a fast-firing heavy machine gun, you'll have the opportunity to participate and make a dent. And if you're not having fun, it's a matter of a few moment to switch to a different class.

TF2 has some weighty competition in the online FPS space this year, but from what I've seen none can compete with it in terms of approachability. Halo 3 played online is fun, to be sure, but the preternatural skills of your opponents gets really old after a while. Team Fortress 2 rewards skill, to be sure, but the shallowness of the learning curve and self-teaching mechanisms means that expertise in TF2 is a much lower piece of fruit. Ultimately, isn't that the sign of a great online game? One that lots of people can participate in?

Portal

Words are ill-suited tools to describe the sheer amusement value of Portal. At about three hours long, it's one of the shortest games you'll play this year. You have absolutely no offensive weaponry, no special powers, and for most of the game your only real opponent is yourself. It's still, bar none, one of the best games I've ever played. You likely already know the basic premise of the game: you have a gun that makes holes in space. The Portals connect two points in reality and allow movement through them. You'll be using the device to solve puzzles, move through levels, and generally keep yourself alive in the face of the game's environment.

These puzzles are an absolute distillation of the Valve philosophy. Every challenge provides you with all the instruction you need to escape ... though their solutions are not always immediately obvious. Each one is only slightly more difficult than the last, and builds incrementally on every lesson you've previously learned. Portal is not only an excellent game, it's also a microcosmic example of the human learning process. This results, near the end of the game, in astonishing feats you would never have thought possible at the start of your journey. This plottable line of advancement from the simple to the sublime is the core of the game.

That said, more than just fun gameplay makes this title stand out. Aside from the Portal gun, you have but two companions on your journey. The voice from the ceiling, telling you what to do while lying out of one side of her face, is an artificial personality. The other companion is a lifeless cube. If that sounds sort of grimly funny, you're already getting the joke, and the point. Portal is hilarious in an Edward Gorey-meets-Douglas Adams sort of fashion, dark humor mixing with futurism for the sake of futurism.

Portal, then, is funny and intelligent in equal measure. It's wholly unlike anything else released this year, and on its own validates the entry price for Orange Box purchasers. It is, in point of fact, well worth buying all on its lonesome if you are interested by the rest of the offerings Valve has here. It also has the benefit of having the one of the best game songs ever made as its finale track.

Conclusion

Valve's Orange Box is easily one of the best offerings available for any platform this year. It's an amazing value and variety, offering story, online play, and intellectual challenge in equal measure. Every component of the piece is so strong that it could stand on its own - together it's an unstoppable force of gaming goodness. It's worth noting that reality intrudes on every element of perfection - lag has been a problem for Xbox 360 Team Fortress 2 players, but a patch is on the way. Otherwise ... there's really very little to complain about here. It's boring and unfunny to say "the whole thing is terrific" and leave it at that.

But then, I'm a nerd. The whole thing is terrific. In the face of dozens of high-price AAA titles this Christmas season Valve's offering stands out from the crowd with a clusterbomb of content that won't be easily put down. People will be playing TF2 for literally years to come, if you're done with Episode Two you can go back through it gnome-style, and I fully expect Portal to be supported by fan-created rooms for a long, long time. It's well worth buying for anyone that enjoys the first-person perspective on gaming, regardless of what kind of gamer you are. Now if I could only get that song out of my head ...

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The Orange Box Review

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  • by p0tat03 (985078) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @02:58PM (#21089107)
    The review states that TFC, built on top of the Half-Life engine, was among the first to demonstrate class-based team play on the PC. This is not true, especially since Team Fortress started as a Quake mod!
    • Team Fortress was for casual players. MegaTF was the shit. I used to play in the Team Pro League [planetfortress.com] under [FoE]War. Team South in Texas on defense, Team North in Ottawa on offense, yelling to each other from various rooms in the apartment. That stuff was the beginning of the age. (sniffle)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Check out Netrek [wikipedia.org] for a role-based tactical multi-player game that significantly precedes Quake.
  • WHY? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Southpaw018 (793465) * on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:00PM (#21089145) Journal
    I must admit that I didn't entirely understand the significance of Portal while I was playing it the first time through. I thoroughly enjoyed it and had honest fun (a rarity it seems, including my long gone 6-8 hours per day of World of Warcraft 7 days a week, which didn't remotely resemble anything like fun), but I often get so involved the mechanics of gameplay I miss some stuff. After beating it the first time through, I read some reviews and checked out some forums. With the perspective gained from hearing others talk about the emotional brilliance of the game, I played through it again, start to finish. The end result?

    Oh, Weighted Companion Cube, WHYYYYY? :(
    • Re:WHY? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SilentChris (452960) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:19PM (#21089551) Homepage
      I read a blog post that mentioned this (wish I could remember which blog), but Portal is a textbook example of how to have a rich, yet simply-designed story in a short game. One speaker (GlaDOS -- the crazy AI), some extremely well-written monologues and just a hint of emotion (enough to make you wonder what's really going on by the end of the first level) draws you completely in. By the time you get to the end "boss", the player has a great appreciation for just how dangerous their enemy is. To be honest, there was greater context and delivery than nearly every big name game out there (I'm looking at you, Halo 3).

      Considering you can buy Portal for $20, and there's bound to be map packs coming out sooner or later, it's a steal. Couple that with modders already combining the game with Half-Life 2 (http://www.primotechnology.com/2007/10/17/half-life-2-portal/) and you have a recipe for long term fun at a cheap price.
      • Re:WHY? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:30PM (#21089771) Homepage

        It really is kind of amazing, right? Thinking back, there are no cut scenes, no real expository narration or even dialog. There are just a bunch of meaningless puzzles. Nothing ever tells you what is going on, but there are enough hints that you have a story by the end of it. Pretty much the entire story comes out of hints that GLaDOS doesn't mean to drop, and also crazy graffiti in areas you're not supposed to be able to get to. And yet there's still a pretty engaging story there.

        Really impressive, if you ask me. There aren't even a lot of filmmakers or novelists who are willing to show that level of restraint in their story lines.

        • by DingerX (847589)
          Crap was gonna mod you insightful, but modded you redundant. Posting to clear you out. Sorry mate. (Those with points, feel free to modspank me).

          Just further proof that we don't need much exposition. It's a game: show us. I'm savoring the Portal experience.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Machtyn (759119)
      We at the Aperture Science Center believe:
      If at first your don't succeed, you die.

      Quote from GLaDOS in the game Peggle Extreme from Valve. (A Valve modified version of Peggle Deluxe. also comes with Orange Box, I think.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tm2b (42473)

      Oh, Weighted Companion Cube, WHYYYYY? :(

      Yeah, NOW you're all "Oh, WHYYYYY?", but I hear that you euthanized your cube in record time.
  • zeropunctuation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:00PM (#21089149)
  • by Aneurism75 (1048530) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:03PM (#21089193)
    I for one bow down to our new Orange Box overlords.
  • David the Gnome! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PrescriptionWarning (932687) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:06PM (#21089279)
    the link [f2s.com] about the Gnome achievement was pretty awesome and definitely a clever addition. This is the reason why games have indeed progressed since Pong [slashdot.org].
    • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @04:08PM (#21090501) Homepage
      Totally. When playing Pong against a garden gnome back in '76, it was not very challenging. It only returned a very small number of my serves, and played an insultingly stupid strategy of "playing dead", as though it would lull me into complacency and then surprise me at some point. Well, I kept playing and playing, but it never did come to life. It's almost as though the AI was missing a procedure call to move the paddle, or something.
    • Damn, that is clever. I spotted the little guy but never thought anything of it.

      In the first Half Life 2 the training ball that you play with when you first get the gravity gun has a secret power; it's attracted to enemies and they are attracted to it. In Ravenholm you can just fire it into a corner and all the enemies will move out of your way and they pointlessly chase it down. You can keep it until the end of the Ravenholm section, but you absolutely cannot carry it beyond there. Unless someone has a s

    • by lgw (121541)
      The Gnome Rocks! I played through the end Deux Ex carrying a basketball, really for no good reason, it just seemed odd to find a basketball on the map. It's gratifying to see I'm not the only one crazy like that!
  • by Naelok (1162515) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:09PM (#21089331)
    I think Portal could have done with some human enemies, rather than just those wacky little bots. The idea of opening a portal over a spiky bit and then opening another portal beneath some guard's feet has strong appeal.

    That said, it was a great game with some of the most memorable lines I've ever heard in a video game.

    "Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and I was all 'goodbye' and you were like 'NO WAY!' and then I was all 'we pretended we were going to murder you'. That was great."
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:10PM (#21089345)
    I'm not saying the Orange Box is not quality product - it is.

    But note that the orange box is in simultaneous console/PC release*. How does a major release like this coming out at the same time for consoles as the PC not confirm the trend for game makers to support consoles at least as well as, and in the future to a greater degree than, PC games?

    * Well, 360 anyway - the PS3 version was delayed a bit.

    Bioshock 2 was a great new PC gaming hit - that also came out for a console at the same time.

    When you don't need a PC anymore for PC gaming... PC gaming is on the decline.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stripe7 (571267)
      PC gaming is not dead, and won't die. There are currently 2 types of gamers, those willing to spend $300-$500 on a console $60-$90 a game and those who plunk down $500-$10,000 on a PC system. Consoles are also getting keyboards and turning into PC's. What most of the business and political world seems to misunderstand but Nintendo figured out is that the gamers that spend the most money on games and game systems are Adults. Adults are willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a game system if the
      • throwing in a game on a system you already own is cheaper than buying a new console.

        Usually though PC gaming involves not just "thowing a game onto a system you already own" but periodic hardware refreshes that make the console look cheap indeed.

        And dollar for dollar, why would I not prefer to spend money on a great HD-TV and sound system than everyone in my house can use for movies and games and TV instead of jacking up my PC yet again?

        I'll still play a few games on the PC myself for a variety of reasons.
    • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:30PM (#21089777) Journal
      When you don't need a PC anymore for PC gaming... PC gaming is on the decline.

      I think you've got it kind of backwards there. People buy PCs for non gaming purposes and then choose to buy games as an afterthought a hell of a lot more than they do when they're buying game systems. If I buy a game system, I still need a PC for a large number of reasons. The reverse is not true.

      If all the best games are ports of PC games (or simultaneous releases), rather than great console games that are only available on the game platform, there is little reason to get a console in addition to your PC.
      • If I buy a game system, I still need a PC for a large number of reasons. The reverse is not true.

        I would argue the reverse is true.

        Yes a lot of people need PC's anyway. But the reality is that keeping a PC up to snuff for gaming sucks. My recent experience with Bioshock just confirmed that was still as true as it ever was when I got off teh PC gaming Upgrade-go-round years back. So even if you have to buy a PC, there's a world of difference between buying a PC to do a bunch of tasks on and buying a syste
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by actor_au (562694)
          I disagree, I've had the same system since 2003(might be 2004 its been a while) and other than two new hard drives because I've filled the old ones with movies and games I've not upgraded anything since about six months before HL2 came out, RAM, Video Card and Processor are the same.
          I've been able to play, BioShock, Quake 4, Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Peggle, C&C 3 and Jericho, not always at the highest graphic settings but always been able to play them, you've replied to almost every post in this section abo
    • Yea, because all the PC players already playing new Portal and TF2 maps really wish they had a 360.
    • ALL RIGHT!! That Linux desktop is looking better and better every day!!

      /me ducks

    • by kaellinn18 (707759) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @04:07PM (#21090487) Homepage Journal
      Owners of the PC version of the Orange Box will be enjoying their games long after the owners of the console version. The reason is the modders. These games are going to have the crap modded out of them, and once these mods are available, what once was old is brand new again. Levels, game variations, all of these will be available on the PC and available for FREE. If you're lucky, maybe Valve will be nice and package some of them for download on the 360/PS3. You'll most likely be paying for it, though.
  • by fuo (941897) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:14PM (#21089453)

    Another big plus for OB imo is that all the games are basically using 3+ year old engine so you don't really need to worry about whether you have the greatest hardware.

    About a year ago, after playing nothing but PC games for 10+ years I got tired of upgrading hardware and all the other "work" that goes into PC gaming and said F-it and bought a Wii. I wasn't planning to buy any new PC games for awhile, but then I heard about OB and figured I'd give it a shot since my current PC ran HL2 just fine. Glad I bought it, Portal alone has kept be busy for two weeks.

  • Team Fortress 2 rewards skill, to be sure, but the shallowness of the learning curve and self-teaching mechanisms means that expertise in TF2 is a much lower piece of fruit. Ultimately, isn't that the sign of a great online game? One that lots of people can participate in?

    (disclaimer: I'm a hardcore bhopping, rocket/gren jumping, physics abusing player of the original TF and Custom-TF)

    Leveling the field between newbies and long time players doesn't come without a price. The correct phrase is "dumbed

    • Re:TF2 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by businessnerd (1009815) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:53PM (#21090249)
      You make an interesting point with TF2. A lot of the things that they have tried to eliminate in TF2, were really skills that had to be mastered over time in TF1.x. Things like rocket jumping and conc. grenade jumping take a lot of skill and are certainly not the obvious maneuver for the n00b. However, I have two counterpoints to argue.

      First, let me put up my own disclaimer: I have not yet tried TF2, but have been re-obsessed with TFC after I realized that even though my install CD went missing years ago at a friends house, the box with CD Key on it that I still have can be used to download through steam (and run it in Linux under WINE!).

      That being said, all of the physics exploiting moves were not in wide use when these games were first released. These skills were discovered, developed, demonstrated and passed on to others until it became common practice. So while those old skill may now be bannished, who knows what new 1337 5ki11z will be discovered and then perfected until we all use them. Don't forget, there is a collective learning curve with most online multi-player games. In the beginning, the relatively new player can do pretty well for himself, but then those putting in the overtime quickly start pwning and those who don't keep up, are all of a sudden not doing so well.

      My second counterpoint, is that the game developers have tried to bring each role back to basics. In the original concept, you have your offensive players (actively attacking) and defensive/supporting players (passively attacking/supporting others). The medic and the engineer were intended originally, not to be used for offense. While relatively quick, their health/armor was relatively low, and their supershotgun takes a lot of skill to be affective on offense. However, grenades seem to be the great equalizer. When grenades are available, those two classes, as well as others, have a lot of offensive firepower. Rather than having medics healing teamates (a rarity), you have medics conc. jumping across maps and grenade spamming the defense. On maps like 2fort, engineers are possibly the most powerful player offensively thanks to the EMP grenades (I should know, I'm a devout TFC engineer). After a while, the teams stop working together, and start working for themselves. Everyone wants to have the high ranking (which means lots of kills), and forgetting about your other duties, like healing and building support devices like dispensers and teleporters. There's no "i" in Team Fortress (except Team Fortress Classic, but I guess that supports my argument of what the game had turned into).

      Those who have played TF2 can certainly comment better than I on whether any of these things are happening, but I see a more authentic team experience, and don't worry, the moves people will be pulling off in two years, the developers would have never imagined.
      • by Xentor (600436)
        You make a good point there...

        I never got into TFC, but I was an old-school QWTF Medic/Sniper. I played the Sniper like an ambushing defender, not a balcony counter-sniper... I played the medic like rambo. If you combined the super nailgun with the plague axe (Remember you could whack a bad guy and infect them), the medic could run rings (Literally) around most other classes on offense, even before you added in the grenades...

        Oh, and rocket-jumping on the soldier became a reflex after a while. If you cou
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ahoehn (301327)

        After a while, the teams stop working together, and start working for themselves. Everyone wants to have the high ranking (which means lots of kills), and forgetting about your other duties, like healing and building support devices like dispensers and teleporters.

        One of the niftiest revamps in TF2 is that your points are no longer based exclusively on kills. Pretty much everything you do that helps your team will move you up the leader board. If you're a medic and you effectively heal your teammates, you move up the board. If you're an engineer and you build a useful dispenser or transporters, you move up the board. If you're a spy and you sap a sentry gun, you move up the board.

        The upshot is that the game encourages cooperation far more than any other FPS I've

    • by webrunner (108849)
      Skills like conc jumping don't reward skill, they reward A skill, and there's a significant difference that people who are clamoring for these things (and bunny hopping, etc) back.

      A skill like Conc jumping basically splits the entire scout community into people who conc jump and people who don't. If you're a good conc jumper, and suck at EVERY other part of being a scout, you're still a better scout then the best player who can't conc jump. This basically means if you don't want to conc jump you're SOL.
    • Re:TF2 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PaulMorel (962396) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @05:15PM (#21091489)

      (disclaimer: I am a similar bhopping, rocket jumping TF vet)

      You haven't spent enough time with TF2. For all the reasons that TF & TFC were great, TF2 is better.

      The biggest difference isn't grenades, as you would know if you had spent more time with it. The biggest difference is that one player can't affect a match as much as teamwork can. In other words, one uber-1337 player on a team of nubs will never win a match in TF2. Only teams that can work together can truly dominate in TF2.

      It is the only game I have ever played where this is the case (some other games come close).

  • by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:18PM (#21089541)
    The end of the first "map" on Portal is worth the whole game.

    And my favorite quote (I paraphrase):

    "Here at Aperture Technologies, we're bound by regulations to inform you that further progression through the training is very dangerous and may result in pain or physical disability, such as death."
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      "Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and I said 'Goodbye' and you were like 'NO WAI' and then I was all 'We pretended we were going to murder you'? That was great..."
  • What can I say? I loved Portal. I haven't gotten to Episode 2 yet (just finished HL2 and Lost Coast)

    I'll comment on TF2 though. I loved the original, and I like this one quite a bit. There are definite changes. The most obvious to me is the lack of grenades. They are all gone (except for the Demoman's launchers). This has made engineer's sentries much more powerful (as it used to be any class could take them out or damage them seriously with 'nades, now if you are a scout you are in big trouble). That's ju

  • Well skuse me, what's a sku? I'll skuut off now and see if I can find out.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:26PM (#21089691)

    PC Gaming is dying," the analysts tell us. "The Massive genre is the only viable business model left," websites report.
    Simply not true, but you can understand why some people think so. Here are the pros and cons:

    Console Gaming
    Pros
    1. Buy once, will last you for five or so years until next console comes out, every game made for it will work for it, no worries.
    2. Consoles have gotten more powerful with prettier graphics, intruding into PC territory
    3. Perceived as less technically cumbersome than a computer, plug the game in and play
    4. Used to be significantly cheaper than a top of the line gaming computer.

    Cons
    1. Closed architecture system
    2. Games not hackable
    3. User-created content completely unknown.
    4. Getting as expensive as a good computer but with so many restrictions
    5. Nobody can make small fun casual games for the system (changing some with the live arcades, but you still have to be vetted by the console manufacturer)

    Computer Gaming
    Pros
    1. People already have a computer for serious work, games are a nice diversion.
    2. Computer games could be geekier in subject matter, doing things like RTS or WWII wargames or highly detailed military sims.
    3. Total hackability, open architecture, allows an online community with mods, new art, hacks, etc.
    4. On the net long before the consoles were -- this advantage is no longer an exclusive.
    5. Anyone can make a computer game, there's no barrier to entry for fun casual games.

    Cons
    1. Computers are expensive as hell, especially if you want to be on the bleeding edge.
    2. You could buy a video card that would be good for six months or a Playstation, the price was the same. (Now you have to buy two high-end cards to equal the cost of a PS3.)
    3. With the rise in the power of the consoles, computers are taking a beating from the competition

    At the point we're at right now, the difference between console and PC basically comes down to the openness of the architecture and the DRM inflicted rather than any other factor.
    • You do realize that computers have usually lagged behind consoles in the graphics department. It wasn't really until the advent of the cheap 3D accelerator that PCs have been able to surpass dedicated consoles.
      • I'm 23. I have used computers my entire life. I have at no point in my life seen computer graphics capabilities which were not at least what I would consider "twice as good" (in terms of complexity, framerate, resolution) as consumer consoles. (arcade cabinets are another, though short-lived, story)
    • You're forgetting the keyboard and mouse. They're the reason that RTS games are almost exclusively the domain of PCs.
      • You're forgetting the keyboard and mouse. They're the reason that RTS games are almost exclusively the domain of PCs.
        Also the reason why I refused to play console shooters. :) I've gotten the hang of Oblivion with the little thumbsticks but I dread trying to play a shooter with this setup, I'm just not used to it like mouse and keyboard. I can almost not embarrass myself with mouse and keyboard. On thumbsticks, it's n00bland all over again.
    • I have to add to the cons of consoles and pro of computers:

      -Consoles: In consoles there's only two or three layouts of the gamepad. Period. If you're used to another control scheme (like me), your out of luck. And more than once all the supplied control schemes suck big time.

      -Computers: You can program controls in anyway you like, and even mix them. I have played some games with a gamepad in one hand and a mouse in the other. Beat that!

      Thinking about it there's another con in computers:

      -Copy protection: S
  • Stop the Jargon. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alan_dershowitz (586542) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:32PM (#21089823)

    this single sku offers five complete games at an amazing price.
    What is an SKU? Is anyone else getting sick of the integration of marketing and sales jargon into regular language? I'm tired of game series being called "franchises." I'm not licensing anything, I'm buying it. It's a franchise to a licensor. To me it's a game.
    • by Sosarian (39969)
      I agree it's jargon, but not so much marketing jargon as regular retail/business jargon.

      Stock Keeping Unit.

    • by brkello (642429) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @06:24PM (#21092415)
      I used to agree with you. Now I am just tired of people like you complaining about the word. It has been showing up for months. People have been whining about it for months. The term is not going away any time soon so just learn to accept it like I have.

      Actually, I'm fine with SKU as long as I don't have to read the word meme. That one seems to have gone away thankfully.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yosho (135835)
      I agree completely. The version of the Orange Box I bought isn't even an "sku"; I bought and downloaded it through Steam, which means there isn't any "stock". Would it really be so hard for Slashdot's editors to use an actual word?
  • Can someone help a brother out and tell me how to take out the tripods at the end _easily_?

    I think that I'm too old to continue playing FPS games :(
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by hidannik (1085061)
      SPOILERS:

      1. Hunter escort must be killed first. Hunters destroy Magnusson devices before attachment otherwise.
      2. Best weapons against hunters are the car (one hit kill by ramming at speed), pulse rifle secondary fire (the energy ball, also a one hit kill, best used at point blank range), and RPG.
      3. Stand directly below the strider to get the best chance of attaching Mag ball.
      4. Use the car. Running around is too slow.
      5. Learn the map. Fail a few times, drive around and get the lay of the land. Then when
    • by Yosho (135835)
      By "tripods at the end", do you mean the hunters and striders at the end of Episode 2?

      Ok, here's what you do. First of all, you have to take out the hunters that come along with the striders first; if you don't, the hunters will shoot down any Magnusson devices you throw.

      Ramming the car into hunters is a pretty good way to kill them, but be careful, because they will try to dodge you; watch them carefully, and remember that you don't have to be going full speed to take one out. After you've closed in on t
  • broken link (Score:4, Informative)

    by ampathee (682788) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @03:50PM (#21090191)
    I believe that "best game songs ever made" link should be to here [mtv.com].
  • Portal is overhyped (Score:3, Interesting)

    by A Friendly Troll (1017492) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @04:06PM (#21090465)
    There. I said it.

    When I started playing Portal, I liked it very much. The slow progression, the impossible becoming possible, the wacky AI... And then came the last level and the great escape, which seemed like it lasted for ages. It was 1 AM already and I found myself irritated by the longevity of the escape, so I went and found a walkthrough for the few spots I got stuck in. I got tired of experimenting. I wanted it to be over. The very final thing in the game was something I did the next day, and it came down to trial and error. I knew what to do, but I got tired of it all. It wasn't the levels I've been playing earlier, where I had to think and actually have fun.

    Then I ventured into the advanced chambers. The first two were easy, the next (15?) I once again knew what to do, but couldn't do it without dozens and dozens of tries to get enough momentum and jump through the field.

    Finally I deinstalled the game.

    Don't get me wrong, Portal is a fun little game and it was money well-spent, but it has no replayability. I'm not quite sure additional map content would help - once you get the hang of it, there is no challenge in terms of thinking, it's just reflexes and automated portal shooting. Portal here, portal there, ball goes in the collector, elevator comes down, then you shoot around to gain momentum and jump somewhere up high... One interesting little factoid is that several times I found myself saying out loud "How the hell did I just do that?" - I wasn't thinking, I was just doing stuff. (Don't give me any psychobabble about GlaDOS wanting me to do exactly that.)

    Dunno... To be honest, the only FPS I've ever played more than once (four times, in fact) was Deus Ex. Maybe merging Portal and Half-Life would be a great game, as others have said already.
    • You clearly haven't done any advanced maps or challenges. There is replayability all over the place because every time you think you've done everything you can with portals, someone finds a new move that opens up a whole new realm of possibilities.
  • It's hard to overstate my satisfaction!

    But seriously, for those who haven't played Portal yet, consider The Ending Song to be one big spoiler; it won't be nearly as amusing if you haven't played through the game, and conversely the game will probably seem kind of anticlimactic if you play it for the first time after already having heard the ending in beautiful lyric form.
    • Well, I just "watched the credits" and it makes no sense. By the time I get around to playing, I think I'll have forgotten it. Maybe it's only a spoiler if you know what the hell she's singing about and why? ;-)
  • by LMacG (118321)
    > five complete games at an amazing price. That would be great, even if the games weren't any good ...

    Ummm, no it wouldn't be great. I'd be pissed that I spent 50-ish dollars on crap.
  • by Artaxs (1002024) on Tuesday October 23, 2007 @04:28PM (#21090795)
    One thing that improved my perception of Valve as a company was their handling of Orange Box purchases for users who already had HL2 and HL2 Episode 1. I bought the Orange Box online through Steam, and it allowed me to give away full, downloadable copies of the games I already had to friends on Steam Community. Being able to send the HL2 games as a gift with just a click made me feel like a portion of my $50 was not being "wasted" on games I already owned.

  • This guy [escapistmagazine.com] does very funny reviews.. Pretty much hits the nail on the head for Orange Box here..

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