Orange Box wait soon over

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Orange Box comes out soon.

It’s the next chapter in the Half-Life 2 saga, coming out on Oct. 9.

PC Gamer called HL 2 “The Best Game Ever Made” and it’s my favourite PC Game. It changed video games. It showed what an immersive, story-driven FPS could be. In HL 2 you see the entire game, cutscenes and all, through the main characters’ eyes. Everything has real-world physics and the puzzles are based around them. The action is intense, the atmosphere is tense. I loved every minute.

HL 2’s sequels are coming out episodically and, conveniently, the Orange Box includes everything that’s come before the newest episode – Half-Life 2, Half- Life 2: Episode 1 and Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. It is the best deal on PC games ever. I’ll talk about Portal and Episode 2 when they come out because I’ve been playing the beta of Team Fortress 2 and it is great.

I’m quite a fan of Counterstrike, but I like Team Fortress 2 more. Counterstrike is limiting. You have the choice of two teams (terrorist and counter-terrorist) and two game types, one where you rescue or prevent the rescue of hostages and one where you plant or prevent/defuse the bomb. I enjoy the game, but my skill is lacking, I get “pwn’d” lots. I don’t fare quite so badly in TF2.

Team Fortress 2’s main game type is based around control points and playing as various player classes. Each team starts off with control of a set number of control points and you spend the game defending your points and trying to take over the enemy’s. Taking a control point is accomplished simply by standing on it – the more players occupying it, the faster you take it over.

You defend points by killing enemy players (after death and a few seconds wait time, players re-spawn and are back in the game).

The classes make the game. You pick from one of nine character classes. Some classes are very similar to each other, some are very different. Classes like soldier and heavy weapons are pretty self explanatory.

But there are also medics who heal team members and spies who can pose as enemy team members and cloak. One of the coolest classes is the engineer who can set up gun turrets. Their placement can make or break a match.

Classes have different health, different movement speeds, different weapons, etc. One of the keys to success is entering a match and picking a class that will be useful. Upon entering a game with no medics you’ll be loved for picking medic as your class.

Levels have lots of hiding spots, but nowhere that gives an unfair advantage. Classes are also well balanced; every class has strengths and weaknesses. The heavy weapons shoot very fast but move very slow, the spy is weak and underpowered but gets an instant kill by attacking an opponent from behind.

I’ve had a lot of fun with the game; I really like the soldier and heavy weapons class. They suit my playing style.

The graphics really enhance the experience. The game looks like a cartoon and has a very silly ’60s vibe. All the characters are much exaggerated, but it makes them very easy to identify, you never wonder what class you’re looking at.

The game is beautiful, it really looks like a cartoon and it has all sorts of subtle effects that really capture the look. That being said, it’s violent. It’s rated mature for a reason.

As icing on the cake the game tracks all your stats. You can look at how long you’ve played each class, all your kills and deaths and points you scored as each class. Very, very cool.

I’ve encountered no lag and very few bugs in the game. It’s very polished for a beta, so I expect the final game will be even more solid.

Team Fortress 2 is now my favourite online FPS game. I highly recommend it and the Orange Box. You get my personal favourite multiplayer and single player PC games (all three parts), and Portal.

Calen Henry is a fourth year student of Japanese studies and multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

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