Nega-review: The Orange Box

To start with, there's "the horrendous box art, which I'm pretty certain was designed by a select group of mildy-talented fifth graders." (8)

For Half-Life 2 and its episodic add-ons, "the visuals are not as good as they should be." (8) "The graphics don't compare with say BioShock, Gears of War or Halo 3," (6) and the game "suffer[s] from occasional framerate stutters and issues." (1) "There's also some noticeable pop-up." (6) "You'll ... see some chugs at certain points, such as during large chain explosions with equally large numbers of characters onscreen." (1)

"There are mid-level loads that halt the action... often [for] 30 seconds to a full minute. This is especially aggravating when a load comes during a high-speed chase." (8) "Whenever you approach a new area, the game pauses and loads. This feels distinctly last-gen, especially compared with FPS of the moment Halo 3, which seamlessly loads new areas without pause." (6)

As for the game itself, "some sections feel over-long, others just a lonely set of corridors." (3) Your AI teammates "can often get in your way when trying to move about small places [and] the AI often ignores [your] orders or will simply refuse to stay put and let you get through a corridor." (8) "Episode 2 is still linear. ... It's not exactly innovative - there's only one new enemy type and the lone new weapon isn't seen until the finale." (4) "The sense of familiarity can dull the game's appeal to [an] extent." (3)

Team Fortress 2
's biggest problem is that "there are only a handful of maps" (4) and "none of the gametypes are really out of the ordinary." (5) Specifically, "there are only six maps to choose from" (9) and "each of the six maps has one game type attached to it. This ... hurts the diversity considerably. ... There's no customization here." (8) "And 2fort is the only capture-the-flag map." (9) "Just one capture the flag map isn't nearly enough." (7)

"There are also some performance issues. I've had some big matches that ran just fine, but other matches (even ones with only four players) that were plagued by lag." (8) "It would occasionally stop frame and jitter around like older PC games used to back in the day." (5) "Now several days after release there still isn't a fix in place." (7) "Without a strong connection from the host, TF2 has some issues." (8)

There are some other complaints as well. "Paltry numbers will drag down the overall experience, as we found during some 3-on-3 sessions. (1) "I missed the Halo 3 matchmaking system, which all online games should have now." (6) And, frankly, "the source engine's becoming a little grey around the temples. The enemy models, in particular, are starting to look dated, and a lot of the textures break up when you get up close and personal." (7)

"I question the longevity of TF2 multiplayer." (8) "It's s not the best online FPS the consoles have to offer." (6) "Will people be playing the same maps, with the same game types in six months?" (8) Personally, "it won't be stealing me away from Halo 3 long term." (6)

As for Portal, "he first fifteen puzzles ... are a real breeze [and] few of the puzzles are difficult to solve." (8) "It will probably take you two hours to complete at most," (5). All right, all right, it "may take you three hours or so if you're able to quickly grasp the concepts that are presented" (9) but "it's closer to four hours if you struggle through the last few like I did." (3) The game could be called "a little short" (6), "too short" (4) or "very brief." (1) Any way you slice it, "Portal doesn't fully deliver on its promise." (8)

Welcome, reader, to the latest Joystiq nega-review. Nega-reviews take the niggling negative bits from nine overwhelmingly positive reviews (sources below) and combines them into an overall vicious whole. Important, positive context has been removed from some of these quotes, but we didn't change the underlying meaning of anyone's words ... each quote was intended as a negative in the original review. We don't do this because we think the game is actually bad, but more to point out that even universally praised games have problems and no game is perfect.

On a personal note, I have to say putting this Nega-review together was a lot harder than putting together the one for Halo 3. While the final review scores were similar, the complaints about Orange Box seemed smaller and altogether more overwhelmed by absolutely glowing positives. I mean look at the Portal section above ... practically the only close-to-negative thing anyone said was that it was too short.

We do plan on making this a regular series for well-hyped, AAA games that receive across-the-board critical praise. While the final decision on what games to nega-review isn't made until the reviews start coming in, Mass Effect, Mario Galaxy and Rock Band are likely candidates on the horizon. Any others we should look out for? Let us know in the comments.

(1) GameSpy
(2) 1UP
(3) EuroGamer
(4) Yahoo! Games
(5) Gamer 2.0
(6) Pro-G
(7) GameTrailers
(8) IGN
(9) Gamespot

This article was originally published on Joystiq.