My guest for this week's special all Half-Life 2 issue of A Winner Is You is Old Rich People's Steve Menegozzi. You may know Old Rich People from their recent sketch Halo 3 Sound Effects.
TALKING POINT: Valve recently released The Orange Box, a collection of three new first-person shooters. Among them is Team Fortress 2, which has been in development for 10 years. Was it worth it the wait?
Jeff: If I just say yes, can we can stop talking and go back to playing Team Fortress 2?
Steve: I love the art. It's like you're playing The Incredibles.
Jeff: It's Norman Rockwell with sentry guns. Even in Counter-Strike, the previous gold standard of teamwork-based shooters, I often had trouble simply telling one team from the other. In Team Fortress 2, it's easy to tell who someone is and how they're going to try to kill you with a glance.
Steve: This is my first Team Fortress on a console. The thing I'll miss most from the PC is is the level editor, followed closely by the ability to spraypaint huge images of porno.
Jeff: There's only six maps, so I guess Valve spent most of the decade tinkering with the balance between the classes. It was worth it. They're all unique and, if played right, useful.
Steve: I don't understood who would want to be a medic. Where's the glory?
Jeff: The medic is a brave and noble professional who helps his teammates, plus he has a machine gun that shoots syringes. When you get a medic + heavy weapons guy combo going, you create an invincible tank but become the weak point yourself. It's an interesting situation.
Steve: I play for Team Steve.
Jeff: So you're basically playing Fortress 2.
TALKING POINT: The second third of The Orange Box is Portal. Does the game make your brain tingle as much as the trailer?
Steve: Yes. Portal is the only first-person shooter where you can bend physics to look at your own ass.
Jeff: In a world of Madden '08-and-a-half sequels, it's refreshing to see something that's truly new.
Steve: Which only means we'll be seeing a lot of clones shortly. Madden '09 with portals!
Jeff: In addition to being fun, Portal is the rare game that's effortlessly hilarious. Move over Booger Man, we have a new funniest game of all-time.
Steve: The one disappointment is that there's no multiplayer.
Jeff: Portal had a multi-player mode, but Valve took it out of the game when it ripped a hole in space-time and killed four testers. You got points by blowing your opponents' minds.
Steve: Do you think Stephen Hawking likes Portal?
Jeff: I think Stephen Hawking actually did the narration.
Steve: He probably hasn't even gotten to it yet because he's playing so much Team Fortress 2.
TALKING POINT: How is it that Half Life 2 Episode Two, a sequel to one of the all-time greatest games, is the least exciting part of The Orange Box?
Steve: It doesn't look like The Incredibles, and it doesn't include a new space-time destroying gun.
Jeff: Half Life 2 incorporated physics in a way never before seen in a game. Half Life 2: Episode One added one of the first tolerable sidekicks in video game history (nothing personal, Daxter). Episode Two's lacks a comparable in-your-face upgrade, though its open environments are impressive. Is the 360 version acceptable, or does Half Life demand a mouse and keyboard?
Steve: The Half Life series has always been more strategy than twitch, and it's pace translates well to the 360's gamepad.
Jeff: If you choose the console, however, you won't be able to get in on any of the third-party mods. How am I supposed to make the Combine all look like Barney?
Steve: You can't put a price on playing games on the couch. That said, The 360 version also costs $10 more. In case it wasn't obvious yet, this is a great value.
Jeff: They could have replaced any of the three games with Shaq Fu 2 and The Orange Box would still be a steal. It's great how completely different Portal, Episode 2, and Team Fortress 2 are. You really have to appreciate different kinds of games to get the most out of The Orange Box.
Steve: Also helpful majoring in communications so you can give the game the time it deserves.