The Orange Box (PS3) Impressions: Volume Two

orange_box_vol2.jpgYesterday, I posted volume one of my impressions of the PlayStation 3 version of Valve's The Orange Box, the one handled by EA UK. It's arriving about two months later than its PC and Xbox 360 counterparts and amid some controversy. I spent a few more hours with the PS3 port again today, to get a more complete feel for the game's performance. Those overly sensitive to spoilers, which I'll do my best to avoid, may want to skip to the end.

Having worked my way through the first three chapters of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, I stopped just before one of the episode's key vehicle sequences. This portion of the game was deemed one of the worst, in terms of technical performance. Assessments of those moments are mostly accurate. Yes, the frame rate takes some heavy dips, but at no point did it become unplayable. Slideshow? Nah. At least not for me.Driving Episode Two's car through a wooded outdoor area, over a nicely rendered stream is where The Orange Box seems to perform at its worst. Fortunately, this section of the game is little more than a leisurely spin in the gutted car, and the game's graphics held up nicely during a more peril-filled driving scene.

There's no doubt that The Orange Box on the PlayStation 3 underperforms in this particular chapter, but it is not game breaking. Some will complain, some simply won't notice. Sorry, but I have little in the way of doom and gloom to serve up to you.

That said, there are a few more obvious hiccups in the second half of Episode Two. As in the first half, panning from side to side in certain levels quickly can cause a frame rate dip. Fortunately, during many of the more action packed moments, the game continues to perform admirably.

One odd glitch that I've come across is the camera spinning wildly or Gordon moving against my will, given the odd analogue stick push. This has happened maybe a half-dozen times during my eight-plus hours with the game and may be due to odd SIXAXIS behavior. Fortunately, I haven't mistakenly walked off any cliffs.

I've also seen a few more pop-ups than I'd really be happy with. During one portion of the game's fifth chapter, headcrab zombies and Combine zombies that were submerged under toxic waste had odd moments of popping up and down. You'll also see some far off geometry popping in during the game's driving portions.

Also worth a mention is the game's loading. While the original Half-Life 2 and its episodes take about 12-15 seconds to load between areas, it handles those loads a bit more gracefully than Episode Two does. Load times are mostly the same, but Episode Two places them at less convenient spots.

I did spend a bit more time with Portal today, as well, which features a handful of stuttering moments when panning around. Momentarily annoying when looking for such things? Yes. Game killing? No. The last time I'll ask and answer my own question? Not by a long shot.

I expect that I'll wrap up Episode Two tomorrow, then go back and give the other titles a closer look, especially the driving bits on Episode One and the original Half-Life 2. I hope to have a final impressions post available for everyone soon.

To wrap up, I'm still having a great time with The Orange Box. It's surprisingly funnier than previous Half-Life games and still manages to mix up the formula well. None of the technical hairsplitting is interfering with my journey through the game. Though, I'd prefer a few more rocket propelled grenade rounds...


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