Playing through all parts of Valve's The Orange Box for the PlayStation 3—a port handled externally by EA UK—I've experienced quite a ride. I've played through Episode Two, a surprisingly long and enjoyable continuation of the Half-Life 2 story, and revisited Episode One, a game much more challenging and unforgiving than I had remembered from my turn with the PC version. I also burned through the PlayStation 3's version of Portal, a game that plays just as well with a SIXAXIS as with a keyboard and mouse.
I even spent a healthy portion of my time with the original Half-Life 2, a game that still holds up, now three years long in the tooth. The innate gameplay and intangible experience has been great, as it has from the beginning of the Half-Life 2 saga. The technical aspects, however, have been less so.Despite thinking that I'm a bit of a frame rate snob, turns out I'm not. I've certainly experienced my share of less than optimal moments on my relatively ancient Windows XP machine. Perhaps that's why I was able to mostly overlook most of The Orange Box's frame rate dips on the PlayStation 3. I suppose it's like Shadow of the Colossus on the PlayStation 2. It couldn't hold onto a solid frame rate if its figurative life depended on it, but that doesn't prevent it from being one of the best games of the generation, if not all time, in my opinion.
However, with that paragraph full of excuses behind us, the technical performance of The Orange Box on the PlayStation 3 is, in parts, unforgivable. The game's technical hiccups (almost wholly frame rate related) aren't limited to any particular portion of the game. It seemed that the title was at its worst during portions of Episode One, making an already frustrating portion of the game that much more difficult to bypass because of poor performance. Those issues with frame rate also affects moments in Portal, sadly, a game that features little in the way of intense action and enemies.
Most of the time, when The Orange Box started to stutter, I found myself wondering "Why here? Why now?" It wasn't always the moments clogged with action or effects, perhaps for the better.
The Orange Box for the PS3 simply the least impressive release of the three, across the board, strongly outperformed by its Xbox 360 and PC counterparts. Those with a choice, who for some reason may have waited until now to pick up the collection, should look to the non-PlayStation 3 editions of the game if they can. Those who do will enjoy a smoother experience and have access to each platforms' version of Achievements.
Those currently only in possession of a PS3 should still look at The Orange Box as a worthwhile purchase. There's almost no end to the value in the five game collection. Anyone who has missed out on the Half-Life 2 saga is in for a treat, regardless of the less than optimal presentation. The game's included are thrilling, moving, enlightening and, at times, a source of great humour. Half-Life 2 is one of the few examples that would hold up in a "games as art" debate, a stellar example of less is more storytelling and beautiful aesthetic design.
It's only a shame that the PlayStation 3 port doesn't do portions of the game justice.