Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The best deal in Thai gaming history ?

Database News : Thursday December 06, 2007


The best deal in Thai gaming history ?


Every once in a long while, there is something really fantastic happening to the PC gaming world. And I can assure you that in this regard, nothing in recent history can top Valve Software's The Orange Box offering.

This package consists of five great games bundled into one box: namely Half Life 2, HL2 Episode One, HL2 Episode Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. As you read my column, I assume that you know about Half Life 2, the best game of 2004 for all intents and purposes. HL2 Episode One and Two naturally pick up where its predecessors left off, continuing the saga of Gordon Freeman and his fight for humankind.

Frankly, these Half Life 2 series alone are more than worth the admission price. And besides the chance to play Episode Two, the newest in the series, this is probably the first chance for legitimate gamers in Thailand to play Episode One - at least those who acquire games the old fashioned way (ie, not buying via Steam).

Team Fortress 2, a class-based multi-player shoot-em-up that was introduced eons ago, has also been revamped. All the game's nine classes are now represented in cute looking cartoonish fashion, adding uniqueness and freshness to the game. It's worth noting that as of the time I'm writing this review, there are no bots for Team Fortress 2 yet. No one is sure whether there will be any at all. The reason is simple: Valve has to code nine types of bots, quite a Herculean task, if they decide to provide this feature. (Don't lose hope just yet, as a lot of people are asking for it on the Internet. Something might give.)

The last element of this Orange Box package is a puzzle game called Portal (reviewed below). The local version of the package is priced at 599 baht. You can say that this is one of the best, if not the best deal in Thailand's gaming industry. However, given that Half Life 2 was launched in 2004, surely many gamers already own the game (and they probably own Episode One as well), making the deal less appealing to them. So Valve allows Orange Box buyers who already own either Half Life 2 or HL 2 Episode One to give gifts of games to friends who do not already own these two games. A very good idea indeed.

In case, you haven't bought the package yet, run to the nearest game shop and grab a copy. Good deals like this never last. Highly recommended.

Portal: the game

Portal is one of the strangest FPS (First Person Shooter) games in the entire history of FPS. It's a breakthrough to the genre in much the same way as FPS was a breakthrough to the gaming industry. Here you have an FPS with only one weapon - well, that is if you can call a portal gun a weapon. And instead of shooting deadly ammunition, you create two portals on any concrete surface, one blue and one orange. Then you follow only one standing rule in the game: when you enter one portal, you must exit from another with equal velocity and momentum.

Armed with such knowledge, you are then able to start your life in Aperture Science's Lab as a lab rat solving puzzles in each level and trying to advance to the next. At first, the game lets you learn the ropes with relatively easy puzzles in rooms full of concrete surfaces (floor, ceiling, and walls). Even then, sometimes you might not be sure what to do - until you start to think of portals.

Not long after, the game will throw its curved ball - you will be put into rooms where not all surfaces are "portal-able." And finally, when your portal gun can generate both blue and orange portals - which means you can go virtually any where at will - it's open season. Energy balls, acid pools, portable machine-gun turrets, and floor-mounted rocket launchers - all of which are designed to give you instant death - are added to the fray. You have to be creative to deal with these deadly obstacles.

For example, if you create an orange portal on the ceiling and then shoot a blue portal directly under the turret, the poor turret will fall into the blue portal on the ground and then fall off from that orange portal on the ceiling, hitting the ground and malfunctioning. You can also create one portal as a point for the energy balls to enter and another one as the ball's exit point, aiming straight at the turret that blocks your way.

Although puzzle solving is the core of Portal, good voice acting from the "Host" along with her dark but hilarious humour is also essential and gives a distinctive character to the game. At the last level, you get a chance to confront this Host in one of the most interesting "Boss Fights" in the history of FPS, portal style.

After you finish the game the first time, you unlock two additional advanced modes. But I think the real end-game reward is the end-credit itself. While most games, even great ones, reward you with a nice finishing video, Valve chooses to give you one of the most exhilarating (and beautiful) ending-songs you have ever heard. The sarcastic lyrics also go along very well with the experience you've been through in the game.

This is a game with style. It contains a plot twist and some interesting Easter eggs (for example, Aperture Sciences' relationship with Black Mesa, the company at the center of the first Half Life).

If you like FPS, love challenges, admire games designed by gifted people, you should not miss this awesome game. It's proof that when executed brilliantly, a simple idea can make a game extremely fun to play. Portal is refreshing, a real gem - whichever way you cut it.

Problem solving, Portal style

Not all puzzles in Portal are deadly. Most of them are mind-boggling, however. You can solve these puzzles by adhering to simple rules: objects in the game, including yourself, that enter one portal will exit from another - with egressing velocity/momentum equal to ingressing.

So here is how you solve some puzzles in the game.

First puzzle:

You're standing on a solid concrete surface with multiple stepping concrete platforms, placed at interval and leading to the door high above. Next to where you stand is also a dry concrete pit deeper than the height of the first platform. You need to go up to the high door. But how? (Surely the gaps and heights between each platform are too great for you to jump?)

First, you shoot orange portal on the ground. Then you jump, head first, into the pit. In mid-air you shoot blue portal where you're supposed to land on the pit's bottom. Thanks to gravity, you would enter the blue portal at the pit's bottom (down direction) at high velocity, and emerge from the orange portal on the ground level (up direction) at the same speed.

Because the pit is deeper than the height of the first platform, once you come out of the orange portal, you should be sent into the air higher than this platform. Use this fact to your benefit by performing another mid-air blue portal placement by aiming at the top of the platform. The next time you drop into the orange portal on the ground, you will exit from this new blue portal you've just created on the first platform - again at the speed that would send you up higher than the second platform. Get the idea? You keep pulling this mid-air portal placement on the next higher platform and you will "fall" to the highest platform in no time.

Second puzzle:

You are in a high-ceiling longitudinal concrete room with a glass wall high above your head separating the room into two sections. The energy field blocking from the top of the glass wall to the room's ceiling prohibits you from creating a portal on the other side of the room. (A portal can not be created if the aiming path is blocked by glass or an energy shield.) You need to jump across that glass wall to the other side. But how?

First you open an orange portal at the highest point of the concrete wall on your side opposite to the direction you want to jump. Then you create a blue portal on the ground, exactly where you stand.

You will fall into the blue portal and immediately exit from the orange portal above. While in mid-air, aim your portal gun exactly where you're supposed to land and then again shoot another blue portal. This time you will fall through the blue portal faster than the first because of gravity pull. Momentum from this maneuver, known as "flinging", will lob you out of the above orange portal faster still, which makes you go farther and higher. You will be flung across the glass wall and land on the other side of the room as planned.

As they say in Aperture Science, "There's a hole in the sky, through which things can fly."

By : Bangkok Post

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