2007 - The best gaming year ever

Of course, it’s easy to get blasé about the quality of a title a few monthsafter the fact– especially in a year responsible for so many great games - so let’s go back over The Orange Box for a moment shall we? In the Half-Life 2 saga we have a pitch perfect FPS unbound by any preconceptions usually heldby the genre. HL2 not only tries a bit of everything, but it gets everything right. It feels as much like an RPG as it does a shooter, such is the quality of script, depth of character and intensity of emotion to be found within. Its world is as varied and well-realised as that of any Final Fantasy game and its shooting is some of the most brutal, intelligent, and inventive that will ever grace your index finger.

And Portal! We could wear out keyboards telling you why you need to play it, but if you still need that explaining, may we suggest you just head right here. Like the findings of the guy who asked “What if we stuck wheels on that plank?” and invented skateboarding, Portal is a simple but fundamental question explored in the only environment capable of answering it, which opens up a whole new world and forces a whole new way of thinking in order to explore it. Portal is the kind of experience that only videogames can give and it crystalises exactly why they’re such an important medium. Forget your muddy brown shooters and photo-realistic racing games. In its concept and the beauty of how it makes that concept work, Portal is as next-gen as it gets.

As for Team Fortress 2, few multiplayer PC games could match it this year. Not only is it slick, brilliantly balanced and plays like a dream, it really understands the spirit of multiplayer FPS. TF2 isn’t just satisfied with giving you a set of good arenas and some cool weapons and letting you get on with it. TF2 is much more benevolent than that.

It wants to squeeze every last droplet of comedy and cameraderie out of the experience that it can. It wants to fill your gaming with hilariously frantic “Oh shit!” moments and sweet, sweet carnage as the different character classes stand off against each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It wants to make you laugh again and again as player after player gets shot down at the moment of victory for being too smug. It wants to make online FPS look and sound as funny as it plays, and the fact that it turns up at your house to do all of this with its friends Portal and HL2 in tow makes The Orange Box a flawlessly recommendable purchase.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.