Portal

by Mike Shea on 26 April 2008

I've had about a half dozen games sitting on my shelf almost totally unplayed since Christmas. Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, Mario Galaxy, Half Life Orange Box were all among them. A few I kept, and a few I sold on Ebay. I haven't even played top-tier games like Mario Galaxy for very long before running off to other things.

My life with games is different now. Aside from World of Warcraft and the occasional Zelda-like game, I don't spend more than five to ten hours with any game. Instead of feeling ripped off after beating a game in 10 hours, I feel relief. I want to finish these games but I don't have the patience I once had.

That's one of the things that makes so great. I've had Orange Box sitting on my shelf but when a couple of my players burst into singing "Still Alive" at my D&D game on Thursday, I made a determination to play and beat . I did so, in three sittings, from Thursday night to Saturday morning.

shows that there is a niche for a new type of game. This game can be finished in five to ten hours and has a more limited range of interaction than a traditional $60 game but still has everything we expect in games. Of course, the price should be slashed as well - we shouldn't have to pay $60 for a five hour game. However, when we look at Metacritic, many of the games scored above 80% aren't full games. Rez and Geometry Wars, for example, hit the world of gaming hard and neither are nearly as deep and rich as Assassin's Creed or Bioshock, or Mass Effect. And I liked more than all of those games.

Game producers are spending too much money making games these days. Games have budgets like Hollywood blockbusters and require a return of 10 million sales before they break even. Yet we gain little from that extra money. Sure, Halo 3 is a great game, but there are also a ton of really bad games with high budgets to go along with it.

I'm hoping we see more games like in the future. A small number of really creative people with a licensed game engine can make a game that is just as engrossing and entertaining as the huge blockbuster games that require 200 people and the budget of a Michael Bay movie.

So what about ? Here is a game simple in scope but extremely creative. It redefines 3d gaming. It twists your perceptions of space and gravity. It has probably the best villain in any game I can recall playing. It has the best ending I can recall seeing. It is a game I want to share with all of my friends, a game I want to talk about and play again. It was also one game of three in a single box; making Orange Box the best game available for the Xbox 360.

Grand Theft Auto IV is coming out in a couple of days and I'm sure to spend a deal of time with that. It is one of the few games I know of that demands my attention and may for a long time. There aren't many games that do that these days. But while I wait for this behemoth living world on a slice of plastic and metal, I am really glad I spent the time to play through . I will always remember it fondly and if you own an Xbox 360, I cannot recommend it enough. It is worth the price of Orange Box alone.

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