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So here was my day:

12:00a – The Orange Box is released. I am asleep, but have already paid for and preloaded it.
4:00a – I wake up inadvertently from excitement! I shower and get all my get-readying for school over with.
4:25a – I start playing Portal.
5:30a – The four alarms I set in fifteen minute increments start. I had planned to wake now, but I’m already up (and thinking with portals). Alarms get turned off.
7:00a – I beat Portal! I check out some of the bonus levels I unlocked, as well as skim over the achievements section. Man, there’re still a lot of things I can do!
7:10a – I start playing Half-Life 2: Episode Two.
8:00a – School. I have fun watching my friends’ faces when I tell them that I woke up at 4am to play Portal — and that I beat it before school. I love emotion! I also casually inform anyone who would eventually play Portal that the cake is a lie — including my physics desk. I am also the least tired I remember being for quite a while throughout the day — an odd occurrence, considering my operating hours for this day.
3:30p – I nervously show some family members how Portal works. I want to play Episode Two! That’s what I get for showing them the trailer.
4:00p – Back to HL2:E2.
8:30p – Episode Two: beaten.

This was pretty much my favorite day in quite a while. The following are rants about the awesomeness about the games involved in it.

Portal is awesome. Let me say that I’m not totally new to this concept — I’ve very repeatedly played with similar systems in Prey (with the custom portal-creation mod) and Narbacular Drop (the game from which Portal evolved, created by a group of students from Digipen who now all happily work for Valve), but Portal combines the slickness and meaning of the former with the portal-focused gameplay from the latter to make an — I simply must repeat myself — awesome game.

I’ve said before that I’m a huge storyline guy, and although no trailers do this one justice, the intricacy of it is really something to take into consideration; it’s much deeper than you’d imagine, even after playing completely through it. At first you’re just like, “Oh, so I’m this test participant for this awesome portal stuff, that’s cool”, but it gets so much more intricate — to an amount that I actually do not know at this time, but is sure to be hinted at upon the arrival of Episode Three (yep, you guessed it — Portal takes place in the Half-Life universe, and this is actually apparent during play of Episode Two; a matter which surely will be delved into further along in the episodes).

As for Episode Two: JEEZ VALVE, FINALLY!

Now that that’s out of my system, I can say that it’s actually a pretty good game. You can really tell how much work they put into the engine — maybe not through huge, blatantly noticeable things, but small things, like how when you’re in a cave the light reflections look much, well, shinier, and how (I love this) when you spin to face another direction really fast, your screen actually blurs — it sounds trivial, but it’s a pretty awesome thing when you notice it for the first time (if you came into my room when I noticed it, you’d just watch me spinning around in circles really fast for about two minutes straight).

There isn’t a whole lot of new stuff in it (a new car and a new type of mine come to mind), but the storyline actually starts to connect more with that of Half-Life 1 (notice I only said starts to — there are just a few things mentioned about some memories from the original Half-Life that could have to do with your future success), as well as Portal, as I mentioned already.

I hate to leave Team Fortress 2 out of the party, but I’d already played it in beta, so I’m not as super-excited about it right now. Make no mistake, though: The Orange Box is a purchase well worth the money if you’re any sort of fan at all of Half-Life or its relatives. Come to think of it, I think most people would enjoy Portal despite their gaming background.

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