Half-Life: Escape from City 17
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Half-Life: Escape from City 17 is a short fan film series directed by the Purchase Brothers. Following the story of four Resistance members escaping from City 17, it is set during the build up to the imminent destruction of the Citadel Core.
The first installment, made on a budget of only $500 (USD) with "no time, no crew, no script", was released on YouTube on February 12, 2009. The second installment, made on a budget of $250 (USD), was released on August 24, 2011. A third installment was planned but did not finish production.
Part One of the film takes place during the events of Half-Life 2: Episode One, after the Citadel has gone critical. At the beginning of the first part of the film, scientist Isaac Kleiner is seen talking through large video monitors (which formerly displayed Breencasts), warning that the Citadel will be involved in a destructive event which will probably irradiate a large area around it. Against a backdrop depicting City 17, including the Citadel, with parts of it on fire, Kleiner advises that anyone left in the city should evacuate promptly. The film illustrates various scenes of combat between Combine forces and the Resistance, with Civil Protection and armed citizens engaging in fierce firefights through the streets of City 17. Two male Resistance members are introduced in a train-yard, with one asking by radio to others away from their location whether any trains are leaving. Receiving a response, he is told that the last train from that yard left earlier, and that he should try to get out of the city by foot or continue trying to locate a train. Civil Protection officers soon appear, and the two engage in combat throughout much of the rest of the film. They are eventually caught upon an open stretch of railway, with a Combine hunter-chopper bearing down. As the chopper, whilst firing weaponry, passes overhead of the two, the film cuts to a black screen.
Part Two of the story begins prior to the first part, at around the same time of the first explosion of Nova Prospekt as war is seen to break out in City 17, eventually leading to the first explosion of the Citadel. A male undercover Rebel saves a female Rebel from Combine soldiers, but the latter, not speaking or understanding English, is initially seen to distrust her rescuer. Eventually they get on the way out of the city as it is engulfed in street war, with Striders tearing down buildings. Along with other Rebels, the two endure heavy combat and are seen to bring down a Strider with a Rocket Launcher, Submachine Gun, and a Sniper Rifle. Eventually, the two become romantically involved. Travelling by the Canals, the couple joins with the two other Rebels seen escaping the City in Part One, but the male Rebel, caught off-guard, is shot by Civil Protection and dies in the arms of his newfound friend. The remaining three Rebels escape the Metrocops into a Zombie-infested tunnel, where the female rebel, distracted in her grief, is attacked by a Headcrab that latches onto her head. The other two members are attacked by the Zombies and are driven back, unable to help their companion. The tunnel, though inhospitable, serves as a shelter against the second explosion of the Citadel, which is seen to tear down what is left of the City. The female Rebel is unable to remove the Headcrab with her hands but, still conscious, she manages to load the spare pistol given to her earlier by her deceased friend and shoot the parasite without harming herself. The three are then seen to drive back the Zombies, and escape the tunnel into sunlight.
The film was created by Toronto-based David and Ian Purchase, who use the professional name of the Purchase Brothers. Before Escape from City 17, the Purchase Brothers had directed several commercials, including one for Coca-Cola. David contended that they worked as commercial directors in order to support their independent projects. They were both fans of the Half-Life series, and decided to start Escape from City 17 as a way "to showcase and promote their talents further, and experiment with several post-production techniques they'd developed."
The two had a budget of $500 for Part One and $250 for Part Two; the computer equipment and software employed for the development of the film belonged to the Purchase Brothers from previous projects. According to David, the money was spent on the live-action elements of the film, saying that "The costumes, and used/broken airsoft guns made up the bulk of the budget." The two had no crew to support them, and were not paid for their work. Many of the elements of the film, such as the background and sound effects, were extracted from Half-Life 2, "graphically enhanced, and incorporated into the live action with 'a lot of complicated tracking and rotoscoping.'"
The filming for the third part was completed, and in 2013, a fundraising campaign was held via Indiegogo in order to fund the film's special effects post-production work. However, it failed to meet its goal. A teaser trailer for part three had been released.
The film was produced independently, however Valve assisted in its promotion and posted the video onto their user community channel, Steam News. The first part of the film was released on YouTube on February 12, 2009, and within a day had gained over 500,000 views, and over 1,000,000 by February 15.
The Purchase Brothers planned to release the second part of the film in early to mid March 2009, but the large amount of emails and phone calls the two have received regarding the first part has slowed development of the second. The final cut of Part Two was officially released on August 24, 2011, with a pre-release leak appearing as early as August 19. The pre-release version contains mostly the same footage, but unlike the final cut (which tells the story in chronological order), it features the same story told in pieces and flashbacks.
In October of 2016, both video uploads on the Purchase Brothers' YouTube channel were disabled from public viewing. The channel itself was deactivated soon after, leaving no official venue to view the films at.
Barry White of Citizen Game stated that the first part of the film "[blew] my mind" and "Considering the comparatively [sic] paltry resources...at their [the Purchase Brothers] disposal this short still manages to be better than every video game movie currently in existence." Wagner Au of NewTeeVee contended that the first part "is one of those rare viral videos that seems destined to launch a breakout success", and added "non-gamers are likely to be impressed by its rollicking action and bravura special effects." Au believed its popularity was due, in part, to the fact that the video is adapted from Half-Life 2. Patrick Goss, writing for Tech Radar, said the in-game footage from Half-Life 2 "blended almost seamlessly into [the] live action footage" in the film.
- Half-Life: Escape From City-17 Part 3 on Indiegogo
- Escape From City 17 Part 3 Teaser on Vimeo
- News entry on Steam (February 13, 2009) (archived)
- Escape From City 17 on Citizen Game (February 15, 2009) (archived)
- Interview With David Purchase, Co-creator of Escape From City 17 on Gigaom (February 19, 2009)
- Unofficial Half Life film becomes internet hit on TechRadar (February 16, 2009)