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The subject matter of this article contains in-development information that was cut from the final version of an official and/or canonical source and appears in no other canonical source. It may also contain incomplete information since not all cut material is publicly known.
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The Skyscraper, also known as Vertigo or Palace, is the generic name of a City 17 location and chapter cut from Half-Life 2. Being the first location of the fourth day, it was to be set after the Weather Control chapter, and to be the first chapter of the street wars. According to the dates of the maps and the related sound files, it was worked on from around November 2000 to February 2002.
After the Weather Control battle, Gordon and Alyx were to go back to City 17 with a C-130 and head for the Citadel, but the plane was to crash at the top of a very high skyscraper, originally housing office spaces or exhibition/museum, after being damaged by Hunter-Choppers. The crash was to cause Alyx to be hurt and kidnapped by the Combine, and Gordon to have to find her father, Captain Vance, in an emergency bunker near the inner gates. Alyx sound files (two versions of the lines made by temporary actresses) found in the Half-Life 2 leak files and created late 2000 indicate that Alyx cannot move and tells Gordon to find an "emergency bunker near the inner gates" where her father is "in command". It seems that Vance was to get back to City 17 by other means or with another chopper/C-130 than Gordon and Alyx's one, since he is already there and busy in his headquarters when they crash.
Gordon was then to go through the whole building from its top to its street level, while fighting Combine forces and Headcrabs (see below for a detailed list of enemies encountered). Then, after leaving the Skyscraper, he was to join the war on the streets by the rooftops of the surrounding buildings, to eventually reach ground level.
Further sound files, created in November 2000, indicate that after Alyx's speech to Gordon and her being taken away, the player was to hear an Overwatch Soldier squad being deployed in the area, talking through radios with normal human voices. A leader was to order two of the Overwatch Soldiers to search the building's upper decks and work their way down to the lower floors. During their search of the several floors they were to discuss Alyx talking to someone below before being taken away, her and Gordon crashing with "Rebel chopper" (instead of the earlier C-130), the possibility of finding Rebel weapons in the building (reportedly used as a cache by the Underground, and with an indirect reference to the Brickbat) or in the crashed chopper, and possibly keep them to themselves despite the weapon being forbidden contraband. While talking, they were to be interrupted by a noise supposedly made by Gordon, then look for a way to reach the location of the noise, then blow rubble barring their way with explosives. Right after that, it seems they were to find themselves facing Gordon.
While the two Combine units are clearly identified as Overwatch Soldiers through their dialogue sounds named "
#sky_sol#", for "skyscraper" and "soldier", and the presence of two OICW-wielding Overwatch Soldiers in the atrium in the map "
vert_03_010", in the conversation they suggest they use Stunsticks and one of them states their nervous system is unmodified, restricting them access to more complex Combine weapons, which would rather refer to Metrocops.
The building comes in two versions, almost totally unrelated to each other: "Vertigo", last edited in October 2001, and "Palace", last edited in February 2002.
The first version is an Art Deco-style American skyscraper with brick, stone, marble and concrete, reminiscent of the Empire State Building, City 17 having an American look at this time of the game's development. Inside the building can be found decrepit office spaces with brush furniture, hallways, a large atrium with a fountain, multiple elevator shafts and stairwells, a mechanical floor, and a kitchen. A window washer platform is also located outside the upper levels and used by the player to progress by descending into the atrium. The building's interiors are designed in uniform Art Deco style, with dark green and tan colored marble tiles and ornate wallpaper. Many parts of the building are shown to be damaged or in heavy disrepair, with destroyed floors, burned interiors, crumbling plaster and broken steam pipes. Enemies encountered by the player were to include humanoid Combine units, Headcrabs and Zombies, as well as a Barnacle found by a stairwell in the first map. As indicated by sound and precipitation entities, it was to be raining outside, with thunder and lightning flashing over the crash site. Vertigo is the most complete version of the two, having all of its maps prototyped and the next chapter starting at the foot of the building on the rooftops of the nearby smaller buildings. This latter part was also to contain Shuttles (flying APCs) flying above the battle, and Merkavas.
The crash site on the destroyed top of the building, with remade brush C-130 added.
Ditto, closer view. Several emergency flares are presumbably left by Combine soldiers deployed in the building.
The atrium, with the bronze statue of a horse added.
The second version is a rather Stalinist-style building, made mostly of stone instead of brick, as well as plaster and wooden wainscots inside, a style more similar to the Eastern European City 17 design seen in the final game. In there can be found a museum, featuring pedestals with vases and Breen busts, showcases containing vases, a Vortigaunt, as well as two Citizens and Cohrt, most likely serving as placeholders. An Ichthyosaur is also hanged to the ceiling, and the horse bronze statue from the final game and and the E3 2002 demo "Terminal" can also be found. Two citizens and Barney were to be seen near the elevator shafts at the end of the first map, though the NPCs lack any scripting and it's therefore not known if their presence has a storyline relevance. Notably, unlike in the Vertigo version of the chapter, there appears to be no fitting environment for the two Combine soldiers' dialogue and actions to take place, suggesting the idea was dropped for the Palace version and the scene of Alyx's kidnapping was to play out in a different way. The player was to be attacked by Overwatch Soldiers, a Headcrab, a Combine Assassin, a Mortar Synth, a City Scanner and a Shield Scanner. A Gunship was also to fly around the building, firing at the player. This version of the chapter is much more incomplete, featuring only two maps, with the second one barely started on. It seems that the development team wanted to remake the skyscraper from scratch with the new style they settled on, this time not featuring the battle on the rooftops below, but the chapter was dropped before any link to the streets was made; although what seems to be the first street war map, "
d4_streetwar_01", last edited September 2002, features the building at an incomplete stage outside the map's playable area. In the WC mappack, final names for the game's last part tend to start with "
d4_", while in the final version it stops at "
d3_", since the number of days covered by the game was reduced from four to three (disregarding the week spent between the two portals by Gordon and Alyx).
Palace appears to be based on an actual skyscraper, the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, although its adornments were heavily simplified and the clock removed. It currently serves as an exhibition center and office complex, much like the Half-Life 2 building originally did in the storyline.
The Palace of Culture and Science is a controversial Stalinist tower completed in 1955, the tallest building in Poland and one of the tallest in the European Union. The most famous Stalinist towers are the Seven Sisters buildings in Moscow; they include the headquarters of the former Soviet Ministry of Heavy Industry, the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the Hotel Ukraina or the Hotel Leningradskaya, among others.
Palace of Culture and Science
- Some of the prominent cut models that were to be seen in Palace, namely one of the two decorative chandeliers as well as several vase models, were later reused in Counter-Strike: Source and Left 4 Dead. Multiple textures originally created specifically for either versions of the Skyscraper chapter were recycled in Half-Life 2 and some other Valve games.
- The bronze horse statue seen in Palace can still be found at the end of the chapter "Follow Freeman!". It was also originally featured in WC mappack maps such as "
e3_terminal" and "
- Since these levels are visited shortly after the beginning of the uprising sparked in the Air Exchange, it is logical that the city is still in good condition. This was changed in the final Half-Life 2 storyline, where Gordon and Alyx are stuck for one week during the teleportation.
- Vertigo contains several burned corridors that were reused in some Combine Factories maps.
- The building where the player starts the cut E3 demonstration map "e3_strider" is based on a slightly modified Palace section from the map "demo_rubble".
List of appearances
- Vertigo mod - nearly complete chapter of the Vertigo version on the Half-Life (pre-release) Project website (Without Alyx; requires registering and Episode Two)
- Fixed map of Palace (Without the Gunship and with the Citadel added; requires Episode Two)
- Fixed d4_streetwar_01 map - the first street war map, featuring the Palace version (With the Citadel added; requires Episode Two)
|Half-Life 2 original storyline||Succeeded by|