Sandvich18/Point Insertion is the first chapter of Half-Life 2.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Related Achievements
- 3 Development
- 3.1 Earliest concepts
- 3.2 Train ride
- 3.3 Early city journey
- 3.4 Final design
- 4 Behind the scenes
- 5 Trivia
- 6 Gallery
- 7 Associated media
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
The chapter begins with Gordon being awakened from his stasis by the G-Man, who, after a brief monologue, inserts him into a train heading towards the main train station of City 17. Having arrived at the destination, he is greeted by an unfamiliar sight of a dystopian reality. Society is divided into authoritarian Civil Protection officers and oppressed Citizens and Vortigaunts, monitored by City Scanners, and overseen by an authority figure who can be viewed on and heard through large video monitors. Much seems to have changed since he defeated the Nihilanth.
Making his way through the Train Station, Gordon is stopped moments before boarding a train heading towards Nova Prospekt and taken for interrogation. His captor reveals himself to be Barney Calhoun, an old friend of his from the Black Mesa Research Facility, working undercover with Civil Protection. After passing on the news of Gordon's return to Dr. Isaac Kleiner, he sends Gordon to the doctor's lab. The path from the Train Station, through a city plaza, to a residential block provides more glimpses of the authoritarian rule of Earth's occupier, a vast interdimensional empire known as the Combine, all the more emphasized by an immensely tall monolithic structure looking over the city called the Citadel.
While travelling through the apartments, Gordon finds himself in the middle of a Civil Protection raid prompted by a miscount detection. With all exits blocked off, he is forced to go up and try escaping over the rooftops and ledges of the tenement buildings, all while being pursued and shot at. However, his attempt fails, and Gordon ends up being trapped and intercepted. He is unexpectedly saved by Alyx Vance, who rushes in and takes down the group of officers. She introduces herself as Eli Vance's daughter and begins escorting Gordon to Kleiner's Lab.
|Put the can in the trash.|
|Hit the trashcan cop with the can.|
|Escape the apartment block raid.|
Before a more direct sequel to Half-Life was decided upon and while Valve had been still experimenting with globe-spanning settings, the story aspects of the game's introduction section had gone through a number of incarnations. One of them involved Gordon being broken out of a hospital clinic by rebels, taken in an ambulance to a secret base, and put into a teleporter. In another one, the player was to take the role of a leather suit-wearing agent for a resistance force, possibly in the service of the G-Man.
When the story turned out to be too convoluted and the settings too disconnected, Valve decided to simplify the scope of the game. They adapted a circular narrative method, with the player coming back to the starting point of his journey and agreed upon having the game take place in a specific region of the world. In early versions of the story, Half-Life 2 would begin on the Borealis, an icebreaker bound for an underwater research station known as Kraken Base.
After the Borealis section was moved further into the game, its place as the first chapter was taken by a train ride. Multiple early story documents pertaining to this scene were created by Marc Laidlaw to convey a specific sense of atmosphere and general ideas for locations. All of the known iterations involve the G-Man to a greater or lesser extent and feature the character of Samuel.
June 2, 2000 timelapse opening
One of the possible opening scenes brought forward by Laidlaw focused on the G-Man who was to show Gordon, still suspended outside normal space-time, how the world had changed during his ten year absence,[a] before inserting him onboard a Wasteland Train. Per Laidlaw's remarks, the main purpose of this introduction was to visually convey the passage of time between the two games, presenting the player with a timelapse of the events that had taken place during Gordon's stasis, while directly continuing the story of Half-Life.
Now Arriving: City 17
This vignette describes an opening scene in which Gordon wakes up from his stasis only to discover that he is suspended in total darkness. The G-Man would appear before him and begin his monologue. After it ended, Gordon would find himself onboard a train. A passenger, introducing himself as Samuel G-11789RF, was to give him a mask needed to survive in the planet's now-noxious atmosphere. In the dilapidated vehicle, posters showing the Consul were to be seen. After passing through a dark tunnel, the train would arrive at the station.
Train to City 17
The Train to City 17 vignette describes the settings, the atmosphere, and the events taking place during the titular Wild Train ride through the Wasteland and City 17 in great detail, explaining what information and feelings it aims to convey to the player. A changing landscape, train announcements, posters, and overheard conversations were to clue them to the new world.
No maps depicting a long train ride to City 17 can be found in the WC map pack, and it is not known if any were built incorporating this aspect. In contrast, rail transport is a common theme featured in both story drafts and early levels set later in the game in the Wasteland. In early Train Station maps as well as in the retail game, Gordon begins his journey moments before the train arrives at its destination. However, the final G-Man introduction monologue is somewhat reminiscent of the timelapse opening and the Now Arriving: City 17 vignette.
In the Half-Life 2 leak, several assets originating from the short stories can be found, including a model and texture files for Samuel and a poster with the Consul's likeness. Also present are Train Station public announcement system sound files along with a train speaker model.
Early city journey
Initially, the exploration phase at the beginning of the game was much longer and more elaborate and focused on various areas in the vicinity of the City 17 Train Station. Before reaching Dr. Kleiner's Lab, the player was to go through locations such as the Combine Factories, the Terminal Plaza, and the Manhack Arcade, among others. Although much of this route was built in-game, no maps from this era set inside the Train Station itself can be found in the Half-Life 2 leak or the WC map pack.
The first City 17 area to be visited by Gordon was to be an industrial zone. Located on the side of the Train Station, it would introduce the player Citizens, including children workers, Stalkers, and Vortigaunts at work under Metro Cop and City Scanner surveillance. A number of vehicles, such as a Razor Train, APCs (along with the flying "shuttle" version), and School Buses, were to be seen traversing the area. Various locations would be open for the player's exploration, including a sewer, a service garage, and the stenographer's chasm.
Predecessor to the Train Station Plaza, this location would feature a number of scripted sequences showing interactions between Citizens and Metro Cops. In the "
e3_terminal" demonstration version, a battle between Rebels and Combine forces can also be seen. Although the area originally only consisted of a street, it eventually grew into an entire city square. Every iteration of this area includes the main entrance to the Train Station, which, unlike in the retail game, was not to be used by the player, as the plaza was to be accessed from a tunnel leading from the Combine Factories. In some versions, Gordon was to ride a cable car across the plaza to continue his journey.
This area, featured in the map "
c17_03_08", is not directly connected to the Terminal Plaza. It appears that the section linking these two locations is missing from the WC map pack.
The beginning of this map is set in a residential environment with brick tenement buildings. As the player progresses, they enter a construction site dominated by towering skeletons of unfinished concrete buildings and a rotating crane with visible control levers. Although a great amount of raw materials is scattered around the area, no workers can be seen. Metro Cops on patrol are the only humans present. Gordon's path leads through sets of scaffolding, an external elevator, and the concrete frames, and ends with him entering a ruined building with Citizens inside.
Although the early plan for the opening route indicates this area was to be visited after Kleiner's Lab, the "
c17_04" maps in the WC map pack place it after the construction site and before the Manhack Arcade.
This section begins with Gordon jumping from a building into a construction chute and landing in a dumpster in a back alley. As he walks down the streets of this downtown area, he reaches an intersection with a "Consulcast" in the center enclosed by high-rises. After passing a Civil Protection station, Gordon finds an elevator that takes him to the catwalks above the streets. They lead him to the station's roof, from which he is able to jump down and continue his journey. Walking further through the streets, down a stairway, and across a bridge over a canal, he eventually reaches the entrance to the Manhack Arcade.
This facility was to show Citizens playing a video game centered on guiding Manhacks throughout a city and hunting down fugitive Citizens. Players were to be unaware of the fact that the machines they were controlling were real and actually killing fellow humans. Inside the Arcade, Gordon was to meet with Barney. He also had the opportunity to play the game himself. The building housing the arcade went through several iterations.
Exiting the Manhack Arcade, Gordon was to head to a radio tower building, from which he would be able to access the sewers leading to Kleiner's Lab. This location is featured in the map "
subt". Although the early plan for the opening route describes the area with just the word "steam", the "steam tunnel" section constitutes only a small part of the sewers.
In the hidden visgroups of the map, a flashlight maze is included along with an incomplete bus ride sequence from "
c17_road".[b] Neither are connected to the main area, but portions of the latter appear to have been reused in an aboveground section that can be seen from the sewers through drainage gates.
This area is visually similar to the real-world Seattle Underground.
When the developers realized that the path from the Train Station to Kleiner's Lab was so long that it would have made the exploratory phase of the early game tedious, the decision was made to streamline it. Gordon was now to leave the Train Station through the main entrance, enter a residential building, and make his way over the rooftops to the lab. Although the layout of the maps had been tweaked before the release of Half-Life 2, this design became the final version. The Half-Life 2 leak and the WC map pack include several unfinished maps from this era with on-screen messages providing additional story and world building elements that were not yet implemented.
The early "
d1_trainstation_01" map begins with Gordon on the train which, unlike in the retail version, travels along the rails on the right side instead of the left. It arrives at a small fenced-in security checkpoint staffed by a Metro Cop located on the right side of the station. The middle section is inaccessible. As Breen's propaganda is being played on a monitor screen, passengers are instructed to exit the train. During this sequence, one of them is then ordered to come back. Gordon and the rest of the Citizens proceed upstairs and cross the rail tracks by a skybridge. They are then stopped by another Metro Cop, leaving the player as the only one to be instructed to move on. In the next area downstairs, station announcements direct Gordon to stand in a line near another security checkpoint. When his turn comes to pass through the gates, he is stopped by a Metro Cop.
Gordon follows the Metro Cop into an interrogation room, noticing another victim of the Civil Protection in a nearby cell. Gordon's captor reveals himself to be Barney working undercover and establishes contact with Dr. Kleiner, informing the doctor of Gordon's arrival. As Gordon hasn't been added to the human index yet, they agree to send him on his way to the lab. Barney instructs him to keep a low profile and go to the Terminal Plaza to look for Citizens wearing a lambda.
Gordon exits the interrogation cell and enters a room that connects the checkpoint to the Train Station's hall. This marks the beginning of the "
d1_trainstation_02" map. After exiting through the main entrance, he meets a Citizen who offers to help him. As they wait for the stranger's comrade, they are approached by Metro Cops who order them to disperse. While Gordon is further exploring the Train Station Plaza, an APC drives through the area, allowing the player to cross the now raised Combine Smart Barrier acting as a Combine Barricade and enter a residential building.
Continuing upstairs, Gordon comes across a Citizen who leads him across a skybridge into another residential building. In the next map, "
d1_trainstation_03", he emerges into an attic and proceeds over the rooftops and ledges of City 17's tenements. In the streets below, another APC can be seen driving through the city as well as a group of Vortigaunts marching under the watch of a Metro Cop. Gordon enters a building through its window and proceeds downstairs, arriving at the lab.
Behind the scenes
Series' writer Marc Laidlaw said that Valve wanted the end of Half-Life 2 to feed directly into the beginning. From the first second of the game, they wanted the player to see where his journey would take him so that, when he finally got to the Citadel, he would have the strongest possible relationship with it. Laidlaw believed Valve had failed to do that in Haf-Life, and so they were determined not to repeat their mistake.
- “The Citadel. Yes, it's a deliberate landmark that we want you to feel this relationship to. You go toward it, you go away from it, and you'll develop more and more understanding of it as the game goes on. Hopefully everybody that's seeing it when they first step out on to the plaza is going to go, 'They're not going to put that there without letting me get into it, right?' [laughs] So you know from the beginning that you're going to get there. But for a long time you're going in the opposite direction. But eventually, the Citadel unifies the whole sprawling plot.”
- — Marc Laidlaw
According to Viktor Antonov, the player's path through the City 17 Train Station was meant to play a role similar to that of the train ride in Half-Life. However, in Half-Life 2, the story would unfold at the player's own speed rather than on a fixed rail and come about through interaction with the characters naturally found in that setting.
Aaron Barber stated that getting the Train Station right was critical since it was to be the place where the player formed his first impression of the world, the ways in which it had changed, and the ways in which it was still the same human world. City 17 was meant to not feel safe to the player when he begins his journey, Laidlaw remarking "the whole point of it is that you're under siege and not sure what the rules are." Antonov stated that Valve had to start with the train station right away. They had the most time with it and wanted to establish a location there. The train station and the plaza were their crucial establishment shot and a big part of their investment.
Antonov explained the origins of the rooftop area in Half-Life 2, saying that it started out as structures that were seen from afar, but because of gameplay and visual potential, it turned into a part of the player's path. Along with the ground vista seen after leaving the Train Station, it was meant to be a focal point; the classical city landscape was to situate the player before they visit the same place later in the game.
As stated by Jeff Lane, the developers decided to add the tenement apartments area because, despite having assets for the City 17 courtyards and the rooftops that connected to Dr. Kleiner's laboratory, they didn't have a solid connection between them. They believed that, since they wanted to end up in the attic space at the beginning of the rooftops, adding an interior building space seemed the right choice. The idea behind the apartments was that the Citizens of City 17 would be wary of speaking to the player on the streets under the watchful eye of the Combine, but they would speak more openly in the apartments where they live. The player would receive further insight into the plight of the Citizens of City 17 and a peek at life under Combine law.
Robin Walker explained that the raid on the tenements was the biggest challenge to build in the Train Station maps. The developers' first fear, that players wouldn't realize they were supposed to run, turned out to be no problem at all. Playtesters would hear the Citizens scream, see the first Metro Cop charge into the room, and turn and run immediately, often never looking back to see the Metro Cop knocking down the Citizens. When the Metro Cops charged up the stairs in front of them, blocking the route they were intent on taking, some playtesters would scream and panic, spinning on the spot looking for the way out. Most of them made it out alive the first time and yet felt like they only just made it.
A map named "
intro" can be found in the game files of the PC version of Half-Life 2. It consists of the G-Man opening monologue scene as shown at E3 2004. Of note is that the introduction sequence in its final version was moved to a separate map for the Xbox port of Half-Life 2.
When Alyx and Gordon first meet, she asks him "Doctor Freeman, I presume?", probably a nod to the famous quote "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?".
Concept art of the Train Station's interior, possibly based on a modified version of the stenographer's chasm building.
Ditto, with the old Antlion Guard model.
Combine ration dispenser in the Train Station food hall.
The Consoling Couple.
Pigeon on a City 17 roof.
- Additional images related to Sandvich18/Point Insertion
- Half-Life 2 soundtrack
- Shadows Fore and Aft
- Train Station 1
- Train Station 2
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar (uncorrected proof), page 204
- Marc Laidlaw on the black, leather suit (September 17, 2015)
- Half-Life 2 Cut Content on Facepunch (April 17, 2016) (archived)
- The Final Hours of Half-Life 2, "Oh My God (Reprise)"
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, pages 138 - 139 (June 2, 2000 timelapse opening)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, pages 164 - 165 (Now Arriving: City 17)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 192 (Train to City 17)
- Half-Life 2: Episode One: The Story So Far (archived)
- Half-Life 2 leak
- WC map pack
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 240 (Opening Sequence Flowchart)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 173
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 240
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 195
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar (uncorrected proof), page 199
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar (uncorrected proof), page 208
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 195
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar (uncorrected proof), page 240
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar (uncorrected proof), page 226
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 238
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar (uncorrected proof), page 216
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 269
- Half-Life 2 game files