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City 17 is a grand city in Eastern Europe that has existed since before the Seven Hour War. Later taken over by the Combine, it became their main headquarters on Earth. Dominated by the imposing Citadel and surrounded by the desolate Wasteland, it is the only location in Half-Life 2: Episode One, and one of two major locations in Half-Life 2. It also made an appearance in Half-Life: Alyx.
City 17 visually resembles a post-Soviet harbor city featuring mostly Eastern European architecture. It features architecture styles dating from pre-World War II neoclassicism, post-war classical designs, Soviet modernism, and post-Soviet contemporary designs.
In addition, large television screens were installed in several public areas to address citizens regarding the Combine. At the heart of the city is the Citadel, a giant skyscraper which serves as the hub of the Combine.
The core of the city consists predominately of wall-to-wall buildings, with blocks of clustered low-rises made out of a variety of old and new buildings. Under Combine rule, certain residential buildings in the city are used as accommodations for citizens. Conditions in such housings are typically seen as poor, with very few luxuries and constant inspection and raids by Civil Protection. However, some city infrastructure, such as power plants, are maintained by the Combine, and electricity is made widely available from both traditional sources and Combine generators. The Combine themselves occupied some former government buildings, such as the Overwatch Nexus, to help keep control over the city.
The city was large enough to provide all necessary needs for the citizens before the Combine's occupation. This is supported by the presence of a hospital, several cafés and restaurants, office buildings, and underground city systems; most of which are still intact but abandoned.
The outskirts of City 17 features industrial districts and additional Soviet-style housing, most of which are considered off-limits to citizens. The industrial districts are seen linked to the city via railway lines and canals.
As there was little emphasis in maintaining non-essential parts of the city, many areas of City 17 suffered from urban decay prior to the Citadel's explosion.
City 17's transportation system had considerable variety. In addition to highways and city streets, City 17 includes underground road tunnels that traveled beneath the city; during the Resistance uprising against the Combine, portions of the tunnels could be seen, badly damaged, with areas flooded with toxic substances. Several railway lines run throughout the city, with at least two large train stations connecting City 17 to other Combine controlled cities. The Combine maximized the use of these transportation systems, developing ground-based APCs to patrol roads while utilizing pre-invasion trains and their own form of trains to transport citizens and goods in and out of City 17. The presence of unused tramways on a street also suggest that the city once provided tram services before the Combine rule.
A network of canals is also prevalent in and around City 17. Much of the inner city canals, however, were made defunct after the Combine's draining of large bodies of water around City 17 left much of the area's canal system dry. However, the industrial district canal systems remains usable, albeit shallower, with certain portions of the canals contaminated with hazardous materials.
Gordon was pulled from stasis by the G-Man and left standing in a train pulling into a station. Leaving the train after hearing the other passenger's comment, "I didn't see you get on", Gordon faced a large screen monitor with the administrator, Doctor Breen, smiling calmly down at the depressed citizens and welcoming them to City 17.
After failing a security check, Gordon was taken away by a Civil Protection officer for interrogation. Fortunately, he was delivered to an undercover Barney Calhoun who helped him escape from the train station. Exiting the station, Gordon finds himself in a plaza, with the ever imposing Citadel far ahead, and further evidence of the Combine's power in the city. Gordon's brief journey through the city revealed the level of repression by the Combine and the level of fear and dread among citizens.
After stumbling his way into a building being raided by Civil Protection, Gordon is identified as a "miscount" and is pursued by Civil Protection units over the rooftops and ledges of buildings before being rescued by Alyx Vance. Alyx brings Gordon to Dr. Kleiner's lab in a nearby building. There, Gordon is fitted with an HEV suit and is set to be teleported with Alyx to Dr. Eli Vance's lab in Black Mesa East. While Alyx successfully arrives at the destination, the teleport malfunctions as Gordon is about to be teleported, sending him to several locations (including Doctor Breen's office in the Citadel), and eventually back to City 17, just outside Kleiner's lab.
After being given a Crowbar from Barney, Gordon is advised to venture along railway lines, canals, sewage systems, and the wider canal routes to leave City 17 and reach Black Mesa East. Along the way, it is learned that parts of the route are also under attack by Combine units. An alert was put out from the Citadel to capture or kill Gordon after the teleportation incident at Breen's office. As Gordon reaches the wider canals, an Airboat is prepared by rebels to transport Gordon out of the city. As he rides the Airboat, Hunter-Choppers and additional Combine units pursue him once more but are eventually evaded and defeated as he reaches Black Mesa East and escapes the city.
After Gordon and Alyx's failed attempt to rescue Eli and associate Judith Mossman at Nova Prospekt (in which Judith ends up teleporting Eli to the Citadel), they attempt to teleport back to Kleiner's lab, but find that they have reached their destination a week later in time, although it seems to Alyx and Gordon as though their teleportation was instantaneous. They learn that Gordon and Alyx's attack on Nova Prospekt sparked an uprising among City 17's citizens that sent the city into chaos: Combine units and citizens are fighting against each other, and powerful, more lethal weapons and equipment are being deployed in full force, damaging much of the city. While Gordon and Alyx race to the Citadel to rescue Eli, Alyx is knocked out, captured, and brought to the Citadel. Gordon eventually reaches the foot of the Citadel, with the aid of Barney and Alyx's robotic pet, Dog, and enters the structure to rescue Eli and Alyx and to confront Doctor Breen.
The final stage of the game reveals that Gordon, upon releasing Eli and Alyx and damaging the dark energy reactor that would power Breen's teleportation off of the planet, was about to trigger a massive explosion of the reactor that would "bring down the whole Citadel" and destroy the entire city. At the moment of the reactor's explosion, however, the G-Man reappears, stopping time, and transports Gordon back into stasis to await further assignment.
Half-Life 2: Episode One
Half-Life 2: Episode One takes place against a backdrop of a mass exodus from the doomed city, at the heart of which the Citadel has become a ticking time bomb. Hoping to open a portal to send valuable information back to the Combine leaders, the surviving Combine soldiers inside the Citadel deactivated the containment system for the Citadel's core. Though Gordon and Alyx manage to reactivate the system, it only buys a short amount of time. As they move further away from the Citadel, they witness its condition deteriorate.
The city itself, especially the regions closest to the Citadel, had been damaged beyond recognition by Striders following the events of Half-Life 2, though regions further out, such as a hospital and the train station, were still intact. Most of the railroad infrastructure was undamaged, though any train leaving the Citadel was subject to falling debris. Antlions roamed the city unchecked, and the remaining Combine forces struggled to keep order in the ruins.
The citizens of City 17, heeding the warnings of the Resistance, were all but gone during Gordon and Alyx's flight from the city. Only a few remained, pinned down by any surviving Combine troops and Civil Protection units. Thanks to the efforts of Gordon and Barney Calhoun, the last of the city's citizens were evacuated via train, despite the best efforts of the surviving Combine forces.
When the Citadel detonated, the explosion was powerful enough to send debris flying for miles and landing outside city limits.
Half-Life 2: Episode Two
In a scene from Half-Life 2: Episode Two, the remains of City 17 can be seen from the countryside. A tornado-like vortex can be seen rising from what was the Citadel, and the center of the city is scattered with pieces of the Citadel. The outskirts of the city appear no less damaged and it is doubtful that there is anyone left alive in the ruins.
In Half-Life: Alyx, the majority of the game takes place in City 17, mostly inside the Quarantine Zone, a Xen-infested area closed off from the rest of the city. The Citadel is shown in its early construction development. Alyx lives in an apartment with a view to the Citadel.
A map of City 17 and the Quarantine Zone can be seen in the loading screens of the game, showing the player's progress.
Behind the scenes
- In the Half-Life 2 Beta, many traces of an older concept of City 17 can be found in the files and the WC mappack, mostly being in the vein of American design and last modified from 2000 to 2002. To support this, even the vehicles were different, being GMC or Chevrolet and of brush design rather than models. All of the aforementioned material is absent in the retail version of Half-Life 2.
- The playable Half-Life 2 Beta texture files contain several worn-out vintage posters used in many WC mappack maps. Originally fruit crate labels, they were directly taken from the "Fruit Crate Labels" page of the Encore Editions website. Another is also found here.
Background and origins of City 17
In Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, City 17 is described as being in an Eastern European setting:
- "One of the reasons that we liked Eastern Europe as a setting was that it represents the collision of the old and the new in a way that is difficult to capture in the United States. You go over there, and you have this collision between all of these things, the new architecture, the old architecture, the fall of communism...there's a sense of this strongly-grounded historical place. We left out the Gothic themes associated with Prague and vampires and looked into a different aspect of the region."
- ―Viktor Antonov[src]
City 17 and the former country it is part of are impossible to pin down exactly due to contradictory information, not unlike Springfield in The Simpsons, although it is possible to limit the location somewhat. For example, City 17's country is almost certainly one that uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which is often seen in the game; since, whereas the Latin alphabet is commonly seen in Cyrillic-using countries, the reverse is much rarer. Secondly, City 17's country borders the sea. And in fact, there are only three countries that both use Cyrillic and are not landlocked: Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. However, it is possible that City 17 itself lies on the outskirts of one of these countries, and the entire game takes place throughout the three, if not all over eastern Europe.
Speculated locations or influences for City 17 include:
- Sofia, Bulgaria, the hometown of the art director of Half-Life 2, Viktor Antonov. This assumption is based on both City 17's general resemblance to Sofia and the frequent appearance of Bulgarian words (written in Cyrillic characters) on signs and graffiti throughout Half-Life 2 and its episodes. One clear example is "ЦИМЕНТ" ("cement") written across the top of a large building in Ravenholm - the only language that spells the word in this way, using the Cyrillic alphabet, is Bulgarian. Furthermore, near the beginning of Half-Life 2 a newspaper entitled "Работническо Дело" (Rabotnichesko Delo) can be seen - this was the most popular newspaper in Bulgaria during its Communist period. Although Bulgaria is in the Balkans, perhaps the presence of signs reading "Café Baltic" is a developer error of reference for the Balkans instead of the Baltics. Alternatively, the coastal city of Burgas could also work since it is on a river and a rocky estuary.
- Budapest, Hungary. City 17's Trainstation was designed by Viktor Antonov. In Raising the Bar, he states that the first version of the Trainstation was much more fantasist and very close to the Western Railway Station, in Budapest, Hungary designed by August de Serres and built by the Eiffel Company. He adds that the final version was more closely based on a train station near where he used to live in Paris (Gare St-Lazare). While the railyard and interior are strongly inspired by Gare St-Lazare, the final version of the main facade and the platforms in the back are still reminiscent of the Budapest Western railway station ("Budapest Nyugati pályaudvar" in Hungarian). Simplifying the facade clearly reveals the Half-Life 2 train station.
- Riga, Latvia. This is based on the strong similarities between the game and the city. Riga is a coastal city with a coastline that closely matches that shown in Raising the Bar. Its skyline is dotted with many buildings of a similar style and color as seen in City 17, and the area is famous for its Art Nouveau influences. Most interestingly, however, is the number of spires on the skyline (especially the suspension bridge) and Riga Castle - all of which cluster around "Citadale Street" - a possible inspiration for the Citadel in Half-Life 2. Also, in Half-Life 2: Episode One there is a map showing the city with a river called Daugava flowing through it. This is the name of a real river that flows through Riga. (See location on Google Map).
- Vilnius, Lithuania, as the narrow streets in Half-Life 2 are similar to the ones in Vilnius, and that the city is located in the Baltic region, supporting the presence of "Café Baltic" in the game.
- Belgrade, Serbia, based on the nearly identical resemblance between the Parliament of Serbia building and the Overwatch Nexus in City 17. Also, City 17 has a large amount of old Zastava 101's lying around, a common car in former Yugoslavia. Nova Prospekt (Нова Проспект) is also Serbian for "New Prospectus." (While superficially right, the grammatical part of the name is incorrect as the genders of the noun and the adjective are mismatched, Nova is feminine nominative adjective while Prospekt is a male nominative noun, the proper name would be Novi Prospekt - Нови Проспект)
- St. Petersburg, Russia. Based on the abundance of canals, the absence of skyscrapers except for the Citadel, and an ever-present chain of Café Baltic shops. St. Petersburg also has a large street called Nevsky Prospekt, which phonetically resembles Nova Prospekt, the ex-prison turned into a Combine facility. Also, the Hospital sign, ""СТАЦИОНАР" ("statsionar" in Latin letters), means "Hospital" in Russian. The Victory Mine signs are also written in Russian, for example, "ШАХТА ПОБЕДЫ ИМ 50-ЛЕТИЯ" translates to "Victory Mine - in memory of the 50 years".
- Odessa, Ukraine, capital of the Odessa Oblast. Main evidence is the name of the Resistance settlement outside of the city called New Little Odessa (although it is suggested to be named after its leader, Odessa Cubbage) and its proximity to a large body of water (with land on the west) and similar architectural styles and heritage.
- Sevastopol, Ukraine/Russia, has also been suggested. While the architecture of City 17 itself clearly is tied to the previously mentioned cities, the coastal terrain immediately outside of City 17 is very similar to the shores and coast of the Black Sea around Sevastopol. As a tourist destination for much of the former Soviet Union, the variety of Cyrillic languages used in signs and text in City 17 also becomes logical. The extensive network of locks and harbor facilities seen in some chapters is consistent with Sevastopol's status as a major port and the base of the Russian Black Sea naval fleet.
- Constanţa, Romania is another possibility due to the architecture of the apartment buildings and also coastal similarities in the chapter Highway 17. There is also a pesticide warning written in Romanian, a sign in the Trainstation Plaza that says "FOTO ATELIER", Romanian for "Photo Workshop", and the Romanian phrase 'Staţie de tren' on the timetable in the City 17 Trainstation.
- The Outlands are a varied area which makes pinpointing difficult.
- The overall design is more similar to a United States landscape, more specifically, the Pacific Northwest where Valve is located. It is almost identical to the mountainous forest areas of the Cascade Mountains, like Snoqualmie Pass.
- The buildings, such as The White Forest Inn, however, are more of German or French designs.
- The gas pumps near the Inn are in Swedish: Volym (volume), Kron (Scandinavian currency), and Summa, (sum, total). The logical explanation is that Scandinavia is close, but Cyrillic characters were seen shortly before.
- In addition to incorporating Eastern European elements, examples of Norwegian, Swedish, Italian, Finnish and French influences also exist, suggesting that the setting is something of a montage of European locations.
- City 17's name itself is thought to be a reference to the Soviet practice of numbering secret closed cities rather than naming them, as in Arzamas-16, Krasnoyarsk-26, Tomsk-7 and numerous others.[source?]
- To help with the design of City 17, photographic reference material was collected from Bulgaria, Russia, and Romania.
- "To construct the destroyed city portion of the game, designers built low-detail buildings in the world editor Hammer, then took them into the Softimage XSI and "destroyed" them, breaking them up and adding details like rebar and cracks."
- Despite popular belief, Valve has never stated specifically that City 17 is located in Eastern Europe. They have only ever said that it is based on Eastern Europe. However, due to the Cyrillic writings, it can be assumed that it is indeed Eastern Europe. Despite this, the electrical outlets are American.
- It can be noted that while in the beginning of Half-Life 2, many different cars, trucks, and planes can be heard in the background, suggesting the Combine allow citizens to maintain and own cars and use planes as a form of travel, or possibly using human-made cars and jets, but this is unknown. Abandoned cars with their headlights still shining can be seen in the Half-Life 2 chapter Anticitizen One. This is unlikely to be the case however and more likely to be a developer oversight.
- In the beginning section of Half-Life: Alyx, there is a desk globe that can be found which, upon further inspection, shows a big, red X drawn over the United States of America, and several arrows pointing to a circled portion of Eastern Europe. This could confirm that Eastern Europe is indeed where City 17 is located.
Logos and posters
List of appearances
- Half-Life 2 (First appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- Half-Life 2: Deathmatch (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- The Final Hours of Portal 2
- Half-Life: Alyx
|The Half-Life Wiki has more images related to City 17.|
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar
- WC mappack
- Half-Life 2
- The Half-Life 2 chapter Point Insertion
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- The Overwatch Voice in the Half-Life 2 chapter Point Insertion
Half-Life 2 story arc journey (1)
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Half-Life 2 story arc journey (2)
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Half-Life 2 original storyline (1)
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Half-Life 2 original storyline (2)
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