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A very early Half-Life 2 original journey.

The Half-Life 2 original storyline went through many versions. This article attempts to gather them in the best chronological order possible, both with the locations cut from the final game, and the early iterations of the locations that made the cut.


Most of the early plot concepts and ideas cut before 2003 (the year Half-Life 2 was leaked and was already quite similar to the final product) are included in this article, based on information taken from the book Raising the Bar, the leaked playable Beta and its files, and the leaked WC mappack, which contains numerous maps from the early stages of development (c. 2000) to 2003.

During the storyline development, the game was at some point to span four days instead of three (disregarding the week spent by Alyx and Gordon between the two teleports in Half-Life 2).[1] Characters also evolved greatly, with examples such as Breen being only known as "the Consul", Alyx being the daughter of Captain Vance, Eli named Eli Maxwell and not being related to Alyx,[2] among other things. The most important changes are the setting, evolving from a very dark American setting to a brighter East European one.

Although it is possible to determine a "rough" old storyline, there is no such thing as a consistent Half-Life 2 original storyline. Not all cut concepts and plot elements were created at the same time and may be inconsistent with each other; some are unknown and/or lost forever. Therefore one must be careful to not speculate too much when attempting to make out the old story, and try as much as possible to stick to known facts, although it can be difficult to draw consistent ideas from all the known data.

Storyline items, in rough chronological order

Train ride

Story fragment of the arrival into the city given to the developers for design inspiration.

Gordon awoke beside the G-Man who shows him bits of what happened during the last 10 years, but without telling much. Gordon then finds himself on the Wasteland Train and encounters Samuel, a citizen who tells him some bits of information about his life and gives him some hints about what is going on. He also gives him a spare gas mask, as the air is not always breathable because of the Air Exchange activity.[2]

The train ride allows the player to view the Wasteland outside City 17, with ruins, wrecks, Houndeyes, Bullsquids, and other unknown fauna. Another nearby train is seen being attacked by a Gargantua, but the monster is destroyed by the heavy engine.[2]

The Wasteland Train then proceeds inside the city, first through Old City, ruined, and then New City, the Combine-converted city, surrounded by a huge concrete wall protecting it from the Wasteland hazards. Creatures can be seen killing themselves on the barricades. Gordon glimpses Citizens in their apartments. The train arrives at last at the station, and Cremators can be seen cleaning around the train from Bullsquids or Headcrabs that managed to get inside the perimeter.[2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Heavily trimmed. Samuel has been removed but his face was recycled as a simple Citizen and for Counter Strike: Source. Home life, originally only glimpsed, can now be seen first hand when Gordon actually travels through residential buildings. The city walls are later seen at the end of Episode One, but serve a largely decorative purpose.

City 17

An early map of Gordon's journeys through City 17. It features two journeys: the one at the start of the game (from the trainstation to the Wasteland, with Kleiner's Lab in the middle), and the one at the end, that does not seem to make the Skyscraper the first City 17 location after the journey back from the Arctic locations, since it actually starts in Kleiner's Lab, mirroring Gordon and Alyx's return to the city from the Depot in Half-Life 2.

Main article: City 17


Main article: City 17 Trainstation

After his arrival at the trainstation,[2] it is unknown what Gordon does, sees and who he meets. It is probable that he meets Barney who shows him the way and tells him to meet him near the Manhack Arcade.

Notable info about its use in retail

Some map and dialog differences but overall the same, even though having not much information and no WC Map Pack maps, this is just open to speculation.

Combine Factories

Main article: Combine Factories

Gordon didn't leave the trainstation through the main entrance, but through a back door that leads to an industrial part of the city, with noisy factories filled with citizens working and passing through in all directions, watched by Metrocops and Combots. Workers consist of adults but also children. Gordon discovers the Cremator Factory, where children are building Cremators, and other workshops, such as the stenographer's chasm. He also discovers the Vorti-Cells, used as stations siphoning power from trapped Vortigaunts (although it is likely that they could be found everywhere in the city). Gordon then eventually reaches the Trainstation Plaza and proceeds on foot to the entertainment/commercial part of the city where Barney is waiting.[1][2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed, although several concepts from this section were reused in Half-Life: Alyx, such as the Combine controlled plant and formerly Combine-controlled vodka distillery Alyx visits. Or, the Xen wildlife, slowly taken over the city's landscape got recycled and hugely expanded upon, in the Quarantine Zone. As the concept of human reproduction being disabled by a Combine suppressor field evolved, children finally got cut with the whole area, along with the Cremator, also very close to this early universe style. It was also easier to avoid censorship issues in many countries and not restrain the game to an older audience by removing all children.

Although some ideas sounded good on paper, the developers found themselves unable to find a satisfying gameplay for this area. Like the Manhack Arcade, this area didn't have a purpose strong enough to be kept.

Terminal - Trainstation Plaza

The Trainstation Plaza.

Main article: City 17 Trainstation

Gordon walks through the Trainstation Plaza and gets to see the trainstation main facade and how Citizens are treated by Civil Protection. While walking he was to find Barney's Scout where he would lead Gordon to where Barney Calhoun was suppose to be but he gets caught by Metro Cops. The Metropolice tell Gordon to leave and when going to a elevator he can see him getting arrested. He then proceeds to the Manhack Arcade through yet to be identified areas, probably apartment buildings, though it is unknown, and, at some point, an area under construction. It is also unknown when Gordon was to be chased by Civil Protection through apartment buildings, since it seems he was to be rather left alone in most of the early maps relating the game's beginning.[1][2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Some design differences, like the horse statue in columns being replaced by the obelisk with a Breencast

Entertainment - Commercial / Manhack Arcade

Main article: Manhack Arcade

In an entertainment/commercial area where City 17's civilian life was to be shown, Gordon sees his first Breencast (or rather "Consulcast" at this point), a Metropolice station and discovers the Manhack Arcade, an entertainment place where Citizens play video games consisting in controlling Manhacks into the streets and killing fugitive Citizens, ignorant of the fact that the Manhacks they are controlling are real and are actually killing Citizens on the streets.[1][2] Gordon then meets with Barney, who works undercover as a Metrocop, and proceeds to Kleiner's Lab through the sewers (nicknamed "steam" in Raising the Bar, while the WC mappack map is named "subt.vmf". It is unknown if Gordon meets Barney there for the first time or in the trainstation like in retail.[1]

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed, as the developers didn't find it very fun, even if it sounded good on paper.

Kleiner's Lab

Main article: Kleiner's Lab

Gordon reaches Kleiner's Lab[2] where Kleiner is astonished to see him. He is then introduced to the teleport. Gordon is to be sent to Kraken Base (where Helena Mossman is waiting), since Eli's lab teleport is in pieces and therefore not working.[1][3]

Like in the retail version of the game, the teleportation fails and Gordon must instead flee on foot to Eli's lab in the scrapyard. Kleiner also appears much older.

Notable info about its use in retail

The lab is similar to the retail, except that the latter is a reduced version of the original WC mappack map, which contains the original teleport in another, bigger room.[1] The developers might have thought that everything could perfectly fit in one single, smaller room. Kraken Base being scrapped, the teleportation was instead to send Gordon to Black Mesa East.

Consul Plaza

The Consul statue model.

Gordon arrives at the Consul/Breen Plaza[2] where stands a huge white statue of the Consul[3] (although in the WC mappack the early Breencast is there instead, with the police station nearby, and set before Kleiner's Lab, not after). He leaves City 17 through the Canals.

Notable info about its use in retail

No map was ever made, only the statue model exists. It was merged with the Trainstation Plaza, the statue being merged with the Breencast, since it was to be seen twice, at the start of the game in good condition, and at the end during the uprising. It also survived in a more literal way as the Breen busts seen in the Overwatch Nexus and the Citadel.

Sewers / Canals

Main article: Canals

Gordon leaves City 17 on foot, then with a Jet Ski or an Airboat, according to the original concepts.[2] He encounters Barnacles, Headcrabs, Houndeyes and Bullsquids on his way while he is getting outside of the City, into the Wasteland.[2][4]

Notable info about its use in retail

It was supposed to be much bigger and longer and was heavily trimmed, removing the Bullsquid and Houndeye from Half-Life 2 in the process.[4]

Other cities

Other Combine-controlled cities were to be mentioned, notably City 40 and City 49, mentioned by Samuel in the story fragment Now Arriving: City 17 Vignette featured in Raising the Bar. Samuel states that City 17, City 49 and most of the towns are all identical on the outside and that only inside is it possible to see how they were "before" (thus before the Seven Hour War and the Combine colonization).[2]

The Wild - The Wasteland - The Scrapland

Concept art of the Wasteland around City 17.

Main article: The Wasteland

Quarry - Town - Quarrytown - Traptown - Phystown - Zombie Town

Main article: Ravenholm

At the end of the canals Gordon arrives at a small lake and discovers the yet unnamed industrial town filled with zombies and traps set by a mad monk. At some point he would use a vehicle called the "digger" to proceed through mines and destroy a Combine Big Momma Pod laying Headcrabs to clear the way.[1][2][4]

Notable info about its use in retail

Was, of course, kept as the Ravenholm levels, although it is unknown if the zombie town was already called that way at this stage of development. The mines were more explored in Episode Two, merged with the cut Antlion caves, to produce the Victory Mine.

Scrapyard / Eli's Lab

Concept art for Eli Maxwell's lab.

Main article: Black Mesa East

After the trap-filled town, Gordon reaches at last the scrapyard. There he encounters Eli Maxwell, Dog and possibly Alyx in the very simple and rough Eli's lab, inside a cave located near a quarry. Eli shows Gordon a slideshow of what happened during the last 10 years, including the loss of his leg. He also gives him the physics manipulator.[1][2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Eli's lab was transformed into a real underground building, the scrapyard being kept only for playing fetch with Dog and the Gravity Gun. Then Eli Maxwell was merged with Captain Vance to become Eli Vance. It is however unsure if the lab was to be attacked from the start.

Antlion Caves

The Antlion King.

Main article: White Forest Caves

After leaving Eli's Lab, Gordon goes through caves filled with Antlions and Antlion Grubs, and confronts an Antlion King. It is unlikely that the player was already to be able to tame Antlions at that point of the game's development. It is unknown if Alyx is there for the remainder of the journey.[1]

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed and brought back for Episode Two. The Antlion King was recycled into the Antlion Guardian and the Antlion Grub models were updated.

The Coast

Railway / Highway

Main article: The Coast

After going out of the caves, Gordon hitches a ride on the Wasteland Train and proceeds through the dried seafloor[2] (but it is unknown why).[2] It is unknown when the Scout Car was implemented into the storyline, as the old journey does not feature it, since Gordon either hitches a ride on a train or is on foot.

Notable info about its use in retail

Was originally much bigger, more desolate, and with more shipwrecks.[2] Merged with the unexploited mines from Quarrytown, the Antlions caves were taken back for Episode Two (the Antlion Grub model was also made very early[3]).

Depot / Prison - Gulag

Main article: Nova Prospekt
Main article: Depot

Gordon's train arrives at a Combine train depot, simply called the Depot.[1] The train depot is built near an unnamed old prison where Gordon fights Combine soldiers, possibly with the aid of Antlions, although they can harm him as well.

He then discovers the Gunship Bays, where Gunships are built. Antlions attack, fuel tanks explode and the whole place is engulfed in flames. Then Gordon goes into the Depot itself through the cargo conveyor and takes another train to the Air Exchange.[1][2][4]

Notable info about its use in retail

This chapter grew and grew from a stopping-off point along the way to the longest level of the game.[2] Most of the area and the depot model was kept, except for the lighthouse (recycled earlier in the coast levels) and the Gunship Bays (recycled in the Citadel levels). Also, the finished maps were set during daytime, while at sunset and then overnight in retail.[4] The sun was originally supposed to set in the next chapter, the Air Exchange.

Air Exchange - AirEx - Air Conditioner

Gordon's train crashes in another depot before the Air Exchange, a Combine facility replacing the air by noxious, murky gases with its main reactor. He is met by Alyx and her pet alien Skitch. There they are attacked by Combine Super Soldiers and Striders. He meets Alyx's father, Captain Vance, and his Conscripts, and a battle is likely fought.[2]

During or after the battle, Gordon proceeds on foot to the AirEx. He then must reach the top of the highest tower, battle a Gunship and then jump into a pool of industrial solvents at its base. He then must go inside the main reactor of the facility, protected and operated by Stalkers, and sabotage its core, making the Air Exchange completely nonoperational and seen as a signal to start the human uprising in City 17. Gordon then reaches the shore on foot.[1][2]

Alyx likely leaves at some point after the battle, since it is likely that Gordon is alone with Odell on the Borealis.

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed. Blowing up the AirEx to trigger the uprising was merged with the Depot levels to make the Nova Prospekt levels;[2] reaching the top of the highest tower and blowing up the core of the whole facility was recycled in the Citadel levels, along with the factory-like themes.

Arctic regions

One of the first pre-release screenshots of Half-Life 2, in the E3 map "Docks". Gordon reaches the shore after the AirEx chapter, before leaving to the Borealis with Odell on a tugboat. Note the child holding a Cremator head on the far left, possibly a placeholder, since the child models hold a Cremator head by default.

Arriving at the shore, Gordon meets with Odell, former engineer of the Borealis, and proceeds to the Arctic regions on a tugboat.[1]

The Borealis - Hyperborea

Arriving on the site of the Borealis with their tugboat, the ship either being stranded in the ice or drifting in the sea, Gordon and Odell visit the ship filled with the corpses of the Borealis Workers, Stalkers, zombies, tanks containing Combine Assassins (probably in stasis) and Combine soldiers. Odell and Gordon leave the ship with a small submarine and proceed to the nearby Kraken Base, headed by Dr. Helena Mossman.[1][3]

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed, but taken back for Episode Two and planned for Episode Three under the Aperture Science ship of the same name.

Kraken Base

Gordon and Odell reach Kraken Base in their submarine and encounter Helena Mossman, Kraken's director (she refers to herself as "Kraken's director" in the playable Half-Life 2 Beta sound files). Kraken Base is a rebel scientific base located beneath the sea. It is unknown what happens there and what happens to Odell and Mossman. Some battle with Stalkers was to take place while Mossman would reveal her double agent role, and the base would be heavily damaged. Gordon leaves, on foot, and reaches the Combine Weather Control. No known official images of the base exist.[1][2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed, but some elements may be taken back for Episode Three, most likely in the form of Mossman's outpost near the Borealis.

Weather Control

Story fragment of the Weather Control battle given to the developers for design inspiration.

Was to be set in and around a large domed facility influencing Earth's weather, located in the Arctic regions. There a massive attack would be led by Captain Vance and his Conscripts, aided with Alyx and Gordon. Its appearance is relatively unknown since Valve never published official images of it, nor can it be found in the Beta files.[2]

Gordon fights there alongside Captain Vance, his Conscripts and Alyx. They are attacked by "mechs", the early term for "Synth".[2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed.

Flight of the C-130

Gordon and Alyx go back to City 17 with a C-130 that crashes into the Skyscraper.[1][2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed.

Back in City 17

Skyscraper - Vertigo - Palace

The C-130 crashes into a Skyscraper housing a museum. Alyx is injured and kidnapped by the Combine. Gordon must find her father Captain Vance. While making his way through the skyscraper and palace he comes across Combine Elites in certain areas like vert_04, in which he fights and kills them. He joins the Conscripts through the rooftops in the ensuing uprising. The Skyscraper was made twice, once as "Vertigo", an Art Deco building, and later as "Palace", a Neo-Classical building closer to the style of the final game.[1][2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Completely removed. The high tower concept became redundant when the Air Exchange areas were cut and integrated into the Citadel levels.

Street wars, Vance Headquarters, Hydra sewers

Citizens fleeing from a Strider in the ruined streets.

Gordon starts the street wars with theConscripts on the rooftops at the foot of the Skyscraper, then finally reaches ground level, where a Overwatch Sniper has pinned down Conscript forces, including Peters who is stuck in a APC that got hit by a landmine. Manwich tries to save Peters but gets to cocky and runs at the sniper saying " You want me? You want some of me? Get it Get! " and he says that the sniper shoots and kill Manwich as another Conscript says that Manwich is down. After saving Peters by going to the APC and taking a RPG to kill the sniper the level ends with him thanking Gordon. [1][3] At some point, Gordon manages to join Vance's Headquarters and then proceeds behind the inner gates of the Citadel's outer wall. While there the Conscripts were to have a friendly Crab Synth. Further instructions would likely have been given there, about the next steps of the battle and Alyx's salvage.[1] He also journeys again in the City 17 underground, where he confronts many Hydras.[1] Among others, Rebel forces (Citizens also known as Gas Mask Citizens) fight Striders with tanks and RPGs.[1]

Notable info about its use in retail

The overall concept was kept, except for Vance's headquarters. The new journey through the sewers was heavily trimmed, the Hydras being cut in the process. The sniper episode was kept for Barney. The Crab and Mortar Synths was reused for the tram easter egg in the Citadel.

Alyx's cache

Location only heard in an Alyx sound file in the Beta files, in which she brings Gordon into her place where she has food, water, various supplies and ways to charge up the HEV suit. Likely visited during the wars for a small break and character development.[3]

Consul Plaza

The battle continues. Gordon is back at the Consul Plaza and proceeds to the Citadel.[2]

Notable info about its use in retail

Recycled as the Trainstation Plaza.


Main article: Citadel

Gordon proceeds through the Citadel to finally reach the Consul office. There he confronts the Consul and finds Alyx being kept prisoner and discovers that Helena Mossman betrayed them.[2] The original fate of Alyx Vance, Eli Maxwell, Captain Vance and Helena Mossman are unknown.

Notable info about its use in retail

The design was heavily changed and has a much more alien look, the concept of the Combine recycling human material and resources having been reworked.


See also

Imagecat.png Game storyline articles