The Skyscraper, also known as Vertigo or Palace, is the generic name of a City 17 location and chapter cut from Half-Life 2 and an informal predecessor for the Overwatch Nexus. 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.
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 to house a museum and a hotel/palace, 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. Early Alyx sound files (made by another actress than Merle Dandridge) found in the playable Half-Life 2 Beta files indicates that Alyx cannot move and tells Gordon to find an "emergency bunker near the inner gates" where her father is "in command". The sequence comes in two versions: a quiet one ("I'm hurt. Can't move. Go on without me. Find my father. There's an emergency bunker near in inner gates, he'll be in command there. Tell him I... RUN!") and an excited one ("Gordon! I'm hurt! Can't move! Go on without me! Find my father! There's an emergency bunker near in inner gates! He's in command there! Tell him that I... Aaaah..."). 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 Overwatch Soldiers 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 the ground.
Sound files indicates that after Alyx's speech to Gordon (and after she was to be taken away), the player was to hear two Metropolice officers talking through a radio (speaking with a more normal voice), about Alyx being taken away, the Consul, the "Rebel chopper" (which replaced the C-130) that Gordon and Alyx crashed with in the building, above the soldiers, 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. While talking, they were to be interrupted by a noise made by Gordon who fell below them, 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 in front of Gordon, then likely be killed by him.
The building comes in two versions, almost totally unrelated to each other: "Vertigo", last edited in 2001, and "Palace", last edited in 2002.
The first version is an Art Deco-style American building with brick, stone and concrete, reminiscence of the early City 17, and contains a big atrium with a pound, but no museum. There the player was to be attacked by Overwatch Soldiers, Combine Elites, Headcrabs, and Zombies. It is the most complete version, the next chapter starting at the foot of the building. This latter part was also to contain shuttles flying above the battle. An interesting note, the building is heavily similar to the penobscot building in Detroit.
The second version, much more incomplete (although more detailed), is a rather Stalinist-style building, without brick and more stone, 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, and, strangely, two Citizens and Cohrt, most likely serving as placeholders. An Ichthyosaur is also hung from the ceiling, and the bronze horse statue can be found. The player was to be attacked by Overwatch Soldiers, a Headcrab, a Combine Assassin and a Mortar Synth. A Gunship was also to fly around the building, firing at the player. It seems that the development team wanted to remake the skyscraper from scratch with the new style they settled on, removing the battle on the rooftops (since it belongs the older City 17 style), 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, with streets and houses at its foot. 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 is likely 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 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.
- Portions of the Vertigo map
vert_02_004were recycled into Half-Life 2: Episode One.
- The high tower concept became redundant with the Air Exchange and was therefore also recycled in the Citadel levels.
- The concept of the Skyscraper being a museum was reused for the Overwatch Nexus, as said by Barney in Half-Life 2: "There's an old building up ahead, a bank or museum or something like that."
- The bronze horse statue 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 "
List of appearances
- Vertigo mod - nearly complete chapter of the Vertigo version on the Half-Life Beta 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, on the Half-Life Beta Project website (With the Citadel added; requires registering and Episode Two)
|Half-Life 2 original storyline||Succeeded by|