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Half-Life: Escape from City 17 is a short fan film directed by the Purchase Brothers. Following the story of four Resistance members escaping from City 17, it is set during the build up to the imminent destruction of the Citadel Core.
The first installment was released on February 12, 2009, made on a budget of only $500 (USD) with "no time, no crew, no script". The second installment, made on a budget of $250 (USD) was released on August 24, 2011.
Around the beginning of the first part of the film, scientist Isaac Kleiner, through a large video monitor, is warning that the Citadel will be involved in a destructive event which will probably irradiate a large area around it. Against a backdrop depicting City 17, including the Citadel, with parts of it on fire, Kleiner then advises that anyone left in the city should evacuate promptly. It is later revealed that he is communicating by speakers within the settlement, and the film proceeds to illustrate combat between Combine forces and the Resistance. Two male Resistance members are introduced in a train-yard, with one asking by radio to others away from their location whether any trains are leaving. Receiving a response, he is told that the last train from that yard left earlier, and that he should try to get out of the city by foot or continue trying to locate a train. Civil Protection officers soon appear, and the two engage in combat throughout much of the rest of the film. They are eventually caught upon an open stretch of railway, with a Combine hunter-chopper bearing down. As the chopper, whilst firing weaponry, passes overhead of the two, the film cuts to a black screen.
The story begins around the time of the first explosion of Nova Prospekt as war is seen to break out in City 17, eventually leading to the first explosion of the Citadel. A male undercover Rebel saves a female Rebel from Combine soldiers, but the latter, not speaking or unserstanding English, is initially seen to distrust her rescuer. Eventually they get on the way out of the city as it is engulfed in street war, with Striders tearing down buildings. Along with other Rebels, the two endure heavy combat and are seen to bring down a Strider with a Rocket Launcher, SMG, and a Sniper Rifle. Eventually, the two become romantically involved. Travelling by the Canals, the couple then joins with two other Rebels seen escaping the City in Part One, but the male Rebel, caught off-guard, soon gets shot by Civil Protection and dies in the arms of his newfound friend. The remaining three Rebels, chased by the Metrocops, escape into a Zombie-infested tunnel, where the female memeber, distracted in her grief, is attacked by a Headcrab which latches onto her head. The other two members are attacked by the Zombies and are driven back, unable to help their companion. The tunnel, though inhospitable, serves as a shelter against the second explosion of the Citadel, which is seen to tear down what is left of the City. The female Rebel is unable to remove the Headcrab with her hands but, still conscious, she manages to load the spare pistol given to her earlier by her deceased friend and shoot the parasite without harming herself. The three are then seen to drive back the Zombies and escape into sunlight.
The film was created by Toronto-based David and Ian Purchase, who use the professional name of the Purchase Brothers. Before Escape from City 17, the Purchase Brothers had directed several commercials, including one for Coca-Cola. David contended that they worked as commercial directors in order to support their independent projects. They were both fans of the Half-Life series, and decided to start Escape from City 17 as a way "to showcase and promote their talents further, and experiment with several post-production techniques they'd developed."
The two had a budget of $500 for Part One and $250 for Part Two; the computer equipment and software employed for the development of the film belonged to the Purchase Brothers from previous projects. According to David, the money was spent on the live-action elements of the film, saying that "The costumes, and used/broken airsoft guns made up the bulk of the budget." The two had no crew to support them, and were not paid for their work. Many of the elements of the film, such as the background and sound effects, were extracted from Half-Life 2, "graphically enhanced, and incorporated into the live action with 'a lot of complicated tracking and rotoscoping.'"
The film was produced independently, however Valve assisted in its promotion and posted the video onto their user community channel, Steam News. The first part of the film was released on YouTube on February 12, 2009, and within a day had gained over 500,000 views, and over 1,000,000 by February 15. It became the highest-rated video on the site in its history as of February 19.
The Purchase Brothers planned to release the second part of the film in early to mid March 2009, but the large amount of emails and phone calls the two have received regarding the first part has slowed development of the second. The final cut of Part Two was officially released on August 24, 2011, with a pre-release leak appearing as early as August 19. The pre-release version contains mostly the same footage, but unlike the final cut (which tells the story in chronological order), it features the same story told in pieces and flashbacks.
Barry White of Citizen Game stated that the first part of the film "[blew] my mind" and "Considering the comparatively [sic] paltry resources...at their [the Purchase Brothers] disposal this short still manages to be better than every video game movie currently in existence." Wagner Au of NewTeeVee contended that the first part "is one of those rare viral videos that seems destined to launch a breakout success", and added "non-gamers are likely to be impressed by its rollicking action and bravura special effects." Au believed its popularity was due, in part, to the fact that the video is adapted from Half-Life 2. Patrick Goss, writing for Tech Radar, said the in-game footage from Half-Life 2 "blended almost seamlessly into [the] live action footage" in the film.
- Official website (offline)