Way back on the 12th of February 2009, two brothers created what remains, arguably, the greatest Half-Life fanfilm (or greatest Half-Life film, period) ever made. Escape From City 17: Part One went viral almost immediately after release, and inspired numerous other filmmakers to create their very own Half-Life fanfilms. Since then, the creators, the Purchase Brothers have been very busy with a number of projects, including a feature film. They released another teaser for Part Two and a recut of Part One in October of 2009, but since then, we’ve heard absolutely nothing from them.
But that changed on the 19th of August, when they finally released Part Two… and it then changed right back again, as it was taken down a few hours afterwards. The reason? Some sort of “typo” in the film. It must have been one hell of a typo, because the video only returned today, after a good 5 days. Did they want it to coincide with Valve’s 15th birthday or something? Eh, I don’t know. But, here it is! Part Two of Escape from City 17, after two and a half years!
Do check it out before reading any further, because I’ll be going into detail on the film, spoiling the plot.
Well, that was pretty great! The video starts off at the very beginning of the Uprising, not long after Gordon and Alyx destroyed Nova Prospekt, and portrays the events of the Uprising in City 17. I liked how they chose to show us what happened the one week Gordon and Alyx were away – it was definitely a cool idea, and it made for some beautiful shots of the devastated city. The main characters are a former undercover Civil Protection officer who understands Russian but refuses to speak it, and a female rebel and former refugee, who understands English but refuses to speak it. These two somehow manage to form a couple, and decide to make out while Gordon Freeman blows up the dark energy reactor.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing two people’s love cross the barriers of language and whatnot is an interesting idea, and it has grounding in the HL story, since the Combine has been moving people from all nationalities and of all languages to different cities as often as three times a year, but it’s still a bit far-fetched. Still, watching these two befriend and romance each other over the course of a week isn’t as annoying as it might sound. Eventually, the Citadel begins to meltdown and the two decide it’s time to move. At this point, we finally catch up with the events of Part One, which has not been referenced in Part Two so far, aside from a tiny cameo from the Asian rebel here. But hey, they finally meet Asian rebel and German rebel from the first part! 20 seconds after that, the other male rebel gets shot in the neck and dies. Yes, I counted. Then Gnome Chompski makes a cameo appearance.
Russian lady’s pretty sad, and the three then run into a tunnel, where they are ambushed by zombies and headcrabs, one of which decides to jump on Russian lady’s head. The little thing grabs on to her, but does not latch on for a full 1 minute and 31 seconds. You could argue she managed to keep it from attaching itself by struggling, but then again, you could also argue everyone who got a headcrab on their head did the same and was zombified nonetheless.
The strangest moment is when the headcrab gives her a leisurely 13 seconds to pull out her gun, reload it, and shoot the headcrab twice. Strangely, the bullet doesn’t penetrate through to her skull, and none of her rebel companions thought of wrestling the headcrab off of her, or shooting it at an angle to avoid killing her. She survives, but has no brain damage or any visible wounds on her head. David speculates that this headcrab was actually Lamaar. I find that to be the most believable theory we have.
That’s where the film ends – the three survive, and run off into the light at the other end of the tunnel. The length was quite impressive, I must admit! 14 minutes and a half, as compared to the original’s 5 minute and a half, or the official Part One re-cut’s 3 minutes and 50 seconds. So, what can I say? I definitely loved it, though I think the plot and writing could have used some work. As I previously stated, the language barrier thing was pretty weird (working on it might have improved the relationship between the two and made it seem less forced), the way the two rebels from part one simply popped in abruptly (they just don’t really do anything, they don’t have any more of their amusing banter, not even the classic “I hate walking! Ugh!”, and it isn’t even explained how they escaped the Hunter-Chopper), the way the other male rebel is killed a mere 20 seconds after they appear on-screen, and the way the headcrab seems so uninterested in getting a human host, are all strange and could have used a bit of revision and reworking.
Still, the locations were excellent, the CG work was eye-poppingly beautiful, the acting was surprisingly great, and the combat scenes were awesome! At times, they reminded me of Terminator 1 and 2′s atmospheric, dystopian “future war” sequences. I definitely enjoyed it, and I wonder if there will be a part 3. Despite the credits and the lack of a teaser, the ending leaves the door wide open for a third part. That, and some of the scenes we saw in the Part Two teaser were completely absent here, including the much-expected vehicle sequences.
And it was all done with a tiny budget of $250, not counting their previously owned software and HVX200 camera! Amazing! So, great work to the Purchase Brothers, and we hope to see more of Escape from City 17 soon! Even if it may take another two and a half years.