Interestingly, it has never been specified that City 17 is actually based off of Eastern European countries. These are just wild guesses based on the portrayal of a city in the game and its culture depicted such as the language used, the landscape, the architecture, names of buildings and the street art shown.
One of the main locations of the Half-Life video game series is City 17. City 17 is shown as a place that is located somewhere in Eastern Europe, surrounded by deserted places such as Wasteland. Its architecture resembles the post-Second World War era and it gives off-a-Soviet city vibe which is located near a harbor. City 17 is one of the prime locations where all the events of Half-Life 2 take place.
The idea of a city that becomes the hub of the human population in the second Half-Life game installment was conceived and adapted into the design by concept art directors Viktor Antonov, Eric Kirchmer and Damarcus Holbrook. It was mapped by Aaron Barber, Dario Casali, Dave River, and John Guthrie. City 17’s background story was created and developed by the author of Half-Life video game series, Mark Laidlaw himself.
The backdrop story of City 17 is that it is the only surviving human population place which has been taken over by the Combine. The Combine use television sets, called Breen Screens, installed on streets to communicate with the masses and use a skyscraper called Citadel as their main place of residence. Citadel is located at the center of City 17 and extends as much underground as it does above the ground. Simply put, its design is such that it allows the Combine to conquer air space several meters above in the sky while also allowing them access to underground pathways leading in and outside of the city.
City 17 had been created in a time zone where the Seven Hour war was yet to take place and its fate was to get destroyed during The Uprising. The city is largely controlled by the Combine post their attack and capture of it and consists of architecture that resembles it to a post Second World War Soviet city.
Condition of City 17 – The Combine Rule
In Half-life 2, it is evident that Combine has attacked and captured City 17. They have also drained the city’s canals and replaced the building with structures of their own. The city consists of deserted railways, plazas, underground road tunnels, hospitals, and roadways. Most of the city areas have been damaged due to the events which take place in Half-Life 2 and appear deserted. This is because most of the citizens of City 17 had evacuated it and the ones who were left are later helped by Freeman and Alyx to flee too.
Possible Real-Life Locations City 17 is Based On
Some of the possible real-life locations City 17 could be based on including Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. This can be assumed because throughout Half-Life 2, the people use Cyrillic script to convey text and the city is bordered by the sea. In real life, there are only 3 places that qualify for the criteria.
Bulgaria’s city Sofia is also the homeland of lead concept art director, Viktor Antonov. The street art which appears on walls of City 17 and other forms of text which show the Cyrillic script makes Sofia the most common guess. However, the architecture and design of buildings in the game resemble more to Russia’s designs. Additionally, some names of places such as cafes and streets sound almost similar to the real-life ones in Russia. Other than these three, there are other places in the Eastern European region that could have inspired City 17’s locations and map. These include Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Serbia, and Romania.
Gordon Freeman’s Job in City 17
Gordon Freeman’s task in City 17 is to confront Dr. Breen in Citadel and take him down. When Freeman first visits City 17, he is forced to escape it via the canal system. Later when he returns, Freeman observes a full-fledged mutiny by the City 17 citizens against Combine rule and proceeds to take down Dr. Breen inside Citadel.
Tying It Up Together
In summation, City 17 is an imaginary city in the Half-Life universe which is hugely inspired by Eastern European countries and their culture. The city, for the most part of the game, is deserted and building dilapidated. The population of the city is very low and wildlife is not to be seen anywhere. It consists of classical architecture and underground pathways too. The city is set in post-World War II times but is yet to be exposed to devastating events that would completely wipe its remains off the Half-Life universe map. The good part, however, is that almost all of its citizens will be saved since their low-key evacuation has been started from the time of Freeman’s first visit.
The Combine has control over various buildings and canal routes. They also have control over the railways and underground network of tunnels. These tunnels have been flooded with hazardous material in order to discourage the movement of citizens. The Combine makes a lot of effort to restrict the movement of citizens across the city and uses Breen Screens to communicate with citizens.
Towards the end of the game, Freeman disrupts a dark energy reactor in an attempt to destroy Citadel and the whole of City 17. Before doing this, Freeman and Alyx rescue everyone and have evacuated the city. Even Alyx has been saved and only Freeman is left to confront Dr. Breen. This is the time when Freeman damages this reactor since he tries to stop him from teleporting himself into another universe and intends to kill him via exploding Citadel and the whole of City 17. Just as Freeman disrupts the reactor to cause an explosion, G-man appears out of the blue, freezes time and teleports Freeman back to stasis. After that, an explosion is seen and City 17 completely destroyed.