Escape From City 17: Part One

By John Walker on February 13th, 2009 at 11:20 pm.

I want the authentic beanie.

The Purchase Brothers (their website is currently squished by traffic), independent filmmakers and commercial directors, have released the first part of their Half-Life-inspired short film series. And it’s pretty good. It’s a mixture of live action and game footage, and makes smart use of in-game sound effects, and some really fantastic location hunting. Originally developed to test post-production techniques for their work, as well as to create a ‘spec’ commercial to demonstrate their talents, it eventually became a series of shorts telling a story within the Half-Life universe. And it’s below.

The Purchase Bros describe the production as “guerilla style with no money, no time, no crew, no script, the first two episodes were made from beginning to end on a budget of $500.” The project has been made with the full support of Valve, who gave the project a plug on the instantly-disappearing Steam Update News. Make sure to select to watch it in HD (the option appears bottom right after you’ve clicked play).

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145 Comments »

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    James G says:

    I caught this in the Valve tweets earlier, quite impressive, if a little short on story.

  2. DF7 says:

    And now I have to play Half Life again. Bang goes my weekend.

  3. rob says:

    Awful acting but beautiful scenery.

  4. Citizen Parker says:

    Wow. Those establishing shots are breathtaking. Quite an achievement – thanks so much for sharing this.

  5. StalinsGhost says:

    Fantastic production values all around.

    The script is a bit (ok, very) weak, but despite all that I can’t wait to see how it develops.

  6. Gap Gen says:

    “The script is a bit (ok, very) weak, but despite all that I can’t wait to see how it develops.”

    Yeah, I imagine “Reload, Dr Freeman!” gets a bit dull after a while.

  7. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I love the way they got the costumes down so well. And the weapons. Heck, the guys almost look like the actual in-game character models!

  8. The Hammer says:

    It’s a bloody joy to see Half Life represented in such a way, no matter how good the script or voice acting is!

    And ditto on the choice of locations. Simply gorgeous.

  9. Y3k-Bug says:

    Valve has twitter?

  10. Steve says:

    Just a shame the acting is a bit rubbish. Would be a thousand times better if it wasn’t.

  11. Rich_P says:

    More of the blonde actress please :D

    Even if the acting’s a bit weak, the production values are off the scale. I’d love to see a proper HL movie now (after the animated TF2 movie, of course)

  12. Tworak says:

    Pretty cool stuff.

    “More of the blonde actress please :D”

    SIGNED.

  13. Bob says:

    the scene with the debris floating up to the citadel was beyond superb. The zombies in the preview were a bit fail though. I WANT A METROCOP ARMOR :O

  14. Stupoider says:

    This is terrific. It really blew me away, and I especially love the smoke that rises after the SMG grenade goes off.

  15. Dain says:

    That really is excelent, the presumably ingame stuff doesn’t look it at all.. the locations seem perfect as well.. yeah perhaps the acting isn’t great, but it’s a fanfilm which perfectly captures the atmosphere of the games.

  16. Ecko says:

    Totally agree with all this-rocks comments.

    As a side note, I would hope EVERYONE has already played Left4Dead to death and adored it, but for some reason, Valve has decided to continue its unstoppable march to become benigh dictator of PC gaming, and is offering l4d for half price!

    About 13.50 now, so please go and die if you still refuse to buy it. Fools.

  17. cheeba says:

    Or 22.49, as it’s better known in euro-land. Guess some things haven’t changed.

  18. Smurfy says:

    Saw this earlier. Needs more shakycam.

  19. Akirasfriend says:

    I can’t believe that a few people make an indie flick like this and people critique the acting or the quality of the zombie outfits. The acting wasn’t stellar, but it was a damn sight better than a few efforts I’ve seen. I loved this, and look forward to the future installments most bodaciously.

    Get it up yez!

  20. Gabe McGrath says:

    Agree with most of the positive statements above..
    But most of all, I’ve gotta say… my heart leapt when it showed glimpses of what a Half Life 2 film could be like.
    Imagine seeing an even better version on the big screen. That would be fantastic. Half Life has more humanity in the characters that other similar games. But sadly…. I think “the film” will remain… just a dream…

  21. Pags says:

    I’m going to go ahead and be the third to ask for more of the blonde, please.

  22. Mike says:

    Visually, this is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s almost painted in parts. Very, very good.

    Obviously – little story, not great acting, but they’re clearly accomplished film makers in the post-production department if nothing else. Awesome.

  23. Andrew says:

    Incredible stuff. The wide shots of City 17 are gorgeous.

    The acting is passable-to-cringeworthy but I didn’t mind it particularly. The use of sound effects from the game helps there, I think, as a lot of the ‘acting’ in this piece is game sound effects.

    Would watch again, 9/10.

  24. sigma83 says:

    4th the blonde.

    Costumes and props very well done. CGI integration even moreso.

    I wouldn’t feel bad for calling the acting not up to par with the rest of the thing. Criticism helps artists to improve, and it’s not like we’re detracting points from the rest of the thing.

  25. sigma83 says:

    oh also, happy single’s awareness day to everyone. Enjoy your S.A.D. as much as possible.

  26. john t says:

    If Valve want to make a Half-Life movie, they need to come up with a coherent storyline, don’t they? Or like, an ending or something.

    They’d be better doing a TV series like lost, where they can just introduce new unexplained shit every week and never resolve anything.

  27. sbs says:

    john t: that’s not necessarily a bad thing though.

  28. Ben Abraham says:

    This was really good. I hope they continue with the series.

  29. Bret says:

    I agree with the zombies looking kind of poor. And the rest being pretty good.

    The most important thing, however, is this film finally made me realize the sound of a combine trooper biting it is one of the most beautiful sounds there is.

  30. Trousers says:

    That was absolute badassery. I would pay to see it

  31. cyrenic says:

    It was great, as long as the actors weren’t talking :).

  32. Angel Dust says:

    Not bad. The effects intergation was excellent for such a small producation and while the acting and writing obviously aren’t the best they are servicable. However the sound editing and general editing needs a lot of work. The pacing for the action was very flat and they used far too many foregroundy, don’t know the word for it, sound effects. Those destoryed city shots would have greatly benefited from less explosions and jerky cam etc. Needs more mood!

  33. waffles says:

    If they would just reduce the actors dialoge and capture the trail effect the gunship gun has, this would be perfect.
    Some of the shots like 1:18 are just amazing, hopefully this will form into a lot more than a couple webisodes.
    Considering Valve is a game company that created its own distribution center, it seems like making their own movie could be a possible move for them.

  34. James says:

    Great, but let down by the shitty flash player. Install http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/39167 and download the mp4 then use a real video player to view it in full 1280×720 glory.

    Steam update news is actually a webpage so you can link to them if you work out the URL.

  35. Larington says:

    Some brilliant visual work went into that. I will concur on the view that the zombies don’t look great, the way they move seems only half there, and I don’t mean the actors walking, I mean the way the prosthetics (Or whatever) wobble as the actor does the movements.
    Acting meanwhile, I feel its stronger than some people are giving it credit for, especially considering budgets and so on but I’m uncertain what recommendations I’d have for how the acting could be improved.

  36. Larington says:

    One comment I can make, surely if those folks are fighting a pitched war they should look a little bit dirty and perhaps blood stained (From injuries done to metrocops rather than to them) so they look the part beyond just having the costume right.

  37. bansama says:

    This just makes me want to see an actual feature length film based on the franchise even more =/

  38. john t says:

    Just watched it again, and I think doing this as a tv series on the sci-fi channel would be fucking awesome.

    Except the zombies, man they look bad.

  39. bansama says:

    Except the zombies, man they look bad.

    You know, I think that’s why I like them so much. Cheesy monsters can be cool too!

  40. Sigmund Fraud says:

    Wow…. this was really cool

    Now, if only Hollywood doesn’t pick this up ….

  41. nabeel says:

    That is pretty damn cool.

  42. Generico says:

    5 minutes of amateurish mediocrity? Why, that’s the best damn game movie I’ve ever seen!

  43. Pavel says:

    Okay, the acting could be better.

    But fuck that, this is the best video I have ever seen : ).

    HOLY SHITE!

  44. Naurgul says:

    Before hitting the play button, I knew it would be weak on story, so then I enjoyed it for what it was: An amazing live-action film-esque glimpse in the Half-Life universe. Nothing more, nothing less.

  45. DarkNoghri says:

    This video wins by virtue of having a combine beat to death with a crowbar.

  46. Logo says:

    “and so on but I’m uncertain what recommendations I’d have for how the acting could be improved.”

    I think it’s writing + acting and maybe a little directing on too. Some of the lines were cheesy and the scenes and what not could move with better pacing (though they all look great). Meanwhile the actors delivered a lot of the lines in either an over the top manner or in a way that seemed inconsistent with their setting.

    Still kudos to them, overall it was a really cool production and I know I sure as hell couldn’t do anywhere near that good.

  47. Brant says:

    Saw this earlier today — I think it’s pretty damn nice myself, except for the zombie costumes which look like people wearing headcrab plushies on their noggins.

    On the other hand, it’s not like I could do any better myself. Keeping my eyes open for the next chapter either way.

  48. Aftershock says:

    One of the metrocop suits was up on ebay a while ago.
    Not sure how much it went for.

  49. Tei says:

    I don’t need to say lots of things other people already say:
    – Good production values. the mix of real image and computer generated is seamless. Can I say perfect?. This include weapons, character look, etc.
    – The blond actreess will add tons to this. [1]

    [1] And this is where I will insert my comment. This movie need faces. You can’t make a movie about the faceless generic NPC’s of a game, with faceless characterless of people. The face of the blonde has a expresion, and the blond hair helps recognize she. This other 2 guys are almost generic. But he, this is a small snip, maybe both of this guys die, and the movie continue with a different set of actors or charcters or something. [2]

    [2] …I could be really wrong. I am not into movies, and maybe intuition about movies is a wrong guide.

  50. tackle says:

    Everybody praises the all around production value in this, but I disagree.
    Mister Angel Dust hits the spot on the sound issue. It’s sub-par, seriously.

    Noticed some VERY weird placing on the sound during the train scene, especially dialogue. Apart from the stereo placing, the actual sound wasn’t adapted to the scene, it just sounded recorded and slapped on.
    And I would not for one second trust that walkie talkie to be the source of the sounds I heard.

    It’s like a total beginner is doing the sound at certain parts, while graphically I’m flabberghasted!