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 »

  1. Subjective Effect says:

    It looks… ok. Overall very amateur imho. Some of the effects are good, and the “feel” is appropriate but overall I think this fails.

  2. SlappyBag says:

    I thought it was done hilariously well, shows that we need an awesome Half-Life movie made by actual pros !!! Obviously amateur but compare it to alot of the HL fan flicks about and this comes out on top easily.

  3. Tei says:

    @tackle- You right. The sound of evil soldier dyinng is directly from the game. It sould be modified a bit, or is too repetitive and have this “He.. LOOKS AT ME, A SOLDIER IS DYINNG HERE” that sometimes distract…

  4. Muzman says:

    Nice work . ’bout time someone did something like this. There’s a ton of dodgy home brew action films with quite good effects and production, and a ton of game derived ones that are just really really bad. It’s high time they met.
    The game sky replacement stuff is really cool (although high res is less forgiving). It’ll be good to see if they carry it off as the scale increases.
    (their muzzle flashes could do with some effect on the environment though /compulsory bitch)

  5. Anarki says:

    I thought the best part about this was the blood splats that come out behind people who’ve been shot. Looked exactly like HL2!

  6. Andy Kay says:

    The best video game / movie adaptation I have seen yet, in that it actually looks and feels like the game. Imagine what these guys could do with a budget in the region of the AvP / Doom failfest movies!!!

  7. Foca Mais says:

    ID already made a Doom movie. Far Cry is being done by Uwe Boll. Resident Evil ? 3 films. Silent Hill, Hitman, Tomb Raider… Ok, most of them are bad but I think Half-Life made interesting characters and settings that would make very cool movies. I wonder why they don´t try Hollywood by now.

  8. the probe says:

    I actually liked the Gunships in this more than in the games. They always had the look of something that would move fast, instead of the lackadaisical circling they do when you encounter them in-game.

    Also (unrelated to the video), can somebody explain to me why the Combine was devoting so many resources to killing the rebels after the Citadel went critical? I never understood why they wouldn’t just order a massive retreat from the City to save any resources they could.

  9. Taillefer says:

    Was fully expecting to slate this, but it wasn’t half-bad.

  10. Dain says:

    Hey Mr Angel Dust, where can we see your film work?

  11. Larington says:

    Can’t remember where, but I definately remember reading an interview with someone at Valve and there was a segueway into a film based on the games, apparently a number of possible scripts had been offered up to the devs but they’ve pretty much rejected them all and at least up to the time of the interview they have no intention of a HL film being made.

  12. grey_painter says:

    Force of habit probably probe. Gordon had just killed all the local commander structure and the low level troopers don’t strike me as the improvising type. With a lack of new orders most of the ground troopers probably just got on with the suppression of rebels they’d been doing previously, most of them probably weren’t even aware of the impending explosion till Kleiner appeared. Besides that the combine seems to treat life as cheap.

    More related to the movie I was impressed by the visual style and effects. I didn’t really bother paying attention to the acting, anytime a character complains about having to walk when the city around him is about to blow up you can safely ignore the acting. I do like that red crowbars appear to be standard armament for the rebels though.

  13. Larington says:

    I’m not 100% certain if I saw it right, but I think the crowbar was actually hanging off the side of one of the train sections and was picked up conveniently before it was needed, I don’t mind at all though since its almost a reference to the game itself.

  14. gulag says:

    There are about a million things wrong with that video. The sky matting isn’t 100%, the muzzle flashes are a bit cut and paste, the zombies, the acting, the script, yada yada…

    $500 gets you one of those heart-in-mouth ‘Am I really seeing this?’ moments. These guys have buckets of talent, and I can’t wait to see what they can do with a little bit of funding and Valve’s blessing. Roll on part 2.

  15. Jante says:

    You know you’ve done something right when your website hosting account gets suspended because of too much traffic. ^^

    As for the video; saw it yesterday before things blew up. For a 500 dollar budget, it’s very impressive, and it conveys the feel of the game perfectly. I’m not going to nitpick about acting, writing or direction – this is raw potential, and those things will come with time (and money).

    Now, if one could only obtain a HD download of this thing, I’d be a happy camper.

  16. Jeremy says:

    I quite enjoyed this.

  17. Don says:

    Kind of unfair to criticise, except in a constructive fashion, an amateur fan film. As a regular cinema goer I’ve made the odd misjudgement and seen a few $100m films that sucked far more than this and provided less entertainment in 2hrs than this did in 5 minutes.

  18. Ziv says:

    does it have spoilers for those who haven’t played ep1 and 2? I’m currently playing ep1 so I don’t want any spoilers….

  19. Gorgeras says:

    A Half-Life film of course should NEVER be made, if anything it’s more unfilmable than Watchmen, also designed as something only it’s original medium can do.

    Team Fortress 2 however really could be a film because it’s basically a blank slate apart from the quirks that make it charming.

  20. Muzman says:

    Ziv says:
    does it have spoilers for those who haven’t played ep1 and 2? I’m currently playing ep1 so I don’t want any spoilers….

    Shouldn’t do. A couple of resistance dudes hang out between some trains and discuss leaving town. Also; shooting. That’s pretty much it.

  21. thefanciestofpants says:

    Really well done, can’t wait to see more.

    Hats off to those chaps I say.

  22. Ninja Dodo says:

    Some spoilers, yes… as far as what your goal in EP1 is and what happens with that.

  23. Jeremy says:

    After reading the comments, a series on this would be quite good. I recall a webcomic done using the Source engine (not “Concerned”), where the main character was a gun-runner trying to survive. Something like that would be quite cool. Although, I don’t know how you could remove Freeman from the storyline and have it really BE Half-Life. On the other hand, having a really important character that doesn’t speak would be quite hard on the script-writing.

  24. Hybrid says:

    Simply amazing to say the least. Reminds me of those Halo shorts by Neill Blomkamp but with more dialogue and story.
    Also….. Blonde

  25. VPeric says:

    So, hmm, how do I download the HD version? My usual method seems to be failing (getting the regular version instead).

  26. dadioflex says:

    “VPeric says:

    So, hmm, how do I download the HD version? My usual method seems to be failing (getting the regular version instead).”

    Selecting HD doesn’t seem to make a difference. If you double click the youtube image it takes you to ACTUAL Youtube. The HD option on there is pretty obvious and there isn’t one for this video.

    It’s five minutes long, who gives a flying fig whether its HD or not?

    Video was pretty cool. Couldn’t hear the dialogue for the FX so that may be a bonus.

  27. dadioflex says:

    Re: Blonde

    Suggest you invest in windows and/or television.

    There’s much better out there.

  28. malkav11 says:

    Most of the effects look like the game because they’re being done in the Source engine. What’s impressive to me is that I have no idea (aside from the two main guys and the blonde) what’s actually real.

  29. Dozer says:

    I’m very impressed they’ve managed to get permission to wander around a rail freight depot without hi-vis vests on! Wouldn’t happen in the UK.

    Thoroughly enjoyed it. I think a lot of effort went into getting access to the locations, and the costumes. I don’t believe they’ve only spent $500 on this – how can they make that many costumes for that little?

    Really looking forward to seeing what else they’ll make!

  30. Mark S. says:

    I have to give this some serious props. Future installments should use more “shakey” camera work, like the first minute of this. I didn’t think i’d enjoy Cloverfield because the first person camera work but it kept it seriously gritty, i really liked that movie. Keep it as “indie” as possible. Like others said, if Hollywood gets a hold of this, forget it. And don’t involve any mainstream actors. I frequently thought of an HL movie over the years, this is defintely a excellent taste of what could be…

  31. Angel Dust says:

    @Dain

    Oh come one, tell me you’re not pulling that pathetic “well until you do better you can’t comment” line? This whole site is full of people exchanging opinions on the creative work of others and I would guess not more than a handful have even though about making their own game. So basically grow up. I think this film has some problems not directly related to it’s lack of budget. “The Terminator” was James Camerons first full film as director and was made for a very low budget, not $500 low but it was a full length film. I think this short and “The Terminator” are equal in how they get around the limits of their budgets to create something credible and not hokey. However there is a huge difference in the flow of action sequences and that is just pure film making talent that no amount of budget can overcome (just look at Michael Bay). I’m not saying this guys can’t improve on that but I do think that is a bigger issue than the acting.

  32. Scandalon says:

    Quite nice – the audio work, esp. (How much is them and how much is Valve?) Writing/acting certainly need a bit of work, but overall, I want to see more. Good job!

  33. CakeAddict says:

    The acting could use some work but the rest was extremely well done imo.
    They should do a scene from l4d!

  34. mejobloggs says:

    How did they integrate real life and HL so good? Looks fantastic

  35. surlyben says:

    That’s pretty damn good for five hundred bucks.
    @ Angel Dust: Yes, Terminator was low budget. 6.5 million dollars low, or roughly $60,000 per minute, which is a far cry from the $50 per minute on display here. A better comparison might be to El Mariachi, which had a $7000 budget (but still cost more per minute…)

  36. Muzman says:

    The budget thing in most cases like this is terribly misleading and surely discounts factors like the many thousands of dollars worth of equipment and software in use. Did they include travel expenses for every location reccy as well as on the day(s)? Food?
    Usually people don’t and just add up what they spent on costumes, toy guns and tape. (El Mariachi provides the perfect case for ignoring “budget as marketing” talk where ever you find it)

  37. Angel Dust says:

    @surlyben
    My point was that the reason “The Terminator” kicks so much arse in the action department is because the director has the knack for it which has nothing to do with the budget. Check the scene where Reese evades the cops in the department store. That would have cost sweet f-all to shoot but it moves thanks to perfect shot selection and editing which is what this short is lacking. Note I don’t think this short is crap, I am merely pointing out what I think is a bigger issue than some flat acting.

  38. john t says:

    A Half-Life film of course should NEVER be made, if anything it’s more unfilmable than Watchmen, also designed as something only it’s original medium can do.

    I don’t think you could do the Half Life story as a movie, but you could certainly use the setting. Gordon Freeman never talks, he would be a lousy main character.

  39. Hybrid says:

    To download the HD version:

    #1
    Go to this site: (i didnt make this)
    http://macskeeball.dnsalias.com/misc/macstack/download_youtube_hd.html

    #2
    Bookmark what they say to bookmark

    #3
    Go back to the video on youtube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1UPMEmCqZo

    #4
    Click on the bookmark you made.
    On the far right underneath the info, url, and embed codes it should now say “Download as 720p HD MP4 (right-click and select Save link as)”

    #5
    Save the file then watch it in HD!

  40. John Doe says:

    Some of that Terminator action you mentioned is kind of dated now. Amazing film, but T2 has better scenes. I thought that action in this was incredibly well shot in this. This was like Children of Men but with more cuts. That movie was masterfully shot.
    HECK! The beginning of this thing is like Terminator 2 in the future war. Less budget and shorter.

  41. Angel Dust says:

    While the effects have certainly dated, and was the reason for the comparison, the shot selection and editing are still spot on which is my point. The flashiest effects in the world don’t mean shit if you can’t get that propulsive momentum going that all good action sequences have and that comes from the previously mentioned framing and editing of the action. This HL2 short has the framing down pretty well, that last shot with the chopper bearing down on them is fantastic, but the editing needs some tightening which I am sure we will see improve with the coming episodes.

  42. Angel Dust says:

    Oh yeah and to elaborate on my problems with the sound. It’s not the sound design, as the individual sounds are of course great as Valve did a great job creating unique well-realised sounds for HL2, but the sound editing which is how the sounds are mixed and incorporated into the film. Some of them sometimes sounded like they were just slapped down on top with little regard for the natural ambience of the environment.
    All in all I am quite impressed by the short and didn’t expect it to be 100% perfect. I just thought it would be interesting to discuss some things that it was lacking in other than writing and acting.

  43. John Doe says:

    I’m not talking about effects, I’m talking about immersion. Those T1 scenes feel like movies. Very good movies. But this feels pretty darn real. The lack of music is awesome. And like I said, Children of Men has well, no editing and the momentum was crazy in that. Saving Private Ryan had the same same REAL feeling. Framing/shots and immersion made the action in this awesome.

  44. John Doe says:

    I mostly found the ADR was the issue. Hope they fix that.

  45. VPeric says:

    Thanks Hybrid, very nice link!

  46. Recomposer says:

    Surely the problem with this is the use of the crowbar. Shouldn’t Gordon be the only one to use this ‘iconic’ weapon?

  47. aldo says:

    Surely the problem with this is the use of the crowbar. Shouldn’t Gordon be the only one to use this ‘iconic’ weapon?

    Every member of the resistance carries at least two crowbars as an emergency supply for Freeman.

  48. Dexton says:

    Even in a 5 minute clip, I would say it had about the same amount of story and acting levels as the recent Transformers movie, considering the difference in budgets I think the Purchase Brothers have done really well.

  49. Rei Onryou says:

    If these guys don’t get a cameo on HL2:Ep3 or HL3, or money from Valve, or something of the sort, I’d be surprised. That’s nearly got 1mil views in 2 days, so they’ve definitely done something right.

    I’ve also noticed a pattern involving women in decent game related media becoming instant male fantasies. Is it just because she’s hot, or because its geeky?

    When’s the next one available? Want moar!!!